Photographic Workshop
Simon Read


During the first workshop, “Photography as a Fine Arts Tool”, it struck me that the prescribed use of a facility should not be constrained by assumptions imported from a western metropolitan context. Indeed if the resource we supply is to be used with any kind of intensity, it has to be seen to be applicable to an African context. I wanted to be able to work outwards from supplying a language, to discussing how in various other contexts that language is used and the importance of having a voice.

With this in mind, my proposal was that I would invite the participants to reflect through photography upon their way of life and to simplify matters, I broke this down to a number of broad categories with close links to the initial lecture series. Being very broad, the categories I proposed could never be contained but, taken together, they would cover a good range of approach. My suggestions were that we should look at the land, how it is perceived in a rural and urban context, the way in which people use it, their patterns of work and how they impact upon the landscape, in particular on the fringe where city and country meet. How do people get around, what are recent developments and what is the legacy of the colonial system? What are the impacts of international aid projects in the region? In a more contemplative way, I suggested that there could be scope to looking afresh at genres enshrined in photography such as portrait and still life with a mind to providing an opportunity to explore the potential of the studio flash facility.

Above all I hoped that I could encourage an intelligent use of the medium and some thoughtful images. To this end I laid an emphasis upon thinking less about what constitutes a “good shot” and concentrating more upon exploring with a camera, where communication is the first concern.


Participating Artists

1. Nezias Nyitrenda
2. Gift Syakwasia
3. Emmanuel kapotwe
4. Andrew Mwananshiku
5. Gordon Shamulenge
6. Levy Chinyimba
7. Victor Mwakalombe
8. Trudy Kapapula
9. Alumedi Maonde
10. Savior Mukopa
11. Simon Mukandawire
12. Nsofwa Bowa
13. Yost Kalasa
14. Geoffrey Phiri


Workshops (Phaze 1)
Workshops (Phaze 2)


It was extremely rewarding to receive the wholehearted enthusiasm of the group and I was intrigued that, unbidden, some very real concerns were articulated; foremost amongst these was very vivid documentation of living and working conditions as well as the appalling state of care and cleanliness in the city environment. From this I have the impression that there is huge potential for what artists may do with photography and how they may, in a very profound way, affect their culture.

I considered it fundamental to my involvement in this project that I should devote attention to the matters of continuity and sustainability: both of these have to be rooted in a sound management plan; I shared the concern voiced that, once the participants disperse, it is unlikely that they will be able to take advantage of an equivalent level of resource unless they return to Lusaka to do so. Given that their practice is predominantly determined by established markets, photographic practice is unlikely to develop in a substantial way unless a context is identified for it to do so. Continuity depends primarily upon the presence of incentives to use and extend newly learned skills, such as commissions to make photographic commentary from organisations active in Zambia.

The challenge of how to make the resource realistically accessible in the regions has to be met. A residential unit for artists visiting Lusaka to use the technical resource would be a huge benefit. There needs to be a considerable consciousness raising exercise undertaken by VAC under the guidance of the photographic unit/club. Real promotion would be an advantage and it occurs to me that the website would be an excellent starting point as is the potential to set up a database of artist’s images at VAC.

Sustainability has become a mantra for all of these projects. Realistically speaking, having brought the resource up to a good professional standard, this exercise is not likely to be repeated. Therefore I considered it essential that before leaving, I should satisfy myself that a sensible management plan is feasible. Certainly there is no shortage of customers for the facility, but there has to be some balance achieved between a business which makes a profit and a facility that pays it’s way. One problem is that a great many artists have been allowed to use the equipment whilst not keeping their side of the bargain. This is embarrassing for the technical staff, who end up trying to police it without falling out with their friends. In the long run this is not workable. Thought must be given to what is affordable for individual artists and how to guarantee that the resource is indeed renewable.

For my part I will make every effort to promote the artists from my position in the UK and am happy to explore initiatives for them where possible.


I have become very impressed by the innate practical skills of the artists I have been working with and have discovered that they tend to be quick learners when introduced to new disciplines. Like anything else, in order that these skills are kept up they have to be practised and there must be outlets. In spite of the fact that I believe that photographic skills are essential, further developments rely upon the continuing metamorphosis of what is meant by the word “artist” within a developing culture.

To me this could mean that the support base shifts from direct funding to indirect encouragement of initiatives and the consolidation of infrastructures.

As ever I regard it a privilege and a pleasure to be involved in the Art Academy Without Walls initiative and wish it all success with future projects.

Further Work:

Although I could not possibly do justice to the sheer volume of high quality work made by the participants over the duration of the workshop, what follows is a range of the issues and ideas tackled by them...