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Picture Above: Participants in the African Photo Entrepreneur Programme and Africa Media Online staff during a team building exercise run by Over the Top Adventures at the start of the Global Competitive Masterclass at the Old Prison Conference Centre in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. From left to right: Melinda De Villiers (Keyworder – AMO), Kevin Factor (APEP participant – Knysna, South Africa) Marinda Louw (APEP participant – Cape Town, South Africa), Ian Blackburn (Product Manager – AMO), Toni Jade Efune (APEP participant – Johannesburg, South Africa), Adebayo Omotade (APEP participant – Lagos, Nigeria), Tammy Gardner (APEP Participant – Cape Town, South Africa)

Twenty-seven professional photographers, drawn from as far afield as Kenya, Nigeria and Liberia, have made it through to the final stage of Africa Media Online’s African Photo Entrepreneur Programme (APEP).

The select group are all that remain of over 150 photographers who made application to the prestigious programme in June this year. After a portfolio review close to 50 photographers were invited for interviews. In all 40 photographers were invited on to first training block of the programme, the Digital Campus, which was run in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pietermaritzburg in August.

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APEP participant Claire Thomas from Cape Town, South Africa trusts her colleagues during a team building exercise at the start of the Global Competitiveness Masterclass, the final stage of the African Photo Entrepreneur Programme. PHOTO: Alan Nambiar

At the end of the week-long Digital Campus participants were given an assignment which would determine who would make it through to the final stage of the programme, the Global Competitiveness Masterclass.

As part of the APEP the Global Competitiveness Masterclass aims to empower African photographers to become globally competitive ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup. The masterclass will be hosted by Africa Media Online in Pietermaritzburg from Sunday to Thursday, November 9-13.

To make it through to this stage, the photographers had to undertake an assignment which broke the stereotype of Africa as full of starving, begging and poverty-stricken people. The professional photographers had to “capture the essence of the proud, stylish and technologically-savvy African of today.”

“I was really impressed how many of the photographers applied themselves to the assignment in the midst of their normal work pressures,” said Africa Media Online’s Media Manager, Dominique Le Roux, whose job it was to coach the photographers through the assignment. “Many of them went to extraordinary lengths to set up photo shoots or capture daily life situations that fulfil the brief of capturing the hip and happening emerging black middle class. And on top of it all, every image had to be model released which makes them incredibly valuable in the picture industry because they can be sold for use in advertising.”

“We decided on this brief because we know there is a real need in the picture market for these images,” said Rosanne Larsen, Director of africanpictures.net, Africa Media Online’s picture sales division. “So we knew that right from the outset, if the photographers fulfilled the assignment, they would be making money right away.”

Of the 27 who made it through, 13 are men and 14 women drawn from all over South Africa and from Kenya, Nigeria and Liberia. And for the 13 photographers who did not make it through to the final stage, they will be given the opportunity to participate in next year’s photo assignment and so possibly qualify for the Global Competitiveness Masterclass in 2009.

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Participants in the Global Competitiveness Masterclass during a group session. From Left front to Right front: Felix Masi (Nairobi, Kenya), Yolande Snyders (Cape Town, South Africa), Nikki Rixon (Cape Town, South Africa), Ahmed Jallazo (Monrovia, Liberia), Adebayo Omotade (Lagos, Nigeria), Kirsten Hughes (Pietermaritzburg, South Africa), Ed Suter (Cape Town, South Africa), Yasser Booley (Cape Town, South Africa)

The African Photo Entrepreneur Programme is aimed at working professional photographers and aims to take up-and-coming African photographers and assist to get them established in the African and international picture industry.

“We don’t teach photographers how to take pictures,” said David Larsen, Africa Media Online’s Director. “ They don’t get onto the programme unless they know how to do that. What we aim to do is to take them to the next level. So the first training block, the Digital Campus, teaches photographers how to deliver images that are technically at the standard that the global picture industry will accept and how to manage and grow their picture archive over time. The Global Competitiveness Masterclass, on the other hand, is all about getting images to market.”

“Africa Media Online has been fortunate in that it has managed to build a network of friends and colleagues around the world and we are going to be drawing on leading photographers and picture library owners from South Africa, the USA, Germany and Holland to give input to the programme, including two Pulitzer prize winning photographers, Greg Marinovich and Rick Gershon.”

“We have also been fortunate in that the programme is partially funded by the European Union through Gijima KZN and the KZN Department of Economic Development, and we have had a number of sponsors coming on board including Tudor Photographic with Sigma cameras, Adobe USA and Microsoft Professional Photography in the US, FotoFinder GmbH in Germany and O’Reilly Media in the US.”

“Our aim is that by the end of the week the 27 photographers will understand the global picture industry, understand how to best place themselves within it, how to access markets and have at their fingertips actual routes to market for their work.”

“Our goal is that photographers should walk away from the masterclass with a significant competitive edge which enables them to thrive as photo entrepreneurs,” he said.

“The African Photo Entrepreneur Programme is not just a training course, it is a whole process aimed at empowering deserving professional photographers who have committed themselves to making a career of photography in Africa. In terms of this, when the programme ends we don’t just drop them, but rather they are brought into an ongoing relationship with us at Africa Media Online in which they are supported in a community and provided with technology and distribution networks for their work,” Larsen said.

Africa Media Online’s mission as an organisation is Africans telling Africa’s story. The APEP is part of a digital trade route that Africa Media Online has been building with help from grant funding from the European Union through Gijima KZN enabling African photographers and photographic archives to present their work to global media, art and product markets while retaining ownership over their work ensuring that revenues flow back into Africa.

Find out who got through to the Global Competitiveness Masterclass

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This project is supported by the European Union

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