A veteran photographer and a writer join forces to bring a daily taste of normal life in Africa to college campuses around the country.
The panels they produce will show the Kenya the two have come to know, one that has problems but is also full of happiness, joy and connectedness. The project will not shrink from tragedy, but it won’t spike stories simply because they’re not sad enough. Their ultimate aim is to produce an honest document of 30 days spent in Nairobi.
In addition to the daily canvases, Bannon and Pflanz will be running a blog at dailydispatches.org, which will take students behind the scenes. “We’ll have interviews with people we’ve shot, scans from our reporters’ notebooks, as well as some of the shots that led up to or followed a photo we chose for that day,” Bannon says. “We’ll use the web to surface our practices and decision making.” This, he says, is part of the appeal of housing the exhibition on college campuses. “You can learn a lot in school, but once you get out and have to do real assignments, there’s a whole other level of problem solving that comes into play. It’s helpful to see how working photographers get things done.”
Which just leaves Bannon and Pflanz the getting-things-done part. “Finding, shooting, writing and filing some 30 stories in 30 days, complete with fact checking and editing, is no small task,” Pflanz admits. But, he adds with a chuckle, “it’s good to keep busy.”
Daily Dispatches: Nairobi will run from April 1 through 30 on campuses including Bakersfield College in California and Buffalo State College and St. Bonaventure University in New York. At St. Bonaventure, the exhibition will start in an empty gallery at the Quick Center for the Arts and fill it by the end. At Bakersfield, each new panel will be added to a continuous display in a high-traffic hallway. Bannon and Pflanz hope the exhibition will live on as both a touring collection and an online archive.
Asked for advice to students embarking on a photography or journalism career, Bannon stresses that “now more than ever there’s no set course. Students need to understand that they’re entering a career where they’re constantly going to be learning alternate ways of creating and presenting their work.” This is nothing new, though, he says: “If you look at the history of photography, you’ll see it’s always been this way.”
Catherine on Route 46, as Solomon hangs from the door coaxing new passengers. Photo: Brendan Bannon