This project, which is now a book I Am Because We Are: African Wisdom in Image and Proverb, matches black and white photographs with related and meaningful proverbs to illustrate traditional African wisdom. It highlights the importance of proverbs, which are still being used in African society today.
This long-term documentary project/book will make a significant educational and artistic contribution to the appreciation and understanding of African culture and society as well as our own.
The proverbs and photographs tell the story of life, moving through birth, adolescence, marriage, education, work, leisure, religion, conflict, old age and death, and coming full circle with life going on after death with the living descendants. The project/book contains 125 images of which only 6 were selected for this portfolio.
The title of the project/book comes from a well-known African proverb that speaks to our interconnectedness and the responsibility that we have to each other. It incorporates the idea of Ubuntu, the African philosophy of living harmoniously in community.
I am primarily a documentary photographer which has grown out of my photo journalistic background. I am for the most part self taught. For the last 20 years my personal work has been photographing in Africa. I am mostly interested in documenting the daily lives of people, in a simple and non dramatic way. What comes across, hopefully, is a celebration of life and the dignity of the people. Now that I live in the USA, I continue to visit Africa and other places that make up the African diaspora.
I have been working in B&W ever since I started doing photography. I have my own darkroom and still prefer to make my own silver gelatin prints. I like B&W because form and content come across better for many of the documentary subjects I like to photograph. Recently I have moved from 35mm to 120mm film shot with the Holga or Yashica Mat 124. I have also been venturing into using 120 color film.
Betty Press has been an Adjunct Professor of Photography at University of Southern Mississippi, in Hattiesburg since 2003. Previous to that she taught at Stetson University, Deland, Florida. She is best known for her photographs taken in Africa when she lived and worked in Kenya as a freelance photojournalist from 1987 to 1995. At that time she worked closely with her husband who was a correspondent with The Christian Science Monitor. Now living in Hattiesburg, Mississippi she photographs in the South as well as continues to travel to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, Cuba and Africa. In 2008-09 she photographed in Sierra Leone while accompanying her husband Dr. Bob Press who was a Fulbright Scholar and Lecturer at Fourah Bay College. Her photographs have been published in most major magazines and newspapers.
She has had numerous exhibitions including one of African photographs in 2001 at the nationally recognized Southeast Museum of Photography in Daytona Beach, Florida. Her most recent shows have been at the Baldwin Photographic Gallery, Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro; the Art League, Daytona Beach, Florida; and Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Her latest project, Africa in images and proverbs, opened at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Denver, Colorado in October 2004 and since has been shown at the University of Miami, Florida; University of La Verne, California; and in 2010 at the WorkSpace Gallery in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Her work has been selected in many juried competitions. The most recent was Blue, curated by Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb, Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins, Colorado. In 2008 one of her photographs was selected for the Art of Photography Show in San Diego, California. In 2005 she placed in the top 50 photographers of Critical Mass, Photo Lucida, Portland, Oregon. Other recent awards were received from Women in Photography and the Photographic Center Northwest, Seattle. In 1995 she was a finalist in the Ernst Haas Awards competition, Maine Photographic Workshops.
She had the honor to photograph Audrey Hepburn on her visit to Somalia as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1992 and Harry Belafonte in Rwanda in 1994. In 1999 her photographs were featured in a book titled The New Africa: Dispatches from a Changing Continent, published by the University Press of Florida. In 2011 she published her first photobook I Am Because We Are: African Wisdom in Image and Proverb in partnership with Books For Africa. For this project she was named the recipient of the 2012 Mississippi Institute of Arts & Letters Award in photography.
Betty Press is a graduate of Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln. She studied photography at the University Of Michigan School Of Art, Ann Arbor. Her work is in several public art collections, including the Harry Ransom Center for the Humanities, Austin, Texas, Southeast Museum of Photography, Daytona Beach, Florida, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC, Global Collection of Photography, Jamestown Community College, Jamestown, New York. She also has photographs in many private collections. She is represented by Panos Pictures, London; Photographic Image Group, Portland, Oregon; International Visions Gallery, Washington, DC; Oddfellows Gallery, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and One Off Contemporary Art Gallery, Nairobi, Kenya.
Click on any of the thumbnail images to launch the viewer. You can then navigate forward and backward within the portfolio by clicking the left or right side of the enlarged image. Click the add to collection checkbox to automatically add an image to your collection. Image tags or search engine keywords appear below the collections' checkbox and each word or phrase is a link to potentially more image matches.