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I’ve been to Kigali (capital of Rwanda) and a few other places in the area, like eastern D.R.C and Uganda, for 8 weeks. From a photographic standpoint, I’ve learned a lot, being challenged in a completely different way than before. After shooting street in places like Paris, Los Angeles, New York, Berlin, Vienna, Las Vegas… shooting in a place where all eyes are on you, no matter what you do was definitely something else.

As usual I publish some of my thoughts below the photographs. I just want to say that I’m being honest, from my point of view.

Photographers never just record but alter reality. They are thus shaping our view on the world. With that in mind, I tried to avoid coming back home with a bunch of touristy or classic ‘photojournalist’ photographs. Instead I tried to capture a side of Rwanda that is rarely shown in photographs. Street shots.

I admit that it is hard to tell, what is an everyday (street) situation, being a white European, for the first time in this country. So I was not shooting much, comparing to what I usually shoot, trying to avoid stepping in the trap of exoticism. I think I made things even more complicated than necessary, being aware of African history of colonialism and the current situation which is still really f*cked up.

It’s not that I personally feel guilty for someone else’s poverty, but as a white privileged person who tries to reflect, it’s not self evident that you just walk around and take photos as if it was ‘just a photo’. I wanted to avoid getting perceived as a tourist who takes photos of this ‘exotic’ world and I guess it is impossible and simply a problem that white people have with themselves, being ashamed for a lot of other tourists that travel without respecting the cultures they’re visiting.

It is impossible though to filter so perfectly when shooting. That’s another reason why I put a lot of photos aside, afterwards – even when I liked them aesthetically.

So much about the theory. Here to some photos. (Part I)

  1. i ask myself, c o u l d you have taken more private/intimate shots, in other words, did you feel uncomfortable taking pictures, or is that what kigali “had to offer”? much respect, looking fwd to kigali II

    Comment by iwan — February 18, 2012 @ 1:16 am
  2. That’s difficult to answer. Kigali has a lot more to offer probably, just like any place in the world. It is a fact that 17 years ago, Rwanda experienced a horrible genocide, that included almost everyone. Either you have been a victim or you have taken part of the killings.
    People live a completely different life because of that happening that is still in everyone’s head.
    Reducing this situation to ‘Street Photography’, this means that the definition of Street Life is something else than we would expect.

    I think, for the time I have been there, as a visitor, I have taken some pretty outstanding photographs. Not because, I’m such a extraordinary photographer, but because I have approached a place and society in a way that rarely anyone has tried before.
    Kigali is not a place of International interest. I have not met any photojournalists or journalists in 8 weeks, except two, who have been there for a project. The daily life in Kigali is nothing that is getting documented.

    Street photography in a place like that is a much bigger statement than in a place where hundreds of others have and still document the human condition.

    That’s the main reason why I think, no matter how deep or ‘intimate’ as you call it I went, I believe that taking photos this way is really important, especially in a place like Kigali.

    Comment by Severin Koller — February 18, 2012 @ 1:32 am
  3. Great read and some great shots as well. Can’t wait for part 2.

    I totally feel the same about not trying to be a tourist in a new place you’re visiting.

    Comment by Dmitry — February 18, 2012 @ 3:18 am
  4. It’s great to see some photos of life as it is in Kigali, obviously a lot of thing are very different from Europe, but some things are the same the whole world over. I can imagine your frustration at attracting a lot of attention everywhere you went, it’s the worst possible thing for a ‘Street Photographer’ I suppose, but understandable given your surroundings. Great to see a fellow FC Bayern fan too, haha.

    Comment by Dave — February 18, 2012 @ 3:26 am
  5. I love the shots…but I am split up between colour and b/w… just the last 3 shots…from outside show how it really looks like. I think that is hard to read with just b/w…nevertheless..for telling the stories and showing the everyday life…the b/w are much better. So I would love to see some more colour photos, if you took some.

    Comment by Toby — February 18, 2012 @ 8:16 am
  6. I am a fan of your street photography work and I think this is one of your best posts so far. I really enjoyed it, looking forward to the next post!

    Comment by Xavier — February 18, 2012 @ 11:22 am
  7. Heavely rewarding 4 a sat morning…waiting 4 the next one…good 2 c u left the jungle went south

    Comment by Gjorgi — February 18, 2012 @ 12:26 pm
  8. I can totally relate to the first paragraphs of your blog. It’s the same when I go to India. The difference is, I’m Indian so skin colour is the same and yet I STILL have all eyes on me – even when I try to dress the same. They can just spot a foreigner, and what’s great is that on the whole, they love the attention.
    When I went to Uganda I also experienced this but hmm.. it’s funny as Uganda was once teeming with Indians (before Idi Amin got rid of them all) so I don’t think they found me too unusual, even with a camera. Again, they generally loved being photographed.

    I find these cultural differences really interesting between ‘east’ and ‘west’.

    Looking forward to more colour shots, not because I prefer them necessarily but because the colour of the earth and sky in Africa for me is like nowhere else.

    Comment by Tanya — February 18, 2012 @ 2:52 pm
  9. chapeau!

    Comment by charles — February 18, 2012 @ 6:41 pm
  10. Another lovely set. Interesting to see you shooting street in such a different environment. I have to say I love the medium format shots at the end. I’ve recently started shooting an old Rolleicord and I just love the look of medium format color. The colors there are amazing, what type of film are you using?

    Comment by Kyle Batson — February 18, 2012 @ 8:21 pm
  11. Hi,this the third or fourth photo blog of yours I’ve had the pleasure of looking at and al have been excellent.
    Can I ask why you went, were you just a tourist or part of relief mission? hope you don’t mind my curiosity .

    Regards Michael and thanks for sharing.

    Comment by Michael Roche — February 18, 2012 @ 8:29 pm
  12. A great set as always Severin!


    Comment by Andrew Olson — February 18, 2012 @ 10:53 pm
  13. Bloody awesome stuff!

    Every time I go through one of your blogs, it makes me want to pick up my camera and shoot. (And in this case, it makes me want to pick up my camera, go to Africa, and shoot!).

    Comment by Joel — February 18, 2012 @ 11:31 pm
  14. Wonderful post. Thank for sharing your thoughts. It’s nice to see that there are still streetphotographers who are interested in the soul instead of the fame and attention. I grew up in Africa and moved to Canada and can totally understand your thoughts. Looking forward to the next post.

    Comment by Chong — February 18, 2012 @ 11:40 pm
  15. Wonderful post. Thank for sharing your thoughts. It’s nice to see that there are still streetphotographers who are interested in the soul instead of the fame and attention. I grew up in Africa and moved to Canada and can totally understand your thoughts. Looking forward to the next post.

    Comment by Chong — February 19, 2012 @ 6:30 am
  16. Absolutely wonderful set. Nice to see that you are shooting film. All the better. What camera?

    Also, I don’t speak German but I wonder if the t-shirt is saying something about the German footballers, Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose?

    Comment by Brian — February 19, 2012 @ 5:23 pm
  17. Full respect Severin trying to extrapolate a typical whitey’s(*) way of photographing people to African grounds. You did great and maybe B&W film is still the best way to present it, the color shots were almost shocking to me…

    All about Whitey in:


    Comment by Reiner — February 19, 2012 @ 6:08 pm
  18. The black and whit stuff started to bore me, but the medium format colour stuff at the end was lovely.

    “these two kids saw me taking the photo and asked for money. either it is money or it is cookies (or biscuits depending on the area, like eastern D.R.C for example)”

    At least the little dude was ‘TREET LEGAL’!

    Comment by Jimmy Muscledick — February 19, 2012 @ 6:37 pm
  19. Ganz ganz groß. Wie immer. Freue mich schon sehr auf teil 2 :)

    Comment by Johannes — February 19, 2012 @ 7:38 pm
  20. This post is great! I mean it’s GREAT!
    It has a lot from the old ‘Sev life insight’ but as the location is not Vienna it became great on a whole different level. Please, don’t make us wait months for the part 2!

    Comment by Scheff — February 20, 2012 @ 12:17 am
  21. Great post as usual. A lifechanging experience i bet. Can’t wait to see the next post.

    Comment by Edgar Milhais Reis — February 20, 2012 @ 1:43 am
  22. Interesting series, I always wonder how your picture will look like when you visited somewhere else other than America and Europe. The series is refreshing and truly are. Do you have any plan on visiting Asia? :D

    Comment by kinoz — February 20, 2012 @ 4:33 am
  23. I think you did a very good job here, trying to be “invisible” in an area like that and sticking out like a beacon in the streets is tough. Looking forward to part II !

    Comment by maddoc2003jp — February 20, 2012 @ 8:18 am
  24. I like these a lot – they are the scenes I’m used to from you, but in a different environment, and I can imagine it’s hard to shoot like that there. But for me – although I’ve never been there – it seems like you captured daily life quite well. Without the waving, posing and big smiles. Nice. I also very much like the tension in the frames leading up to the rain.

    Comment by Suzan — February 20, 2012 @ 10:15 am
  25. great. also like the coloured ones! dg

    Comment by dg — February 20, 2012 @ 11:00 am
  26. Good job man, interesting stuff yet again.

    How’s your workflow these days btw, are these m9 files or scanned film?

    Comment by Chris — February 20, 2012 @ 9:59 pm
  27. this is all shot on bw film (aros, trix) and konica hexar AF. the colour frames are Rolleiflex 2.8F.

    Comment by Severin Koller — February 21, 2012 @ 2:30 pm
  28. What developer/fixer do you use for these films? Can you post your recipe, i.e., time/temperature…

    I always find that the quality of your photos is much better than most of the B&W stuffs I’ve seen in the internet, so I’m curious about your process.

    Thank you.

    Comment by DL — February 22, 2012 @ 4:26 am
  29. its cool to suddenly see miriam in color after all the b/w frames

    Comment by dambro — February 23, 2012 @ 2:45 am
  30. This one:


    looks a lot like somewhere in Indonesia, perhaps you’d stop by someday, Indonesia have many “pictures” for you :)

    and this:

    I just don’t know how you did the metering. Just perfect.

    I miss killing cockroach too, and what is it with guys and tire?

    Comment by Erina — February 23, 2012 @ 9:15 am
  31. War jetzt wie eine Reise mit dir/euch in dieses Land.
    Fast besser wie ein Film.


    Grüße von Martin

    Comment by Martin Fuchsbrugger — February 24, 2012 @ 10:12 pm
  32. Great post, finlaly i bought a 50mm !! ufff
    I once stayed in Mocambique for 8 months, and it was a great experience, i was only 7 years old but still great experience

    Comment by Filipe — March 1, 2012 @ 10:56 am
  33. Wow. There were some really good ones before but when the colored ones came I was blown away. All the rich colors made the country look so lively that I went through the ones before and saw them very differently with all those colors on my mind. May sound stupid but anyway. In this case I have to admit that colors do more justice to the environment you were photographing.

    Comment by Pekka — March 1, 2012 @ 7:27 pm
  34. Good blog and good photos, do u mind tell me what gear you use for these photos

    Comment by Richard — March 5, 2012 @ 1:25 pm
  35. Love your stuff as always

    Comment by Cary Conover — March 11, 2012 @ 4:47 am
  36. Great change of pace from the normal euro-street stuff

    Comment by Brendon — March 15, 2012 @ 11:51 am
  37. splendid stuff !!!

    Comment by Krunal — March 22, 2012 @ 6:40 pm
  38. inspiring stuff. im currently looking for a hexar myself. cant wait for pt.2!

    Comment by barcin — April 9, 2012 @ 2:42 pm
  39. Reminds me of when I went to Krakow. Literally every single person was staring at me 24/7.

    Funnily enough, the only black people I saw were in Auschwitz!

    Comment by James — June 6, 2012 @ 10:30 pm

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