Unequal Scenes

Country/area: South Africa

Organisation: BBC, Globo, CNN, IPS News, ArchDaily, London School of Economics, Inequality.org, Daily Maverick

Organisation size: Small

Cover letter:

I am a journalist and photographer, founder of Unequal Scenes and africanDRONE, and Senior Fellow at Code For Africa and a Senior Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity at the London School of Economics. I specialize in creating engaging multi-media stories, photojournalism and video, telling African and world issues related to inequality, urbanization, tech, and art.

I’ve worked for 11 years as a photojournalist and have been working with Code For Africa for over 4 years as a journalist. During the last four years, I founded and developed Unequal Scenes into a major international drone journalism project on inequality. I helped develop the idea of “Drone journalism” in the African context, with the help of Code For Africa, creating a drone journalism code of ethics and operations manual for African journalists, as well as creating many interactive multimedia drone journalism pieces (editing, writing, and shooting) together with international publishing partners such as BBC, The Guardian, The Mwananchi, News24, and The Citizen. 

During this time I also co-founded africanDRONE with Code For Africa, which produces content for major international news organizations, develops new and socially aware storytelling methodologies, supports drone mapping and survey operations, and hosts educational drone camps across the continent. africanDRONE is a partner of the African Drone Forum, a symposium, expo, and series of flying competitions to be held in Rwanda in 2020. I also became a Senior Atlantic Fellow at the London School of Economics, which has led me to many collaborations with academics, activists, and policymakers interested in economic justice and social equity issues. 

I’m inspired with all forms of visual storytelling which can help us understand our world better. This is why I create projects that involve drones, data, sensors and 360 video, amongst others. The effects of COVID-19 have been tremendous over the last 12 months, greatly accelerating some trends (like remote work) and amplifying others (like health disparity amongst diverse populations). Moreover, issues of racial justice, health equity, and political stability have all become incredibly important, requiring a critical lens and interpretive storytelling to uncover their complicated histories and context. Journalists have a huge role to play in helping understand the changes taking place, and I’m proud to submit my entry to the Sigma Awards. 

Description of portfolio:

These projects are a selection of drone and data-driven stories. They were the result of a partnership with supporting organizations like the Atlantic Fellowship, Code For Africa, and the London School of Economics. 

The project “Narratives of Displacement” is a project designed to explore the topic of displacement from a variety of angles and through various typologies. 6 Atlantic Fellows came together to propose the project, which involves collecting medical research related to displacement, COVID-19, and refugee health, essays, and photographs. By doing this across multiple typologies of displacement (economic, war, environmental, and digital) we hope to provide a new lens on a question which affects everyone: Where do I come from? 

Narratives of Displacement came from an initial grant from Atlantic Fellowship which allowed me to build the website, take the initial set of photographs of Syrian refugees, and help to organize both a Displacement forum in Jordan and follow-on conversations. This project won the 2020 Atlantic Senior Fellow Award.  2020 also allowed me a unique opportunity to expand my Unequal Scenes project in the midst of the ongoing protests around the murder of George Floyd. I was able to research and document aerial images of inequality in Minneapolis, Cleveland, and Detroit, shedding light on the issues surrounding infrastructure which were made decades ago by racist policymakers (through Redlining, etc). This is in addition to my continued international Unequal Scenes work, notably in Brazil (where BBC Brazil and Globo, two of the biggest news orgs in the country, ran my images and interview) and also in Namibia. Unequal Scenes uses aerial imagery and data gleaned from satellite images and historical data to present a view of systemic inequality. It is a project conceived, shot, and written by myself.

Lastly, I have written several pieces which seek to better understand COVID-19 policies and responses through research, data, and writing. This was challenging as I was under lockdown for many months, but with the help of asynchronous work apps and video conferencing software I was able to connect with the editors and publishing partners to make these stories known.  Though my projects have been published nationally and internationally, I also have a robust social media presence which allows me to reach audiences directly, and many of these pieces (especially the Brazil Unequal Scenes pieces) have gone incredibly viral, reaching hundreds of thousands, if not millions of impressions. 

Project links: