PICHA: Painting a contemporary image of Africa, one picture at a time

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Picture of Josiane Faubert, Founder of PICHA

Let’s run an experiment. If you google “Africa”, besides the maps of the continent, about 10% of the first 400 images are safari pictures closely followed by stunning landscape pictures. In comes Josiane Faubert. Three years ago, the creative Entrepreneur, originally from Gabon, launched Pichastock – a photography marketplace with a mission: paint a contemporary image of Africa, one picture at a time. We spoke to her to find out more.

What triggered the creation of Pichastock?

I started PICHA three years ago. I lived in London where I worked in Marketing Research and then as a Photographer. After I transitioned into a Social Media Manager role, I was looking for contemporary pictures of Africa for a campaign, and all I could find were safari pictures or pictures depicting poverty. It contrasted with images of daily urban life I had in mind from my own travels in parts of Africa. That is how it started. PICHA means “image” in Swahili and it is a marketplace of pictures depicting Contemporary Africa.

The technological advances enable everyone to take pictures. Does that represent a challenge for PICHA?

Not at all. There is a space for everyone and everyone is meeting different needs. Our pictures are meant for marketing communication. They are used in business settings or for advertisement purposes. It is a very specific niche with its own specific requirements. The images must have an inherent visual message. They must be images that speak and tell a story.

Quote by Josiane Faubert, founder of PICHA

How do you encourage photographers to create a story and tell the story of urban Africa?

We organize meet ups between photographers in South Africa, Kenya and Ghana. A photographer explains to others what type of images we are looking for. We encourage them to tell a story of urban and contemporary Africa. I often say to them, “you are not taking a picture, you are creating an image”. Every time a picture is declined, we tell the photographer why. We are constantly communicating with the photographers.

Have you seen any change in the way Africa is portrayed since you started or are things still very much the same?

Things are changing but it’s difficult to talk about Africa as one entity. It’s a continent made up of countries that are very different. Good quality images are emerging in big countries like Kenya, Ghana or Nigeria with significant communication structures and agencies. But even there, people are reluctant to take big risks. The photographers take pictures of what they think the end customers would like to see. They are still recreating images that people are used to and perpetuating old stereotypes along the way. There is for instance the stereotype of the beautiful African woman, elegantly dressed, in her kitchen making a stew. It reinforces her image as a good cook. But this woman is also facing other challenges. She could be multitasking, cooking while supervising her children’s homework and probably, not as not well dressed as she is often portrayed. On the other hand, it is difficult for the agencies as they have a limited number of customers that they want to satisfy. But we are pushing the boundaries and encouraging the photographers to take risks with their images. Ultimately though, it down to the customer to decide what image to use.

Collage of PICHA pictures
Pictures courtesy of PICHA. Left from JFP, Right from Instadude

What about PICHA itself? How has it evolved?

There is now a pool of photographers, both professional and amateur, who understand our mission. So we are getting good quality content. We have a partnership with Adobe, the largest distribution network. The large stock image providers have been established for a while and they are the first ports of call – even for African customers looking for images. So this partnership is very important to increase our reach.

Let’s drill down to Africa: where is your market? Are you targeting the French speaking or English speaking countries or the leading economies?

Initially I wanted the platform to be for Gabon, then the French speaking countries. Eventually, I settled for the English language, as the French speakers usually know enough English to operate at a basic level while the reverse is not always true. There will be a new version of the platform with multiple languages. Also, I targeted the countries with stable and reliable Internet connection. Our contributors are often based in Africa – although that is not mandatory. Our buyers are everywhere in Africa. That is why our long-term strategy is to create a direct relationship with the African customers.

What is next for PICHA?

The platform is becoming more flexible: There is now a premium collection, of beautiful images available. They are high quality images that have been artistically researched. Also the customers will now be able to launch their brief online on the platform, if none of the exiting images matches their search.

Pichastock is running a campaign on Instagram: #1word4Africa for Africa.

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