The newly launched Nikon Africa Trust promises to help produce top photographers from the continent’s disadvantaged communities.
Nikon South Africa made the announcement on 13 July. The group described its new initiative as a goodwill venture designed to “provide a professional future” for talented young photography students who could otherwise not afford to pay for advanced training.
Coordinator Robin Malherbe explained in an interview that the trust will fund training organisations based in targeted communities.
“We won’t have any schools ourselves, but we’ll partner with other organisations that provide photography training,” Malherbe said.
Mentorship and training
The trust will raise funds to bankroll the identified community projects. Besides photography training, Nikon said the initiative will also focus on mentorship for organisations and students alike.
The company will provide hi-tech equipment, including modern digital cameras, to the organisations.
Umuzi Photo Club, an organisation focusing on developing photography skills among young people in South Africa’s townships, recently became the trust’s first beneficiary.
Umuzi founder David Dini confirmed Nikon South Africa’s donation of a kit containing a camera, two lenses, a jacket and a bag.
The equipment is being used by Floyd Vilankulu, a 24-year-old from the Johannesburg township of Alexandra. Vilankulu aims to forge a career as a professional photographer.
“We do work with high school kids, but with his ambitions we thought he’d be an excellent candidate for the Nikon kit,” said Dini.
The trust’s goal is to produce both photojournalists and specialist photographers, who might even become household names in the profession.
“In time we anticipate that many of our students will not only earn a sustainable living through their photography, but also receive recognition as skilled photographers and photojournalists through capturing and showcasing the beauty and diversity of our continent and its people,” Nikon South Africa’s CEO Stefan van der Walt said in a statement.
The industry provides employment for scores of budding and experienced photographers throughout the continent, especially in news media organisations. A number of African specialist photographers, including the likes of South Africa's David Goldblatt and Peter Magubane, have also earned fame for themselves over the decades.
Trust to initiate competition
Malherbe said a photography competition, to be initiated via the new trust, is due to launch in Pretoria townships within weeks and will introduce photography to secondary school pupils.
“We encourage school kids to get involved in photography in that way (the competition),” said Malherbe.
The trust is focusing on South African projects during the initiative’s early stages “to see how it how works and establish the type of organisations to work with” before it expands into the rest of the continent, according to Malherbe.
Bracelets for revenue
Handmade bracelets sold at R40 (US$5 83) will be the main source of funding for the trust. They are available from Nikon outlets.
The colourful bracelets are made by formerly unemployed women in Khayelitsha, a township on the outskirts of Cape Town.
Nikon said all profits generated from the sale of the bracelets will be donated to the trust to ensure that it’s “able to continue creating photographers of the future”.
“It takes something as small as buying a bracelet to change someone’s life forever,” said Romi Jacobs, chief brand officer at Nikon South Africa.
The trust will participate in other social responsibility projects but the photography scheme remains its primary focus, said Malherbe.