The Faces of Addis Past
Capturing life in Ethiopia’s capital through personal photos from yesteryear.
A recent photography project celebrates a counterintuitive truth about human life: that what is most personal tells us about what is most universal.
Through the project, called Vintage Addis Ababa, three photographers have teamed up to create a photo archive of Ethiopia’s capital from around the time of the ’60s and ’70s. The concept is different than what you’d expect, though; rather than feature professional images of notable events, Vintage Addis Ababa highlights old photos submitted by everyday Ethiopians. And the format is a Tumblr page, not the expected hardcover book. You could call it a historic spin on crowdsourced social media.
Addis-based Swiss photographer Philipp Schütz, who created the project with the help of photographers Nafkot Gebeyehu and Wongel Abebe, was inspired to launch the feed after he discovered photo books featuring Dutch photographers’ takes on daily life in Uganda. For his own rendition, Schütz decided to go digital and to zoom in on just one city. He and his team curate the site using professionally scanned images sourced mostly from Ethiopians living in-country and, as the project continues to catch on, those living elsewhere, too.
If you scroll through the feed at vintageaddis.com, you’ll catch glimpses of weddings, family portraits, candid moments between friends — images that reveal the fashion and rituals of the day and pair with captions that bring context. While the project creators hope to publish the archive as a book someday, the heart of the project will no doubt remain the same: to involve everyday people in preserving history.