Artist Interview: Astrid Stevie Winberg
Astrid Stevie Winberg is one of our fantastic cultural photographers, producing amazing work in the remote areas of northern Africa and beyond. She is a true lover of Africa and has travelled extensively through the continent as well as worldwide. Be sure to have a look at her website to see some of her other amazing pictures:
When did you first pick up a camera?
I started creating pictures about five years ago. Photography was something I always wanted to pursue, however bringing up two children on my own did not leave me with much time nor resources to follow this dream. Once my daughters were fully independent I started wildlife photography as I am passionate about animals, so for me this was the logical place to start! What made you want to photograph African culture specifically? I was encouraged by a very special friend and photographic mentor to expand my portfolio to include African culture/portraiture …. I was very sceptical as I fully engage with wildlife and seem to be able to draw out the emotion of the image, however I was not sure that I would be able to do that with people. I like to “feel” the picture so need to connect with my subject fully otherwise its just another picture! I took the plunge and before I knew it I was off to Ethiopia, Omo Valley and surrounds….. we just became immersed in the daily lives of the different tribes, it was the most amazing experience.
Which is your favourite photograph you have taken in this series?
Gosh, its so difficult to say as memories of the situation I was in whilst taking the picture flood back every time I look at the image …. there were so many special moments and people I photographed. I think in this instance it has to be the camel herder with his camels in Lake Turkana, Kenya. These kids are young and carry out the most responsible job of herding the camels to find water and food. Very often the young herder sets off on his own, age as young as 7, and might be away with the camels for a couple of days. This totally amazed me. We were so fortunate to be in front of the camels, lying in the dry river bed photographing whilst they approached! I will never forget it!
What was it like photographing in such remote areas in Africa?
Where did you sleep? What did you eat? It was surreal being in remote locations, there were very few or no other ‘tourists” in many of the places I have visited. Very often I’d ask myself what on earth I was thinking of and why was I doing this, bumping along a never ending dirt road in the searing heat with just nothing in sight for hours on end ….. the answer is self explanatory – Africa is in my blood and I have loved meeting and photographing some of the different tribes of Africa. Sleeping arrangements varied from “roughing it” to staying in typical hotels of the particular areas. Omo Valley to me was the best …. we slept in tents in an old disused school yard. We were very blessed as the Chief, his wife, child and pet dog used to “pull in” every night and sleep at the site supposedly to make sure that we remained safe! There was ongoing conflict in the area regarding grazing so at times it was a little tense, our safety was always paramount and we were taken care of exceptionally well. We ate largely western food which was deliciously prepared for us. We also tried the local food at every different location. Its important as it gives one the feel of the culture and connects you with the people.
If you could tell young girls who share your passion of sharing and photographing Africa, what would it be?
Simply….follow your dream! It may not always be easy to start or be exposed to areas that I have been privileged to access, but speak to the people in the know who can guide you and you never know when an opportunity arises …. then GRAB it!!!