Cameroon Photo Press Archives. Protection, conservation, access

The Cameroon Press Photo Archive (CPPA) was founded in Buea in January 1955 by the British colonial administration and operational until the 1990s. The photographers working with the government were responsible for covering the President’s and Prime Minister’s, official events of public interest as well as social and cultural celebrations. Thus, the photographic material held by the CPPA grants a unique view of Cameroon’s political and social history. The project will raise the awareness of the government and the Cameroonian public for this invaluable visual heritage as a part of the collective memory. Involving the Ministry of Communication will help to improve the protection of the vulnerable material and facilitate researchers’ access to this important collection.

The premises of the CPPA are located in an old and badly maintained German colonial building in Buea Town, in principle closed to the public. The climatic conditions in this area on the slopes of Mount Cameroon are extreme with regard to rainfall and humidity, and it’s almost a miracle that the photographic material is still in a quite good condition.

This project has three main components: the first consisting of the digitization of a part of the CPPA’s photographic holdings. This was carried out in in 2013. 3.924 groundsheets (contact sheets) dossiers with 14.500 pages have been scanned as well as a selection of 26,679 negatives from a total of about 120.000. Also, all groundsheets were moved into new acid free sleeves and stored in boxes which will better preserve the sensitive material for future use. The negatives have been rearranged in their boxes. However, also this material would require further preservation measures.

The second part aims at increasing the awareness of Swiss and Cameroonian archivists and young researchers to the challenges and opportunities of working and researching in and with photographic material. In April 2013, Barbara Frey (ex-librarian from Mission21, Basel) held a seminar in Buea about photo conservation. In February 2014, Jürg Schneider will run a research field seminar with students from the University of Basel and the University of Buea.

The third component consists in divulging the results achieved by the project through photo exhibitions in Switzerland and Cameroon, and the preparation of a publication with students’ participation. Also, an international conference will be held in late 2014 in Cameroon which will focalize on sub-Saharan African archives.

Furthermore, the project will provide training workshops in digitization as well as preservation techniques of photographic material. The digitization of the negatives and groundsheets as well as the gathering and recording of data will be carried out by an interdisciplinary and international team with the aim to empower the responsible personnel of the CPPA to ensure the archive’s sustainability.

The building of the Cameroon Press Photo Archive in Buea Town.

Publications

Journal articles

Schneider, Jürg: Demand and Supply: Francis W. Joaque, an Early Photographer in an Emerging Market. in: Visual Anthropology, Special Issue on African Photography, edited by Erin Haney and Jürg Schneider, vol. 27, 4, 2014: 316-338.

Haney, Erin and Schneider, Jürg: Beyond the “African” Archive Paradigm. in: Visual Anthropology, Special Issue on African Photography, edited by Erin Haney and Jürg Schneider, vol. 27, 4, 2014: 307-315.

Schneider, Jürg and Vilaró i Güell, Miquel: Fourteen views of Fernando Po to save the colony, in: PhotoResearcher, vol. 21, 2014: 38-52. Longer online version on http://www.donau-uni.ac.at/de/department/bildwissenschaften/partner/eshph/index.php

Schneider, Jürg and Rosario Mazuela Coll: Réveiller un gisement d’archives: Les Archives photographiques de Presse à Buea (Cameroun), in Images & Mémoires No 40, 2014: 18-22.

Reviews

Schneider, Jürg: Bildanalyse. Perspektiven auf ein komplexes Forschungsfeld. in: Rundbrief Fotografie Vol. 21, No. 4/ N.F. 84, 2014: 54-56.

Blogs

African Photography Initiatives: "sentir la chaire et l'os de l'archive…" Interview de Marian Nur Goni avec Jürg Schneider et Rosario Mazuela. Africultures, July 2014. http://www.africultures.com/php/index.php?nav=article&no=12315#sthash.jybdiRM3.dpuf

Papers presented

“How Colonial is Colonial Photography?” Políticas de la (no)imagen. Una aproximación a las teorías y práticas fotográficas de la contemporaneidad. Madrid, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras (UAM) and Museo Reina Sofía13 and 14 November 2014.

“Was Pandora the Guardian? Appropriated Visuals from the Press Photo Archives Buea/Cameroon”. Research, Exhibitions and African History. Basler Africa Bibliografien, 25 October 2014. With Rosario Mazuela.

“The Photographs Cannot Speak for Themselves. Visual Representations of Colonial Space in West and Central Africa”. Picturing Empires: Photography and Social Change in 19th-Century Multi-ethnic Environments. International Conference, Castelen (Basel), August 27 – 29, 2014.

“No Longer at Ease. Dialogues between Archives, Photographs, Scholars and the Public Sphere”. A paper given at the conference Anthropology and Photography, British Museum, London, 29-31 May 2014.