Photographer still focused on Africa, 30 years on

by Naoki Yoshida

Kyodo

Tomoaki Nakano, a Japanese freelance photographer based in Nairobi, has been taking photos of Africa for more than three decades and says he won’t stop anytime soon.

Over the past 30 years, the 54-year-old has visited 46 of the continent’s 54 countries and hopes to visit the remaining eight.

Nakano first became interested in Africa when he made a trip to the continent in 1983. As a student he was working part time at a newspaper where a former Africa correspondent told him he should go there to widen his perspective.

Nakano said that during the trip he was particularly fascinated with the people, whom he found communicated from the heart.

Not satisfied with the one trip, he moved to the Kenyan capital the following year, where he fine-tuned his skill as a photographer and taught himself Swahili.

He often goes into combat zones, but he said the most shocking sight he has seen was the bodies of hundreds of thousands of people who died of hunger in Somalia in the early 1990s.

He said he is unable to forget the feeling he had when he saw the bodies of small children.

Nakano is uncomfortable if someone calls him a courageous battlefield photographer. He said it’s just his job to report the situation in Africa with a camera.

Viewing Africa firsthand over the years, Nakano said the continent has finally entered the stage of achieving development, and he predicts further economic growth.

Although he was badly injured in a traffic accident during a photo shoot in Ivory Coast in 2006, he made a comeback only a year later.

“I will keep on shooting until I don’t want to,” he said.