Nigeria’s first indigenous photographer, Jonathan Green, hits limelight

Nigeria's first indigenous photographer, Jonathan Green, hits limelight

A book has now been published at the University of Indiana in honour of the pioneering work of Jonathan Adagogo Green, believed to be Nigeria’s first indigenous professional photographer.
The publication of the book in 2017 has effectively peeled the layer of anonymity from Mr. Green who work was published in leading publications across the world but who remained largely unknown for decades.
Jonathan Adagogo Green (J. A. Green) now recognized as Nigeria’s first indigenous professional photographer, was born in Bonny (now in Rivers State, Nigeria) in 1873.

He studied photography in Sierra Leone and then established a studio in Bonny and became one of the most prolific and accomplished indigenous photographers to be active in West Africa.

Mr. Green, whose identity remained hidden behind his English surname, maintained a photography business in Bonny and worked mostly in the Niger Delta and its environs.

His work covered a wide range of themes including portraiture of the

British colonial officials, European merchants and, prominent chiefs and elites and their families, particularly in Bonny, Kalabari, Opobo and Okrika.

He also photographed scenes of daily and ritual life including women making handicrafts, iron workers and weddings; as well as commerce and buildings; both administrative and religious.

Some of his great iconic photographs, such as that of Oba Ovonramwen in 1897, the British hulk and war canoes were published in prestigious newspapers and magazines like the London Illustrated News and other European publications.

And although his photographs were published in England and Europe to much acclaim, Mr. Green himself remained anonymous for more than a century and according to Anderson and Aronson, he was ‘an African photographer hiding in plain sight’.

Jonathan Adagogo Green has finally and firmly come into much-deserved limelight with the publication of the book AFRICAN PHOTOGRAPHER J. A. GREEN (Reimagining the Indigenous and the Colonial) by the Indiana University Press U.S.A. in 2017.

The editors of the book: Professors Martha G. Anderson and Lisa Aronson and the contributors, Emeritus Professor E.J. Alagoa, Tam Fiofori and Christraud M. Geary, have in this book uncovered 350 of Mr. Green’s images in archives (in Britain and the U.S.A.) publications and even private albums in Nigeria and abroad that celebrate the indigenous and the colonial during Mr. Green’s career as a professional photographer.

This landmark book unifies these dispersed photographic images of Jonathan Adagogo Green and presents a history of the photographer and the area and times in which he worked.

AFRICAN PHOTOGRAPHER J.A. GREEN (Reimagining the Indigenous and the Colonial) will be publicly presented and launched at 11 am on March at the Royal Banquet Hall, Presidential Hotel, Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, at a ceremony organized by Onyoma Research.


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