Robby Verdickt
BELGIUM
I was born in Zele, Belgium, and took up photography at the age of thirty-five. In 2013 I gained a master’s degree in photography from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent (KASK). After that, I started working as a freelance photographer for the Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws. My work balances between images with a documentary slant and a mixture of subjectivity and objectivity, fiction and non-fiction, reportage and concept. In addition, I add texts, conceived as images, to my photos to accentuate the tension between image and word, image and imagination. Through my years of study, I became more and more interested in imaging. As a result of Georges Didi-Huberman’s book ‘Images in spite of all’, I gained more insight that engagement with photographs is necessary and responsible and that these acts of resistance allow us to see and think. An image is the result of an act, an intention. It reflects the perspective of a maker. The viewer must learn to put the picture into perspective. The reality is not in the picture, but lies outside. As a result, the viewer is forced into an active role, just like the maker. Watching is therefore also an act.
Sew Alle? (Is There Someone at Home?)
I had the privilege of living in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. During my stay, my main objective was to capture the life style of the richer population of this country. I wandered from door to door asking the house owners if they would allow me to have their living rooms photographed. Of the 1500 houses I visited, less than 100 owners granted me permission to enter their homes – obviously asking me for the reason of my interest in their properties. This was my standard response: “In the Western world, we have a two-fold image of Ethiopia. First, there is the exotic, historic, touristic part, such as the Lalibela churches, the tribes in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, andPeoples’ Region (SNNPR) especially the Mursi tribe girls with the lip plates. The other image is mostly negative and is about war, famine, or diseases. Most Western people believe that almost everyone in the country lives in straw houses, herding sheep, and holding coffee-ceremonies.” Because of the Ethiopian housing laws, the properties are owned by the Ethiopian population. Most of the residences are surrounded by high walls with barbed wire coils along the top. Whether you knock on the massive gate or ring the doorbell (if the house has one), you always have to persuade the guard first before you are allowed to speak to the owner or the tenant of the residence. I want to clarify that the text-images are not transcripts from recorded sessions, but are conversations that actually took place and that I reconstructed.

The Addis Foto Fest (AFF) was established in 2010 by award-winning photographer and cultural entrepreneur, Aida Muluneh. The festival is organized by Desta for Africa Creative Consulting PLC. AFF is a biennial international photography festival held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It has previously featured exhibitions, portfolio reviews, conferences, projections and film screenings in many different renowned venues. It is also the first and only international photography festival in East Africa.