I imagine people dropping in as the sun sets and the heat cools down, grabbing hopefully a cool beer and maybe seeing some action provided by the satellite dish. That sweet moment when all seems well with the world. Already my mind is thinking what image from Mississippi can I pair this with. I'm on a road trip to Samburu Game Preserve in Northern Kenya.

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Storefronts in Kenya and Mississippi: Combining my Two Worlds

Betty Press | Kenya and the United States

Storefronts in Kenya and Mississippi, when displayed together, celebrate small businesses which provide livelihoods for families and necessary services to local communities.

I began this work while exploring new cultures through the eyes of a documentary photographer brought up in the America’s Midwest. Since then, I have lived much of my life in Kenya and Mississippi, my two worlds.

Small shops are fascinating, with the use of glorious color, made-by-hand style, singular signage, and creative artwork to advertise their services.

They are paired by color, composition, and subject matter. Sometimes it is not obvious which is from Kenya or Mississippi. As we look closer, we start comparing the cultural connections. African hair braiding is popular in both places. Dollar General stands out as a sign of the growing influence of big box stores, even in under-developed economies like Kenya.

By photographing these shops, I pay tribute to them around the world. As lifelines of needed local services, they enliven the urban environment  and serve as a testament to the human spirit for survival and the universal desire to be creative.

Betty Press is a documentary photographer now living in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. For the last 10 years she has been documenting the black and white relationship in her state. Finding Mississippi has been widely exhibited and included in many public, as well as private collections.

She is well known for her photographs taken in Africa where she has lived and worked for many years. In 2011 she published an award winning photobook; I Am Because We Are: African Wisdom in Image and Proverb.

Since August 2019 she has been returning to Kenya to work on projects documenting urban culture and social injustice in the informal settlements of Nairobi. Her latest project concerns families affected by excessive police violence in Nairobi’s informal settlements:THEY WERE US:Stories of Victims and Survivors of Police Brutality in Kenya.

Mothers of Victims and Survivors Network, Nairobi, Kenya

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