Salim Amin: Honouring My Father's Legacy

The son of legendary Kenyan photographer Mohamed 'Mo' Amin shares his personal reflections on his father's life and legacy.

By Mohamed Amin Foundation

Salim Amin with Mohamed Amin (1990)Mohamed Amin Foundation

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What influence has your father had on you?

"I don’t think I appreciated my fathers influence as a photojournalist or his achievements, until many years after his death. I knew he had done important things. I realized during the memorial services that he had made an enormous impact on the world. But it was only when I made the film MO & ME in 2006 that I fully grasped the magnitude of what he had achieved and how he had changed the world." 

Salim Amin with Mohamed Amin (1975) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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What was he like as a father?

"My father was always travelling and always busy even when he was at home. He worked from 2am to 8pm every day, weekends, public holidays and Christmas. We never went on family vacations unless he happened to want to photograph something, so he would be working even then. He always wanted to be up early to take advantage of the morning light and get the best pictures."

Mohamed Amin films the East African Safari Rally (1979)Mohamed Amin Foundation

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What’s your fondest memory of your father?

"Spending that time covering the Safari Rally with him in Kenya … every Easter for more than a decade. We had an amazing time on the road. He would be cracking jokes and be completely relaxed."

Mohamed ‘Mo’ Amin at Camerapix StudioMohamed Amin Foundation

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What do you most admire about your father?

"My father had the instincts of a warrior and heart of a leader. He was driven and there was no limit to capturing a good story. He knew his photographs were vital to how the world saw Africa. From his humble roots in a small shop in Dar es Salaam, my father established Camerapix in 1963. He made it into a sustainable, world-class organization covering news, features and producing documentaries with a variety of global networks including the BBC, NBC and Reuters."

Salim Amin with Mohamed Amin (1980) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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How did you get into photography?

“My first photographs were published when I was 10 years old and I got 'hooked' seeing my by-line. I never wanted to do anything else after that. Ironically my father never wanted me to go into this business. He felt it was too dangerous." 

Idi Amin Dada (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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What does photography mean to you?

"We cannot deny our histories – good or bad we need to be aware of what has happened and ensure the mistakes of the past are not repeated. I think young people are not aware enough of history and are not taught it properly, nor exposed to it enough. I hope my father's photographs can help improve this for posterity.”

Salim AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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What challenges did you face when you took over Camerapix?

"The first challenge I faced when I took over Camerapix after my father's sudden passing, was convincing people that it still existed without him. His name and persona were so huge that people assumed once he had gone, the company would go with him. We had to keep producing good content to be able to build on his reputation."

The Mohamed Amin Collection by Trupti ShahMohamed Amin Foundation

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How large is the photography archive?

"The Mohamed Amin Collection includes more than 8000 hours of raw video content and approximately 3 million still photographs gathered between 1953 and 1996. Spanning Africa, the Middle East and Asia, it includes photographs of people, presidents, royals, flora, fauna and more."

Salim Amin with President Uhuru Kenyatta (2019)Mohamed Amin Foundation

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Can you tell us more about your book on Kenya?

"I had not spent as much time over the years going through my father’s archives as I should have.  But when I took the time, I discovered a real treasure and wanted to share it in this book! I decided to start with Kenya as this was his home and has always been mine. The book 'Kenya: Through My Father’s Eyes' is a celebration of our country. It is also the first historical book to incorporate augmented reality." 

Biblical famine (1984) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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What is the most pivotal moment in your father's career?

"He photographed the famine in Ethiopia in 1984. The footage aired on the BBC to an audience of millions and long enough to shock and shame the international community into action. In Britain, musicians organised the group Band Aid to record a charity single. USA for Africa recorded the song 'We Are The World'."  

Mo's Dream is Alive by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

Why did you establish the Mohamed Amin Foundation?

"I launched the Mohamed Amin Foundation in 1998 as a training school for young African journalists from around the Continent. We branched out into doing more training as there was a demand from the ever-increasing number of media channels being launched around Africa."

Salim AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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What do you hope the Foundation will achieve?

"The Foundation has developed a hugely talented group of journalists and content producers around the Continent that are telling their African story, something that has been sorely missing.”

Camerapix Archive (2020) by Trupti ShahMohamed Amin Foundation

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What do you see as Africa's biggest challenge?

"Local and African history is not taught enough in primary and secondary schools across the continent and therefore we continue to repeat mistakes from the past. If we do not know our history we will never be able to properly move forward into our future."

Salim AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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What advice would you give to the next generation?

"We have a long history with colonialism in Africa and we still feel the effects six decades after Independence. I believe the Black Lives Matter Movement is long overdue and people are tired of being made to feel like second or third class citizens in their own country just because of the colour of their skin, or their beliefs, or their backgrounds, or the way they speak. My advice to all Africans is to embrace this moment. Our time is now."

Credits: Story

About Salim Amin: The heir to one of Africa’s largest and most renowned television production companies, Salim became the reluctant leader of Camerapix upon the untimely death of his father in 1996. Recognized in 2007 as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, Salim’s leadership has been rewarded. New African Magazine has recognized Salim as one of the top “100 Most Influential Africans” and has named Salim among their “Top 50 Under 50.” Salim was one of only 150 global leaders invited to President Obama’s 2010 summit on Presidential Entrepreneurship in Washington DC.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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