Mo Amin's 12 Most Defining Photographs

Meet Africa's most iconic photojournalist who documented some of the Continent's most important people, moments and places in the 20th century.

By Mohamed Amin Foundation

Mohamed Amin with bionic arm (1991)Mohamed Amin Foundation

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The man who captured the spirit of Africa

Mohamed Amin, photographer and frontline cameraman extraordinaire, captured the pain and passion of Africa like no other. ‘Mo’ trained his unwavering lens on every aspect of African life, never shying from its tragedy, always rejoicing and celebrating its successes.

School girls pose for a picture by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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1954: School photography

Mohamed Amin bought, for the princely sum of 40 shillings, a second-hand Box Brownie camera at the age of 11. It was arguably the most significant purchase of his life. From that moment, his future career was never in doubt. As his enthusiasm for photography burgeoned, Mo spent many hours taking pictures of school events. The reason was two-fold: it gained him valuable experience and allowed him to make some money. 

Self-styled Field Marshal John Okello by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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1963: Revolution in Zanzibar

At 20 years old, Mo's international breakthrough came in 1963 when he covered the revolution in Zanzibar. His pictures of a secret Soviet military training camp got him arrested by the KGB. He was tortured for 28 days in the notorious Kilimamigu prison.

Charles de Gaulle with Emperor Haile Selassie (1966) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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1967: Africa's Independence

By the waters of the Red Sea, Mo photographed Charles De Gaulle as he desperately tried to cling to what was then French Somaliland. He was able to capture the stubbornness of the colonies as they fought against their colonial rulers. As French Somaliland became Djibouti, Mauritius gained independence and Africa was finally on track to decolonisation. 

Jomo Kenyatta and Kwame Nkrumah (1965) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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1967: Africa's Independence

Here Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana hugs Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, two of the first leaders of independent African countries, at one of the first Pan-African conferences.

Tom Mboya – the man who helped to found a nation, is dead (1969) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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1969: Mboya Assassination

Tom Mboya, a contender in the race to succeed Jomo Kenyatta as head of the nation, was assassinated just downstairs from Mo's Nairobi office. He was the first on the scene, armed with assorted cameras, and he captured the frantic efforts of medical personnel to save Mboya's life. This event was a precursor to tribal tensions erupting in the country. Mo captured the scenes at the hospital, the funeral, a family's grief and national upheaval. He was now established in Kenya as the 'top-dog' in the news world and this story earned him his first British Cameraman of the Year award.

Idi Amin Dada (1975) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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1971: Idi Amin Dada's Takeover - "King of Africa"

Mo seemed to have both skill and luck on his side as most of the press was fighting to get into Uganda to cover Idi Amin's takeover. Mo and the President's shared surname put him two steps ahead of his media colleagues once again. The General agreed to let Mo come into Uganda to cover his "triumph". Their relationship lasted many years and Mo was eventually the only cameraman allowed in and out of Uganda. Mo was one of the key people in revealing Idi Amin's purges: executions, tortures and horrors. 

Aziz Tejpar Gharial & Natu Vadgama (1975) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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1972: The East African Safari Rally

The East African Safari Rally is one of the world's toughest historic motorsport events and was a father-son bonding moment for the Amins. While Mo filmed, his son Salim took the still images. The pair shared a love for the sport; Salim says his father was most at ease when at the annual event. For 25 years Mo covered the five-day, 3,500-kilometre event. Often the team slept out in their battered Land Cruiser, miles from the beaten track, in order to claim the best position for filming.

Emperor Haile Selassie by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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1974: Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia

The Lion of Judah, Emperor Haile Selassie. Mo filmed 'To Build a Nation', a documentary on the Emperor's life as an 80th birthday present to the leader. Mo also took the final pictures of the Emperor in his gardens, just before he was suffocated in his bed on the orders of the incoming Marxist government of Haile Mariam Mengistu.

Town of Mecca (1979) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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1976: Hajj - the Pilgrimage to Mecca

A deeply moving experience for Mo was his assignment as producer-cameraman to film the first full television documentary of the Hajj, the pilgrimage that each Muslim is encouraged to make at least once. He took an entirely Muslim crew and was given every facility by the Saudi Arabian government to photograph all aspects of the Hajj. From beginning to end, Mo captured the Pilgrims' unfaltering faith in their religion and the overriding atmosphere of peace, a oneness with all these different disciples, of every race and nation imaginable.

Mohamed Amin with Ugandan child soldiers by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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1980: The Tragedy of Ugandan Child Soldiers

Mo and BBC correspondent Mike Wooldridge covered Uganda in the 1980s. The world saw boys as young as 8 or 9, armed, boasting about the number of people they had killed. It was then that children being used in guerilla armies, and in government armies, was turned into a large issue across the world. Today, this continues to be one of Uganda's greatest tragedies. These children are often abducted to be used for fighting or as sex slaves.

Biblical famine (1984) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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1984: Ethiopia

Famine was once again welling up on the northern plains of Ethiopia. Haile Mariam Mengistu did not want news of this horror to leave the country. There may have been global awareness that something was going on in the region, but it was the painful visual evidence Mo and BBC correspondent Michael Buerk produced that opened the eyes of the world to what could only be described as 'hell on earth'. The plains of Korem were filled as far as the eye could see with the starving and the dying. Mo was able to effectively convey the horrifying scale of the famine and the pain and dignity of the people. Mo refused to let the world forget the biblical calamity of Ethiopia. His documentary 'African Calvary' kick started a massive global humanitarian response and saved millions.

Mujahidin freedom fighters (1988) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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1987: Afghanistan at War

Mo ventured into Afghanistan with the freedom fighting Mujahideen during the Soviet war to cover a story he later distinctly recalls as "bloody". Mo took two colleagues, Brian Tetley and Mike Sposito, a cameraman/producer from Visnews. The team trekked for miles through passes guarded by snipers, and across a diversity of war zones, wearing attire and machine guns to match the fighters. The film ran extensively across the world earning Mo yet another exclusive.

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