Mohamed 'Mo' Amin: Photojournalist Extraordinaire

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

MO & ME Trailer by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

Mohamed Amin with a video cameraMohamed 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.

Four year old Mohamed Amin by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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Growing up in Kenya

Mo was born in Nairobi on 29 August 1943 and was the second son of seven children. Mo’s parents were Muslim and emigrated from Punjab, India to East Africa in 1927 to seek new opportunities. Growing up, he encountered racism and would fight against prejudice for the rest of his life.

Mohamed Amin with family by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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Moving to Dar es Salaam

Mo’s father, Sardar Mohamed, worked on the Kenyan railway, ‘The Lunatic Line’, which stretched from the coastal city of Mombasa to Lake Victoria. The railway assigned Sardar to work in Dar es Salaam in the early 1950s. The family moved to the then-British-ruled Tanganyika which later became Tanzania. Mo’s mother, Azmat Bibi Mohamed, took care of the children at home.

Young Mohamed Amin (1958)Mohamed Amin Foundation

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Discovering photography

When Mo acquired his first camera, a second-hand Box Brownie for 40 shillings, his future was set. While at secondary school at Tanganyika, 11-year-old Mo signed up for his school's photography club and started learning the art of photography and darkroom skills. 

Young Mohamed Amin with his scooter by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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Merging passion with business

While studying, Mo decided to turn his passion for photography into a business and career path. He would photograph school football games and fashion shows, sell his work and split his earnings with those he had photographed. 

Young Mohamed Amin with his new business, Camerapix (1963) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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The beginning of Camerapix

In 1963, Mo opened his photography agency Camerapix in Dar es Salaam. A few years later, he moved back to Nairobi to further establish the business. The demand for his photographs was high. Eventually, the business grew to include both photography and video.

Mohamed Amin goes through a publication by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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Working as a freelance photographer

Before the age of 20, Mo was working as a freelancer in Dar-es-Salaam. His work appeared in the national newspapers and gained attention from international news agencies. 

Mohamed Amin after his release from Kilimamigu terror prison (1966) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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A breakthrough with a cost

Mo's international breakthrough came in 1965 when, at 22-years-old, he set out to cover the revolution in Zanzibar. His pictures of a secret Soviet military training camp got him arrested by the authorities and he was tortured for 28 days in the notorious Kilimamigu  prison. 

Mohamed Amin and Dolly Khaki discuss future by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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Falling in love

In the 1960s, Mo fell in love with fashion designer and model Dolly Khaki. Dolly was an Ismaili Muslim, while Mo and his family were Sunnis. Though she was not considered a good match by Mo's parents, the couple married in secret. Dolly gave birth to their son, Salim, in 1970.

Mohamed Amin in Aden by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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Four decades of documenting Africa

Rising at 2 am every morning and with Camerapix offices in 22 countries, Mo witnessed and recorded the alternating currents of his beloved continent and beyond. Always first, his photographs would delight and shock millions of television viewers and newspaper  readers.

Mohamed Amin with all his gear by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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“Six-Camera Mo”

Mo was nicknamed “Six-Camera Mo” because he constantly worked on several jobs at once and could shoot film and stills simultaneously.

Mohamed Amin during the Bokassa Coronation ceremony. (1977)Mohamed Amin Foundation

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Determined and unstoppable

In 1977, French media had secured exclusive rights to document the coronation of the Emperor of the Central African Republic, Jean-Bedel Bokassa. However, Mo went undercover wearing a top hat and tails, and his photographs were published all over the world.

Mohamed Amin and Michael Buerk (1984)Mohamed Amin Foundation

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The Ethiopian famine

Mo travelled to Korem in northern Ethiopia on 9 October 1984. He and Michael Buerk filmed and photographed the devastating 1984 Ethiopian famine. The story aired across the world and opened the eyes of millions. People were dying, from neither war nor disease, but simply of hunger. He went on to say that nothing that he had witnessed in 25 years of covering wars, disasters, riots, and even the previous Ethiopian famine in the 1970s, could have prepared him for this.

We Are The World songMohamed Amin Foundation

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We are the world

Mo's photographs were published in every single newspaper globally. The world saw the brutal reality of the famine. In response, political activist and musician Bob Geldof created the charity group Band Aid and organised the Live Aid concerts to raise money for Ethiopia. Harry Belafonte put together USA for Africa to record the song "We Are The World", and US President George H.W. Bush pledged $1bn to the famine relief and invited Mo to the White House.

Mohamed Amin with Stephanie Bogdan (1991)Mohamed Amin Foundation

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The unexpected explosion

In 1991, Mo lost an arm in an ammunition dump explosion in Ethiopia. His sound recordist, John Maathai was killed while 3 other colleagues were injured. With the help of his myoelectric prosthetic arm, Mo was back in the field only three months later to carry on with his work. 

Mohamed Amin with Idi Amin by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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A trusted photographer

Mo built up strong relationships with world leaders and journalists, which allowed him exclusive access to some of the continent's greatest stories. He was the only photojournalist allowed into Idi Amin's Uganda. His Muslim background allowed him to be the first to photograph and film the Hajj in Mecca.

Mohamed Amin and Abdul Ramadhan (1990)Mohamed Amin Foundation

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Africa Journal

Mo was frustrated by the depressing narrative of Africa that the media transmitted. In 1994, he launched the weekly TV show 'Africa Journal', which reported stories on the positive growth of the continent. 

Hijacked Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 (1996)Mohamed Amin Foundation

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An untimely death

Mo was killed in a terrorist attack on 23 November 1996. The Ethiopian Airlines flight 961 was hijacked and crashed into the Indian Ocean killing 125 people including Mo and his colleague, Brian Tetley. Survivors would later report that Mo had tried to talk the hijackers out of their plan. He fought until the end and lost his life in the way he would have liked best - amid the largest scoop of the day.

Mohamed Amin with George Bush by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

Many millions are alive today because Mohamed Amin risked his life time and time again.”
Former US President George H.W. Bush

Mohamed Amin talking to Mother Teresa by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

“God sent you for this hour my son.”
Mother Teresa

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