I grew up looking forward to traveling beyond my Nebraskan farm. My wish was granted. Though I have traveled to many countries it was the eight years that I spent working as a freelance photojournalist in East and West Africa that meant the most to me. It resulted in the publishing of I am because we are: African wisdom in image and proverb in 2011, an award-winning photo book which speaks to the interconnectedness and the responsibility we have for each other, embodying the concept of Ubuntu, the African idea of living harmoniously in community.

The black and white photographs of unique moments in African daily life combined with related proverbs illustrate traditional African wisdom. Together they tell the story of life: family, home, education, relationships, work, leisure, environment, conflict, peace, music, dance, religion, wisdom, old age, and death. Finally, it comes full circle with hope, as life goes on with the descendants and the living community.

I have a few signature photographs that would probably come to mind by people who know my work. One of them is on the cover of my book. I always knew that this image would be the cover. It shows three young women from the back, dressed for a special high school program. Only one of them happens to glance back at me as I take the picture. That gaze entices the viewers to share her world, a world of hope and vitality, poised to experience the best that life has to offer.

Though the book is now out of print, the images and proverbs still speak to the present, maybe now more than ever with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.




Betty Press grew up on a farm in Nebraska, lived and worked as a freelance photojournalist in Africa for eight years, and, after coming back to the USA in 1995, continued to take photographs in Cuba, the Caribbean and Central America, returning from time to time to her ‘second home’ Kenya.

In 2011 she collaborated with Annetta Miller to publish the award-winning photo book I am because we are: African wisdom in image and proverb. Awards included: Photo Lucida Critical Mass Top 50, featured by NPR; one of the top self-published photobooks by Davis Orton Gallery, Hudson, NY; selected as one of the best photobooks of 2011 by the TCS Monitor’s photo staff; winner of the photography award by the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letter and a Mississippi Arts Commission Visual Artist Fellowship in 2012.