Storefronts in Kenya and Mississippi: Combining my Two Worlds


Storefronts in Kenya and Mississippi, when displayed together, celebrate small business entrepreneurs around the world who provide livelihoods for their families and necessary services to their local communities.

I began this work quite naturally 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 going back and forth between Kenya and Mississippi, my two worlds.

I find small shops fascinating, with the use of glorious color, singular signage, and creative artwork to advertise their services, and particularly their unmistakable made-by-hand style. In Kenya the artists even sign their work on the shops.


The pairing of the shops come together almost effortlessly by color, composition, and subject matter. Sometimes it is not obvious which is from Kenya or Mississippi. But as we look closer, we start seeing the cultural connections and differences.

It’s a delectable feast for the eyes appreciating what we often no longer notice in our daily lives and local communities. Then we notice the Dollar General store, a sign of what’s changing. The pervasive global influence of the big box, corporate world results in fewer small shops with unique signage. This is happening even in underdeveloped economies, like Kenya, bringing more pressure on the survival of small local businesses.


By photographing these shops, I pay tribute to them wherever they are and the changes they are facing. They are a testament to the human spirit of survival in difficult circumstances and the universal desire to be creative. As lifelines of needed services, they serve as local gathering places for conversation and entertainment while visually enlivening the urban environment for all who live there. -Betty Press


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. Storefronts of Kenya and Mississippi is a welcome respite to documenting such tragic stories of injustice.