Symbolic Representations: Social Media and Photography in Nigeria


  • Maja Tabea Jerrentrup University of Applied Sciences Landshut, Germany
  • Ndubuisi Nnanna University of Nigeria, Nsukka



Identity, Photography, Social Media, Aesthetics, Nigeria


The medium of "photography" has encompassed the world, but depending on the cultural context, it is characterized by different aesthetics that come with different associations and implications. Drawing on cultural anthropology and semiotic image analysis, this article contributes to research on cross-cultural aesthetics with a focus on Nigeria. Based on a sample of 100 Instagram posts with the hashtag #nigerianphotography, it explores how social conventions of art influence popular Nigerian photography and create a unique style: there is a strong focus on the staging of people, who are usually shown in front of simple backgrounds as full body shots. In addition, Nigerian photography places a clear emphasis on colour and heavy retouching. These aspects are seen as consistent with African art in general, which is often more concerned with conveying abstract concepts than authenticity. Thus, it can be stated that Nigerians appropriated photography in their own way, emphasizing the symbolic rather than the indexical function of photography. Nigerian popular photography can be understood as a continuation of classical African art rather than a break with its tradition.


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Author Biographies

Maja Tabea Jerrentrup, University of Applied Sciences Landshut, Germany

Department of New Media and Intercultural Communication

Ndubuisi Nnanna, University of Nigeria, Nsukka

Department of Theatre and Film Studies


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How to Cite

Jerrentrup, M. T. ., & Nnanna, N. N. (2022). Symbolic Representations: Social Media and Photography in Nigeria. Journal of Communication, 3(1), 20–31.