Photographer Michael Tsegaye (b. 1977) originally trained as a painter at the influential Addis Ababa University, Alle School of Fine Arts and Design, where he graduated in 2002. His career as a painter was short lived however, after he realised he had an allergy to oil paint; through this he discovered a passion for photography, which became his means of artistic expression, and eventually, his profession. His previous experience as a painter has greatly influenced his work, through his compositions, use of perspectives, and the prominence of textures in his images, many of them often have a painterly feel. He has stated that he does not follow photopapers, instead finding solace and rapport with the painter community in Addis Ababa, which has helped him hone his own craft as a photographer.
Today, Tsegaye is one of Ethiopia’s most important photographers. His meticulous detailing of the nation’s diverse story has allowed him to create a vast photographic oeuvre. The subjects he has illuminated through his lens varies from the clandestine lives of sex workers in Addis Ababa, an ecological and textured study of the volcanic landscape of the Afar region of Ethiopia, to the on-going series titled “Future Memories”, which explores the consequences of rapid urbanisation in the nation’s capital city. Tsegaye has explored numerous other controversial subject matters which have previously remained untouched. One of his most emotive bodies of work, Chasms of the Soul, is an extraordinary sixty-four image collection of portraits of memorials left on the gravestones of the deceased. It is an evocative piece which deals with metamorphosis and death, and perfectly typifies Tsegaye’s motivation to capture the myriad of stories found in the East African nation; from the morbid to its natural wonders.
Tsegaye’s work has been exhibited across the world, in cities such as: Paris, New York, Bamako, Oslo, and London. His solo and group exhibitions include: a leading solo show at Toronto’s Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival (2019), “Gimme Shelter”, Cleveland Print Room, Cleveland, USA (2019), Recent Histories, Contemporary African Photography and Video Art (2017) at the Walther Collection Museum in Germany, Ankober, Addis Fine Art, Addis Abba (2015-2016), Medecins Sans Frontiers, National Museum Addis Ababa (2011), For a Sustainable World, African Photography Biennal 9th Edition, (2011), Selam Arts Festival, Toronto, Canada (2010), Hotel Dystopia Room #25/55: Al Bastakiya Art Fair, Dubai, UAE (2010) and Aksum Rediscovered: The Reinstallation of the Obelisk, The UNESCO House, Paris, France (2009).