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Salym Fayad: CultureGrams Contributor

We would not be able to maintain CultureGrams’ focus on daily life across the world without the individual contributors we rely on to provide unique cultural content. And the contributor who has submitted the most multimedia to the site—including over 2,000 photos of some 40 countries—is Salym Fayad.

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Salym sits in a home in Gao, Mali, in a photo taken by his host’s young son.

CultureGrams editors work to solicit photos and videos that avoid tourist sites and news events and instead reveal the details that make up the fabric of a culture. Finding such materials for Africa is especially challenging, since, as Salym points out, Western media often portray Africa as a single region plagued by famine and violence instead of the complex, culturally rich continent of over 50 countries that it is.

Having traveled to and photographed nearly half of those countries, Salym is an expert at capturing elements of culture that make each place unique, including the way people dress, their gestures, personalities, interactions, and environments.

Though some formal training and an artistic eye help, his photographic success rests on something more fundamental: he is genuinely interested in people and shows it. Before taking pictures, he tries to create an atmosphere of comfort and trust, which often involves mingling with people for a while before he starts shooting and showing them the photos as he goes. His trips are also well researched ahead of time so that he has an understanding of the places he visits and an idea of what to look for.

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Based in South Africa but a nomad by nature, Salym has also traveled extensively in Latin America and Europe and has recently started exploring Asia. The route to his current profession has been nomadic as well. He was educated in literature and philosophy in his native Colombia and worked at jobs like waiting tables and DJing before beginning to cover Sub-Saharan Africa as a freelance journalist.

In addition to his photography work (which also includes CultureGrams video), Salym regularly contributes articles on topics with cultural dimensions to several Latin American publications and facilitates musical exchanges between Colombia and South Africa.

Salym’s work can be consuming, but that’s a good thing because it combines those things he loves most: travelling, music, people, Africa, and—luckily for CultureGrams—taking pictures.

Rachel Ligairi

Rachel Ligairi

I'm a CultureGrams editor who covers the Americas and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Rachel Ligairi

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