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Michael Zumstein

Michaël Zumstein, French-Swiss photographer was born in 1970. He graduated from the Ecole Supérieure de Photographie de Vevey (Switzerland).

Whether working on commission for the French or International press or on his personal projects, Michael Zumstein’s photographic work follows an heritage of photojournalism and objective observation, which allows him to honestly render situations and to go beyond stereotypes.

While following the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Ivory Coast, and Sudan, he chooses to focus his photography on the « ambiguous relations between Africa and the West ».
In 2014, he carries out a large report about the Crisis in Central African Republic, in three parts..

Along with his work on the African continent, Michaël Zumstein covers French political and social news. For nearly two year, he has covered a series of stories on the Cité des Courtilières in Pantin, one of Paris’ hottest suburbs. Witnessing the tensions between the youth and the police, he was of the first to cover the violent demonstrations of 2005 in Paris’ suburbs of Villiers-le-Bel or Clichy-sous-Bois.
Le Monde newspaper gives him the 2007 coverage of the presidential election and he has continued, since then, to follow current social and political events for different newspapers who rely on him to produce reportages where the use of where sensibility and rigor are indispensable.
Besides his photography, Michaël Zumstein also runs photographic workshops in Africa for the World Press Photo.

In September 2014, he exhibits his work « Terror and Tears in the Central African Republic » at the Festival Visa pour l’Image in Perpignan.

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On the movie set of Camille, Central African Republique (2019)

In 2014, Camille Lepage, a French photojournalist based in Bangui, lost her life in unsolved circumstances while covering the conflict between Selekas and anti-Balaka militias in the Central African countryside. Michael Zumstein had worked alongside the young photographer while also documenting the civil war for the French press. Four years later, he followed the shooting of a film inspired by these tragic events.   Already noticed with Hope, a documentary-like story about African migrants on their way to Europe, the filmmaker Boris Lojkine started his new film production with an almost all-Central African film crew. Actors, extras, but also chief operators, cameramen and...

Niger, Life after Boko Haram (2019)

In Goudoumaria, in the African country of Niger, there is a rehabilitation center for exmembers of Boko Haram. Here, an attempt is made to reintegrate repentant fighters for the jihadist terrorist group. Some wish to remain anonymous, like Mohamed from Nigeria. Others show their faces, like Ali, who entered the center voluntarily. There is also a women’s section.

UN peacekeepers in Central African Republic (2018)

In the Bangassou military base, in the Central African Republic, where UN peacekeepers are trying to protect the refugees against the ethnic conflict that affects the country. Of the 14 missions worldwide in which peacekeepers are engaged, one of the most at risk takes place in the Central African Republic. In 2017, there were 13 deaths among the Blue Helmets stationed at the Bangassou base. Since 2013 and the beginning of the civil war, the international community has tried to intervene between the militias of the Seleka, which are predominantly Muslim, and the anti-balaka militias, Christian and animist. Michael Zumstein photographed this fortified military base, where members of...

Humanitarian crisis in Chad (2017)

In April 2017, Michael Zumstein went to Tchad to investigate the country's situation, one year after the reelection of the president Idriss Déby Itno for the fifth time. This central African coutry is going through a succession of major crisis : political repression, financial instability because of the gas cost's fall ( which is the state's first income ), humanitarian crisis with the settling at the North East of the country of the jihadist movement Boko Haram ... At N'Djamena, the capital, the choice of the FMI to allow a loan of 300 millions dollars on three years has been welcomed by relief in the administration which has been relying for years on the oil revenue to function and...

Those who leave - Niger (2016)

With eight children by woman, Nigeria has the world's highest natality birthrate and is the 6th poorest country in the world. The division of farmlands between the members of always growing up families and the depletion of farmlands led Nigerians to go into exile for Europe or north Africa's countries. Claire Meynial, who won the Albert Londres price in 2016, and Michaël Zumstein, have been investigating in the Zinder region where a lot of womens took the road to Algeria. In June 2016, thirty-four people, including twenty children, are death in the desert, abandonned by their smuggler who was supposed to lead them to the Algeria's border. An imigration industry has took place in...

"An African City" TV show (2016)

In Ghana, Michaël Zumstein met the casting of the webserie « An African City ». He followed them in Accra, the capital, in a discovery of their everyday life. Created by Nicole Amarteifio, the fiction is a huge success for young africans in the continent but also in USA and Europe. This enthusiasm is mainly due to the showrunner's will to emancipate young african womens from usual cliché and to offer a fresh perspective on ghanaian youth. After having reach university studies abroad and came back in their country to follow their dreams, the five characters of this new « Sex and the City », who are brilliants, independants, successful, allow the series to broach more or less taboo...

Take the Backway (2016)

Michael Zumstein followed the road taken by thousands of Sub-Saharan migrants as they leave their countries for a long and dangerous journey : from Banjul (Gambia) to the Libyan coast, including Agadez (Niger). For a long time, Libya seemed like an eldorado for all Africans. Senegalese, Gambians, Malians, Nigerians, they were coming from all the continent in the hope of amassing savings in this rich country, settling in there, or reaching Europe by crossing the sea from Libyan beaches to Italy. But after the fall of the dictator Kadhafi, who cared about welcoming and exploting this workforce, the situation has changed. Nobody wants to stay too much time in this country anymore. Libya has...

Young Nigerians facing climate urgency (2015)

In Niger, six young students involved in the issue of global warming have gone into an innovative cartographic project. They travel all across the country, reporting any visible effect of climate change. Their work bring a priceless contribution to the UNICEF world map, titled Act now for tomorrow, created in preparation for the COP21. Since a few years, the country has been particularly hit by less frequent but heavier floods that are devastating villages, road infrastructures and entire farming areas. As a consequence, the number of displaced people rises, causing starvation and poor living conditions. These young mappers are working at linking global warming with rainfall imbalance...

Bamako, The Downloaders (2015)

Since two decades, cellphone has created a little revolution in Mali, overcoming the lack of landlines. Its capital, Bamako, has seen come into being new sellers who download popular music as much as diversified. Called downloaders, these new music merchants took their place in Fankélé Diarra Street that attracts also musicians who want to share their productions. Then music transfers are made very quickly : music tracks and video clips are downloaded on USB flash drive or memory stick and shared via bluetooth signals speeding up new artists discovery. Consequently, without a real network connection, users can reach all coveted music but especially the experienced and shared one. Yet,...

Trafficking Bolabola rose wood : Madagascar (1/2) (2015)

From the poor villages in the Malagasy natural reserve of Masoala to the suburbs of Xianyou, new city in the Fujian province, China, Michael Zumstein traced back to its roots the trafficking of Bolabola rosewood. It is popular due to its incredible density to many rich Chinese buyers that wish to create replica furniture dating from the Ming and Qing periods. While the average wage of a Malagasy farmer is of 2,50€ per day, the industry that has flourished around the delivery of rosewood, from the forest to the coastal ports, allows the local population to survive. The tree trunks are routed towards the Iagnobé River with only muscle power before being tied onto tires to go down the...

Trafficking Bolabola rose wood : China (2/2) (2015)

In the Furniture Palace in Xianyou, replica to Forbidden City, Mr. Huang Fuhua proudly poses in front of an immense sign sculpted in dark wood from Madagascar, valued at 700 000 euros. The CEO of Sanfu Classical Furniture Craft owns a few factories and showrooms in the city. He imports his raw materials from Laos, India, and more recently from Africa and Madagascar. In the “Wood Street” in his workshops, Mr. Huang Fuhua’s teams work on these precious resources that make Xianyou one of biggest manufacturing centres of traditional furniture in China. The appetite of these rich buyers seems without limits; in 10 years, China has multiplied by 10 the volume of imported rosewood. In 2012,...

Central African Republic, The wages of fear (2014)

In Central African Republic, torn appart by the conflict beetween Christians and Muslims, diamonds production decreased sightly. Dispite the dissolution of the Seleka, a muslim coalition opposed to the former president François Bozizé, mining still fuels the conflict. East of the country became the stronghold of the former rebel, while West remains under the influence of rival militias, the anti-Balaka. This inter-communal violences ended up affect diamond production, and have a deep impact on the economy of a failed state. According to Joseph Agbo, Minister of Mines and Energy, before the conflict broke out, diamonds exportation supported nearly one quarter of the population, or 20%...

Crisis in Central African Republic - part III (2014)

Central African Republic is currently going through the most acute security and humanitarian crisis of its history since its independence in 1960. The country is facing a wave of murders, forced exodus and unprecedented lootings. War crimes are everywhere. And the ethnic cleansing against the Muslim community is radical. Three months after the beginning of the French military operation “Sangaris”, wished and welcomed by a huge majority of Central Africans and with a strong legitimacy on the international scene, the picture is grim. If, in the end, foreign troops – from Sangaris, the African Union, the European Union and soon the UN – succeed to restore security in the country, the...

Crisis in Central African Republic - part II (2014)

On the 5th of December 2013, Christian anti-Balaka militiamen came to Bangui to take control over the capital and overthrow transitional President Michel Djotodia, who had come to power in March 2013, after the Seleka's military coup. This attack, and the harsh repression of the Seleka soldiers, predominantly Muslim, against civilians, plunged the country into fear, starting a vicious circle of inter-community violence. During the month of December, the gap grew wider between those who claim to “have been living well together, before”. Day after day, rumours exaggerate the exactions from both camps, urging both Christian and Muslim extremists to looting, revenge and reprisals. Then,...

Crisis in Central African Republic - part I (2013)

The political crisis in Central African Republic, which occurred further to the overthrow of François Bozizé's regime by the Seleka rebels in March 2013, has turned into a civil war as tensions between Christians and Muslim communities have thrown the country into chaos. Michael Zumstein travelled to the Bossangoa region, where almost 25 000 people have gathered in the catholic mission of the town, fleeing the fights between former Seleka soldiers - who joined the Central African Armed Forces (FACA) - and the self-defence groups of the region. On the other hand, the Muslim community has gathered in the Liberty School in fear of possible exactions by the Anti-Balaka forces. As the...

Catholics in Chad (2013)

In the town of Mongo, located 400km east of N'Djamena in the Guera region, the Catholic church is launching the construction of a new cathedral, the final step in order to be elevated to the rank of diocese. In a country were the majority is Muslim, the many Catholics congregations have had to learn to practice their faith in the respect of other beliefs. In fact, out of a population of around 10 million, the catholics only represent 20,3%. And in the region of Mongo itself, they are only 15.000 out of a population of 1,7 million inhabitants. According to Father Henri Coudray, curate of Mongo's Church, "The best manner for our people to show that our God is a God for all, is by having a...

Mali in time of war (2012)

In January 2013, Mali has been struggling for over a year with a situation close to a state of civil war. The North of the country, under the rules of the Islamists groups Aqmi (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) and Ansar Dine, has become a geopolitical issue giving a new dimension to the conflict and the country. Hence, France deciding to intervene and send its soldiers for the “Operation Serval” in order to help Bamako re-conquer the Northern part of the country. In parallel, in Mopti and in order to avoid a new military disaster, militia groups are being put together. There are the FLN (Liberation National Front), under the orders of Moussa Traoré (former sergent of the regular army)...

Niger : The Mangaize Camp (2012)

Today in Niger, 400.000 children are at risk of dying from Malnutrition. Endemic poverty, an out of control population growth and severe draught are affecting this sub-Saharan country, on the verge of a major health catastrophe. Also this precarious situation is made worse by the geo political instability of its neighbouring country: Chad, Libya and Mali. The camp of Mangaize, two hours away by road from Niamey, is already refuge to nearly 3000 people, of whom many are children suffering from malnutrition. Fleeing the Malian rebellion that rife in the neighbouring frontier area, families have left everything behind to find themselves totally helpless before the risk of starvation. The...

Senegal’s Albinos (2012)

In Senegal the albino population has had the proof that their fight against discrimination is far from being over. Carrying on their shoulder the double burden of being different and having a higher predisposition for skin cancer, the albinos from Senegal also suffer from people’s superstitions. At all times, albinos have been the victims of fear and irrationality. Excluded from society and at times even from their own family, there are very few places where they feel welcomed and accepted. Mohamadou Bamba Diop, President of the National Association of Senegalese Albinos, owns a shelter in his house in Thiès, located 70 km away from Dakar. Adding to the fear of an already...

Macky Sall, new President of Senegal (2012)

Senegal has designated its new president in the person of Macky Sall, whose candidature against Wade was supported by the opposition coalition. Even though Macky Sall used to be Prime Minister of Abdoulaye Wade, he represented for many the only possible alternative to Wade’s highly criticized – both on the national and international scene – will to run for a third mandate. Conflicts in Senegal blemished the announcement of Wade’s third stint. And if Wade has conceded defeat to Macky Sall, the country expects great changes from their new President and it’s political party.

Religious brotherhoods in Senegal (2012)

Religious brotherhoods play a major role in Senegalese society. Spiritually and economically powerful, these groups can act as lobbies and jeopardize the State secularism. The Mouride Brotherhood, whose spiritual centre is in the city of Touba, 200 kilometres from Dakar, is the most powerful of these religious groups. Groundnuts production and trade are under its control and the brotherhood claims four millions disciples, including outgoing president Abdoulaye Wade. First Mouride president of Senegal, Wade speaks openly of his obedience and uses politically his supports in his community. Wade’s declarations don’t go down well with other brotherhoods. The Layènes of Dakar, a minority...

The Last lion (2011)

Abidjan Zoo is located on one of the highlights of the fightings that took place in the capital. In the neighborhood of Abobo and Cocody, the place, which looks melancholic and has crumbling equipments, is at the border of the road leading to the police camp of Agban, a strategic location. Recently, three lions that used to be one of the attraction of the zoo were buried in the shade of ancient trees, creating a feeling of emptiness. In total, there are about forty animals which have perished, leaving only 112 residents. We remember the loss of five camels offered by Gaddafi in the same zoo a year ago. But after a crisis that has made at least 3,000 dead and tens of thousands...

Côte d'Ivoire : Laurent Gbagbo's fall (2011)

After four months of a political crisis, the confrontation between the internationally recognized president Alassane Ouattara and the outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo almost led the Côte d'Ivoire and Abidjan to civil war. On April, 11th 2011, the fallen president was arrested in his house by Alassane Ouattara’s supporters. Facing a fierce opposition from the FANCI (National Armed Forces of Côte d'Ivoire) supporting Laurent Gbagbo, the Republican Forces had to fight during two weeks in the economic capital before the former president and his last loyal soldiers were finally arrested. Nevertheless, the new president Alassane Ouattara has another fight lying ahead of him: pacify a...

Ivory Coast: two presidents for a country (2011)

Since the end of November and the defeat of the outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo against his opponent, the former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara, fears of civil war have risen in Ivory Coast. The international community supports Alassane Ouattara, and his election, announced by the Independent Electoral Commission, seemed to lead to a changeover of political power, 10 years after the previous elections. Ouattara only has a few means of action, and has taken refuge in the Golf Hotel in Abidjan. Outgoing president Gbagbo in fact refuses to admit his defeat, keeping the power, and leading everyday his country closer to a political and diplomatic dead end. As the international...

Presidential elections in Ivory Coast (2010)

Ten years after the last elections, Ivory Coast’s voters are going to elect their new president at the end of October, 2010. Electoral lists, made by the Independent Electoral National Commission (CENI) will allow 5,7 millions electors to take part in the presidential elections of the 31th of October 2010. “Since the independence, this former French colony, first cacao-producing country in the world, has never had a poll so open and fair.” (AFP)

This house is not for sale, Nigeria (2010)

Lagos, capital of Nigeria, is now paying the prize of the country’s growth. Banks, telecommunications and oil companies try to settle in the city, making the price of land follow the surge of oil – Nigeria becoming world’s second exporter to United States. More attractive than ever, the city of Lagos has now to deal with thousands of migrants, coming from the inland and border countries to gather in squalid shanty towns. One of them, Festac Town, was a symbol of modernity in the 1970s, when it was built. Nowadays, the district no longer provides neither electricity nor running water but only precarious and derelicted housing conditions. As many others, its streets are often flooded...

Le collège où l'on se parle, France (2010)

The Evariste Gallois Jr. High School in Nanterre (a suburb just outside Paris), has developed various initiatives in order to prevent violent behaviours within the school and among students. Working in an area of high unemployment and low social mix, teachers, counsellors and social workers repeat school rules, listen, help and keep on teaching.

Life on the line, Congo DRC (2006)

A month-long, 1 400 km journey by railroad to the heart of the Democratic Republic of Congo (ex-Zaïre) from Kindu in the central province of Maniema to Lubumbashi in the southern province of Katanga. We sleep on the train, we live on it, we start on it, we fight on it, we break the law on it, we die on it . Perfect immersion : Africa is on the train ; the train is on Africa . « This railroad line is a line of life, said Michaël Zumstein, on the return journey. Without the train, Lubumbashi, the country’s second most populated city, lacks foodstocks and no longer exports pens, dishes, and other manufactured products that now come from China through the Maniema enclave. » There are no...

Before me comes chaos... From Zaïre to Congo (2003)

The former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko never ceased to say, « Before me comes chaos, after comes the flood. » In 1997, after 35 years of power, the dictator was overthrown by a rebellion supported by neighboring Rwanda. But the signs of civil war were already present in the outrageous exploitation of wealth, corruption, and tribal structures. The pillages, calls to murder, and the ensuing rebellions used the same weapons of the regime they had deposed. Seven African nations became involved in the conflict. The Democratic Republic of the Congo had created on its soil the « first African world war. » In 2003, to set an end to the violence between the Hemas and Lendus in the town of...


    2019 - Swiss Press Photo - 1st Prize World for "Life after Boko Haram"


Terror and Tears in the Central African Republic (Perpignan)
From 2014-08-30 to 2014-09-14

In March 2013, the Muslim-dominated Seleka rebel movement seized power in Bangui, bringing the corrupt regime of François Bozizé to an end. But a reign of terror ensued, for weeks, as soldiers backing the new president, Michel Djotodia, led a wave of violence and looting targeting Christian communities. Michaël Zumstein has made a number of trips to the Central African Republic, the first in September 2013 when he saw violent attacks on Christian civilians. And he was there when Christian self-defense anti-Balaka militia gained control and Muslims were forced to flee. His...

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 Biographie de Michael Zumstein

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