Photography came to Sudan initially in the late 1890s, as the British and Egyptian militaries conquered the Mahdiya, with British soldiers documenting their conquests in Sudan for the purpose of distributing information back home. At the same time, this technology was extremely limited and fragile, using large format cameras and glass film. As a result, photographs were largely taken after battles or events rather than in the moment.
Cameras began being used more frequently in Sudan during the Condominium period, with colonial officials in the Public Relations Office photographing military activity and development projects. Coptic, Greek, and Armenian traders began bringing cameras to Sudan for commercial purposes in the 1920s and 30s, when they would work for hire at private events and at studios, first in Khartoum and later across the country.
Sudanese photographers began to work in photography in the late 1940s, buying their equipment from these travelers and traders. At the time, the Condominium government relied on Coptic photographers for their work, so these Sudanese photographers focused on private events. Some of them began setting up small photography studios, where they photographed families as well as taking personal portraits that could used both for personal usage as well as for official documents. These studios and the photographs they produced, as well as the photography of colonial officials themselves, serve as a vital source of information on Sudanese society during the colonial period.
By the time of independence, photography studios had become more widespread, with most larger cities in Sudan hosting at least one studio, where families would go to document large life events, including weddings, births, and visits from relatives who lived far away. Major events were documented by photographers, including the activities of sports clubs and associations. In the process, these photographs give insight not only into the nature of official events, but also the rapidly changing nature of Sudanese society, as families and associations documented what Sudanese social life looked like.