An Interview With Ghana's Boundary-Pushing Photographer, Eric Gyamfi
One of the leading Ghanaian artists using photography as a tool for groundbreaking social commentary, storytelling and documentation of histories, Eric Gyamfi uses images as a mode of communication and critique in our increasingly vibrant visual culture. We spoke to him for an insight into his work.
Eric Gyamfi‘s accolades as an artist over the past few years include 2016 Magnum Foundation Emergency Fund awardee, and participant of Nuku Studio Photography Workshop and World Press Photo West African Master Class. His work is something of a revelation, both for long-time fans and those witnessing it for the first time.
Eric, when did you decide that photography was for you?
When I was in junior high, I started with a camera belonging to a dorm mate. I made my first batch of photographs which I never saw in print, because I never got to develop the film. The years that followed, I was practising with a Canon DSLR and reading about photography more than the economics course I was taking in school. I was curious about photography and storytelling as tools to communicate my experience, to share.
The undeniable fact that photography plays a distinct role in shaping our world is fascinating. What role does photography play for you and others around you?
I think photography shapes a lot, especially the way we perceive people. It shapes our expectations. It shapes our thinking. The power of pictures or photographs in all the forms they take, visual and otherwise (multi modal) could be harnessed to reconfigure the way we relate to our world and with each other.
Outside of photography, tell us about your pool of inspiration.
Books and music do it for me, but music especially. I’m currently reading Diogo Da Cruz’s The Gravity of Time. Another book I’ve been reading over and over again is Blind Spot by Teju Cole. I just finished I Am Not Your Negro and recently read about Black Panther’s Emory Douglas (who played an important role in the Black Panther Party as Minister of Culture). As for music, I’m still listening to A Seat At The Table by Solange Knowles, and my room mate has gotten me into 30s and 40s jazz – a lot of Coltrane and Louis Armstrong.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Tell us more about developing your storytelling approach by living with people for months. Also, do you want to say anything about the importance of today’s African LGBTQ archives?
It was important for me to understand the various contexts, as a way to not ball up the queer sphere under just one umbrella. People are queer but they are also something else. There are so many other intersections for humans. That even keeps evolving. These are my friends. I have relations with people who are like me in a way. If there is any motivation in there, it is to understand myself and others and not to ball things up into a single experience which may not be the case.
Who would you like to collaborate with?
What’s next for you in 2018?
I started a project in 2017 called ‘A Certain Bed’. I take a more inward-looking approach to talking about home, the meaning of family and how memories are made.