Beyond the Frames: The Photographer Who Wants to Redefine the African Story
Ofoe Amegavie is a Ghanaian photographer with a passion for all things cultural and spiritual in human societies. He is inspired by his own family’s ancestry, dating back to Togbui Sri I of Anloga, and its story of migration from the Volta Region to the coast of Ada-Foah in the Greater Accra region.
He has created his own unique style by applying a curious approach and a spiritual perspective to fine art, fashion and documentary photography, portraying his culture and heritage through an intimate insight into everyday encounters. Learn more about his journey in Bôhten's latest edition of Beyond the Frames.
Talk to us about your journey from the beginning. What pulled you to the world of photography and do you think your upbringing influenced you to get into the arts?
Photography was an escape for me. During my time in the University (Regional Maritime University where I studied BSc. Port & Shipping Administration). I felt this heavy need to find a distraction. I got myself a Nikon Coolpix point and shoot camera. I took photos of anything around me, always eager to see what I had on my camera when it was time to go through an editing process. After school I graduated from the University I still kept on photographing. Then came Facebook, where I saw works of Bob Pixel (RIP). His work took me to a whole new world. His work exposed me to light and I appreciate him for that. I reached out to him a couple of times. He gave me one encouragement which stuck with me forever “keep doing your unique style of photography.”
In 2011 I took a bolder step to be a studio assistant for Sefa Nkansah. He had a studio in the heart of Accra, Osu. He was at the time sharing the space with renowned fashion Designer, Duaba Serwa. I ended up working for both and thus my exposure to fashion photography. Osu was buzzing with fresh experiences as the centre for Youth Culture. Over the years, photography became an outlet for my depression at the time.
I spent half of my childhood with my uncle and his family. This was as a result of my mother’s own “mental instability”. She was really sick and eventually died. My father had also transferred to another part of the country. As an only child living with my cousins never made me feel lonely and my family was actually always in front of my lens at family gatherings etc. In 2013 I had my first solo exhibition, Susuma Sané - Matters of the soul and the second edition in 2017. Through this exhibition, photography became a personal outlet and a healing tool. I found it a means of expressing myself. Photography became an answer to the questions I had that had no answers.
I think if anyone wants to consciously photograph someone else or any other subject there has to be empathy involved in the mix. That point for me started when through photographY, I decided to express myself. Through my own documentary exploits and studying of my own family history which is a story of migration from one part of the country (Anglo) to settle in another (Ada) etc I have developed an interest in our traditional system, our culture as a way of life. These days I find myself spending more time out of the City working on different projects which document passionately our different cultures in various breakdowns and chapters (fashion, food, etc)
Why do you think the art of photography is so important in helping to tell the story of Africa?
Through photography we can provide a reference point. A visual representation of a state or moment in time offers a lot of information that words might not be able to. The proof of this is in the silence of our minds when we observe a photograph. Photographs offer us information which might not be able to fall in spaces of descriptions (such adjectives, nouns, or whatever names we can make up for them). I think photographs can expose us to “half truths," which in turn indulges our imagination to complete an offering of real time experiences (for the photographer, the subject, history, and the one consuming).
I imagine a world where through photography Africa can inform the world about it’s ways of life. The digital world is the time to do so. Everything in real time needs a reference point of its own history. It's like a number line and each second represents an inspiration for the next experience. There can never be too many photos because we aren’t limited to 36 frames at a go anymore.
What has been your most memorable shoot and what about it was so unforgettable for you?
That would have to be every single time I have worked with Blitz The Ambassador. From photographing his concerts to working with him on his movie sets; Juju Girl & The Burial Of Kojo. He has magic in his pocket and steps. He is able to explain scenes soo well.
Who are some of your influences in the creative arts?
I am generally and heavily inspired by our Traditional system as a country. Even though we are a lot of different tribes bound only by imaginary lines. I visually feel and absorb everything I see when I am in such a space.
- Ghanaian photographers: James Barnor, Eric Gyemfi, Bob Pixel, Ofoli Kwei, Carlos Idun-Tawiah, Accra Photos - Fav Ghanaian Photographers
- Mentors: Sefa Nkansah, Nii Obodai
- International: Gordon Parks, Tom Hoops, Henri Cartier-Bresson
- Comic books. I am really inspired by humans doing amazing stuff. I think they are projections of how as humans we see ourselves and keep pushing to reach new levels and heights.
Talk to us about some current projects you are working on and what we can expect from you in the future?
I am currently working on a presentation for my project, “Between Sand and Water” as part of the requirements for being a part of World Press Photo West African Visual Journalism Fellowship program. I have been experimenting with different types of printing as well as an artist organised by Akutso. Through this residency I am working with the Guys at Yellow Mesh Studios to create the first of such a presentation. The work will be installed in Ada sometime in December.
Learn more about Ofoe and view his collection here. To follow all the latest from Ofoe, follow him here.