Glancing through Ghanaian photographer Yaa Annobil
’s incredibly captivating body of work, it’s not hard to become enthralled in the mostly black and white pixelated seemingly mundane, yet aesthetically captivating moments she captures. Moments framed as stories that seem interpretable solely between the photographer and those made eternal through these interactions. Wanting to know more, Yaa and I discussed his journey as a photographer and the intricacies of her artistic tendencies.
In about five sentences or less, tell us a little bit about who you are, where you’re based and what you do.
Put simply, I am a Ghanaian free-lance photographer, and I try to blur the lines between documentary photography and art. Aged 26, I am based in Accra, Ghana, but as I type, I am in London, making preparations for a photographic exploration of Nigeria.
I work with film exclusively – black and white primarily, and generally, I shoot with a cheap and battered old Pentax.
How and when did your exploration of photography as an artistic tool begin?
As a teenager I imagined I would follow in my father’s footsteps, and become a journalist / writer. However, my interest in the machinations of innumerable dictatorial regimes, coupled with a tendency to pen subversive critique, rendered this plan somewhat unwise (and dangerous). Consequently, photography is my ‘voice’.
I have always loved the art-form, but not the aesthetically beautiful & romantic, or deeply fatalistic depictions of Africa and the so-called developing world - 1D pictorial propaganda essentially. With this in mind, I picked up my ME Super at around 20, and decided to explore my country honestly.
You photograph almost exclusively in black and white, and there’s a very distinct relationship between the subjects in your photographs and you, the photographer, that is incredibly intimate without seeming intrusive. Stylistically, how would you describe your photography and photographic approach to your subjects?
Many of the people I photograph, live decidedly precarious lives. In simple terms, peace exists in Ghana, but its children have been failed theatrically. Though beauty is present in many things in Ghana, I sense sorrow in just about everything I see - specifically, I know the stories of everybody I shoot. I am never tempted to manipulate my subjects, as the decision to confront their pain, and not mask or avoid it, means interesting photographs simply present themselves to me.
Occasionally, I shoot in colour to capture potent societal irony, but something about textured greys and abyssal darkness appeals to me. I use B&W to capture deep emotion, but also the pain present in ‘the mundane’. I shoot the bulk of my images at night; surrounded by mosquitoes, stifled by heavy air, and the aroma of work-weary, sleep-deprived fellow countrymen.
What role does being Ghanaian - and thus, an African - play in your creative process, if any? Can you tell us a little about your experiences shooting in Ghana?
Shooting in Ghana breaks my heart, but I feel myself descending into cavernous misery whenever I leave the country (I think every African can relate to this).
As a Ghanaian I endeavor to capture Ghana as it is – epic magnificence AND tragic destitution. The latter angers many, and I am often pummeled with a barrage of accusations; apparently I am not a true nationalist, but this suits me, as I am driven by cultural obligation, and a deep commitment to my land - not childish denial.
In many ways, I believe Ghana is a microcosm of the contemporary African realty – without doubt, this informs my approach.
Why did you chose tumblr as a platform to showcase your work, and what are some of the highlights of your journey as a photographer thus far?
Tumblr interests me greatly. There is something interesting about viewing my images re-contextualized – working out what my work represents to a diverse batch of people is always enjoyable, often surprising, and always humbling.
Every re-post is a highlight.
Any future plans or projects you’d like to share?
Not too long ago, I traveled to New York, to work with amazing musician and extraordinary poet Kae Sun, and creative visionary / incontrovertibly remarkable / acutely intelligent Joshua Kissi. We created a collection of images of Kae Sun for ‘Afriyie’: his sophomore LP. I enjoyed this experience immensely, and I hope the world will like what we created.
My heart resides in Africa. I shall travel to Nigeria very soon, to complete an interesting project with my friend Nnamdi Awa Kalu. I also plan to explore the Northern regions of Ghana – particularly those ravaged by economic globalization climate change, and traditionally anemic governmental subsidy.
Where else can you be found? (other social media sites, official website, etc)
My website: www.yaaannobil.com
Thanks so much, Yaa!
Thank you :)