Our new weekly feature profiling African photo-blogs and/or tumblrs, rolls on. For background and to see who we’ve featured before, see here. This week we are featuring Ghanaian photographer Nana Kofi Acquah. If you regularly read AIAC, you’d know this is not the first time we feature Nana or his work. Sean first noticed his work in October 2011 and last September Tom asked him about his 5 favorite photographs, so he is no stranger to the blog. This time, as part of our new initiative, Tamerra Griffin, a graduate student in Africana Studies and journalism at New York University, instead asked Nana about his background, his influences and the workings of his popular blog, subtitled “A window to Ghana and Africa.”
What motivated you to start your blogspot page?
I started blogging at a time when it really was expensive to commission a website for one’s self and I couldn’t afford one. Even though my initial reason for starting a blog was so I could put my photographs out there and hope they will bring me business, I quickly noticed the blog also gave me opportunity to share a whole lot more than pictures.
How do you decide on a post/story?
I don’t have any hard and fast rules. Even though I have made posts on my blog with pictures I took outside Africa, a typical blog post from me will be an African story.
Any pages that you visit regularly for great content and inspiration?
I enjoy visiting photojournalismlinks.com because it is like an aggregator for all the strong photojournalism work going on in the world. aphotoeditor.com is another favorite site. I read a lot of random stuff, not necessarily connected to photography in any way. There is more to my life than making photographs.
Who’s your favorite photographer or photo movement on the continent and beyond right now?
When I started making photographs, I had very little education on African photography. There wasn’t much one could easily find, in fact the situation hasn’t changed much since then. I have discovered the work of some great African photographers over time but my initial inspiration came from legends like Henri Cartier Bresson, Richard Avedon and all those Life and Magnum photographers.
What to you makes your page stand out among others that feature African photography?
I think the difference between my blog and the others is how we see Africa. I don’t see Africa as a hopeless case, I see it as a work in progress. There is also the fact that most of the people who blog on Africa may not necessarily have the same photography and writing competence that I do. Before I became a photographer, I worked full time as a writer.
Your blog title is A window to Ghana and Africa. Do you feel that your page adds or changes the perception people have of Ghana and Africa?
Changing perceptions is a tough call. I want to believe that to some extent I am contributing but I don’t consider that my objective.
I want to know about your experiences with subjects, since your photo essays seem to emulate written profile pieces of people. What is it like to photograph someone who has HIV? Do you make an effort to remain objective, or are you deliberately subjective?
I am genuinely interested in people and the stories of their lives; and I think most people can tell the difference between a photographer who wants to just get their pictures and go away, and the one who really cares about them. They say, “Prejudice is the padlock on the door of wisdom,” and I totally agree that it can also a big impediment to making great people portraits. A photographer’s job is not to judge. I am a storyteller. I want to hear about where people have been, where they are and where they are going. It is great injustice to photograph people but not listen to them.
I also want to know how you approach shooting photos in countries outside Ghana. You seem to be very aware of your “Ghanaian-ness,” especially when talking about politics. How does your “Ghanaian-ness” factor into these other spaces? How does it affect the level of access you can gain there?
I remember the Nigerian Immigration Officer who took one look at my passport and asked me in Pidgin: “Where you go get Ghana passport from?” She actually thought I was a Nigerian pretending to be Ghanaian. I have been called a Gambian in the Gambia, an Ivorian in Côte d’Ivoire, a Kenyan in Kenya, a Ugandan in Uganda. My “Ghanaian-ness” is only that visible on my blog. From my experience, people will never discriminate against you because you are Ghanaian, normally they will because you are a photographer and photographers cannot be trusted.
Finally, if you don’t mind, we also ask interviewees about things other than photography or their blogs. So, what’s your feeling regarding the recent developments in Mali?
Mali is a beautiful country with very beautiful people. Just a year ago, it looked so stable and so calm and then this happens. We all know they’ve had leadership problems but that coupe d’état was not justified. It was the perfect opportunity the Islamists needed. I do hope that everything ends quickly and the people return to their normal lives.
And what about football? What were your predictions for the African Cup 2013?
I was convinced Burkina Faso would take the cup and my Nigerian brothers and sisters would weep with us. Obviously I can’t make a living as a soothsayer.
* Tamerra Griffin is a California native earning masters degrees in journalism and Africana studies at New York University. Her interests, both personal and academic, include feminism, pop culture and trans-Atlantic musical collaborations.