The characteristic vividness of colors in sharp contrast to his dark-skinned models capture a spectator’s eye more than easily. Exactly that is what 25-year-old Yannis Davy Guibinga aims to emphasise through his lens: the revolutionary voice of the modern African continent, perspective shift on African ethnicities and their identity in post-colonial times.
Choosing photography as a medium that is perhaps the most widespread creative tool today, Yannis reaches audiences around the world in a blink of an eye. Not only does he use photography as a tool to shed light on contemporary African youth, but also as, by his words, it allows him to independently tell his stories in his own way, on his own terms.
Although using a modern way of expression, Yannis excels in capturing moments which lock the historical context of Africa. Easily making his statement crystal clear and globally understood could be explained by his experience of living abroad. After finishing high school in Gabon, Yannis moved to Canada, where he is also based today, to pursue his studies.
From the series The Darkest Colour, through which the artist reimagines the concept of death being associated with something dark and painful, as well as to reconsider the stereotypes about the black colour in modern society;
I personally stumbled upon the work of this rising photographer through probably the most popular (yet definitely not the best) visual medium of today - Instagram. However, seeing his photographs with the heart and comment buttons automatically made it all absurd, because Davy’s work is something definitely not to measure by the number of likes, the number of times the post has been saved and other features our visual tool of communication offers.
Although a debate whether Instagram is a modern-day gallery and whether it shifted art in society to a more positive side of the spectrum is certainly a topic for another article, it seemed to me that Yannis’ work is too meaningful to be presented only on social media.
Indeed, the 25 year-old already established himself as a more-than-Instagram photographer, already working with commercial clients such as Nikon and Apple, but exhibiting his work in art spaces around the world. Moreover, his work has already been noticed by media outlets ranging from CNN to I-D and Harper’s Bazaar (Russia).
The significance of his global presence lies in the fact that African society faces the issue of cultural colonialism, as Western culture’s norms dominate the world, but especially its former colonies. Therefore, African youth is influenced by Western values which vastly differentiate from the autochtone African ones. By proudly presenting the variety of cultural identities existent on the continent of his origin and the authentic aesthetics true to the roots of African diverse ethnicities, Guibinga is a revolution of his own against the dominating wave of globalization, as well as westernization.
From the Pigments series, where the artist teamed up with makeup artist Amal Afoussi. The series emphasise body painting as a physical expression of African creativity. Showing one of the oldest cultural rituals in a modern interpretation connects past with present, giving respect to the ancestors.
Being one of the reasons for choosing African tradition and cultural identity as his motifs, this Gabonese photographer emphasises that art gives us an opportunity to voice our opinions, views and gain independence, as well as self-determination. His opus therefore, represents the voice of (yet) unheard. It juxtaposes impenitent fight for preserving African culture and heritage through the prism of new African generations.
Each of his photography series tells a different story, yet regardless of either being explicitly immersed in a societal context or simply showcasing a new designer clothing collection, Guibinga’s distinct style is a force of its own, representing an insurrectionary expression of contemporary African cultural landscape shaped by its youth.