One of the exciting things about photography right now is its accessibility to all. For instance, Ghanaian photographer Awuku Darko Samuel started his journey by using his smartphone camera. Gradually he learned about photography and has now upgraded to a Sony Alpha camera. Using his friends and family as models and everyday items as props, he creates stunning conceptual photographs that would look right at home in any editorial fashion magazine. We had the opportunity to chat with him and explore why he creates art and how photography helps him express himself.
Hi Awuku, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your background?
I was born in 1997 and raised in the Eastern part of Ghana in a town known as Suhum to an Akan parent. I completed my Senior High School education 2017 at Nifa Senior High which offered visual arts as part of its curriculum. That’s when I started formally learning about visual arts.
Learning about the arts in school is very important, but was that why you started making art? What was the first thing you can remember that inspired you to make art?
I would say it started when I was a kid when I found out that pencils could create different shades. I fell in love with an outline-drawn book that you would have to shade with either crayon or pencil.
You were first inspired to make art because of the shades a pencil can make. How and when did that turn into using photography to create art?
I have tried several forms of art such as African cloth print, leatherwork, ceramic, and painting but I finally settled for photography because that was the fastest way I could put my emotions out
As the saying goes "a Jack of all trades is a master of none". I decided I would master photography. But to be honest, even me settling for photography is a miracle!
Why did you choose to pursue art?
I choose to express my pain through art. Because that's the only way I could express myself better.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration/influence?
My biggest inspiration comes from God and his miracle to be honest. The phone I started photography with was a gift that I didn't expect. I remember how people received my first photo was miraculous. People all over the world reacted so positively to my work and that felt so miraculous. It was like a push from God to keep on creating.
What is your creative process like?
I work when I am sad. When I remember how painful it was for me to be alive, I try to turn that pain into beauty. I want my art to put a smile on other people's faces.
I think it’s wonderful that you try to make other people’s lives better. With that in mind, what kind of work are you making now and what kind of work do you want to be making in the future?
Right now I do conceptual photography. Hopefully, soon, I want to buy better equipment so I can expand into and explore street photography.
You mentioned that you want to make others smile when they see your work. What else do you think is an artist’s role in society?
I think there are many ways we can use art to aid others, but if I am going to use myself as an example, my main reason I ventured into photography is to help the youth use the time they spend on their phone properly. I started photography using a phone that was gifted to me and borrowing an iPhone from others just to execute my ideas before I got my own camera. I didn’t have enough money to continue my education, definitely not enough for expensive gear. I found out that the phone would be the cheapest way to express myself and I want to share this with the younger generation so that they can be productive and express themselves without any fancy equipment.
An artist often creates to make an impact on the world. How do you wish to be remembered in the world?
As a Ghanaian conceptual photographer who worked to empower the youth to work with what they have at hand.
Do you have any upcoming projects you want to talk about?
Nothing concrete right now, but there are a few exhibitions planned in the future. I’ve never been part of an exhibition before so this is very exciting. Other than that, I just recently purchased Lightroom Mobile for my phone. I’m excited about all the possible concepts I can create with it.