Afikaris offers a breath of fresh air and freedom with “Some things mysterious boys do”: a solo show of Ghanaian photographerNana Yaw Oduro. The exhibition takes place virtually and on appointment in Afikaris’ Parisian showroom.
“Some things mysterious boys do” perfectly illustrates Nana Yaw Oduro’s poetical images that showcase male characters in situations both quirky and graphical, underlining their bodies’ geometry. Through his work, Ghanaian photographer Nana Yaw Oduro – born in 1994 – translates his emotions and materialises his vision of life. His photographs share his feelings and give life to his imaginary worlds, between infinite beaches and desert plains.
If Cindy Sherman or Amalia Ulman use self-portrait by playing a role that is not theirs to criticize or denounce; Nana Yaw Oduro instead runs his pictures to make them reflect a depiction of himself and his sensibility, through the staged models. The stories emerging through his lens are inspired by his history. The photographer explores topics echoing his personal life through masculinity, boyhood, feelings, and self-acceptance. His photos provide fictional self-portraits in which his models are like actors, playing a biographical role. Nana Yaw Oduro is, thus, the stage director of his own emotions during the performance of a photo shoot. He specifies: “I put into perspective how my subject could be me on set. I always say: I’d rather shoot myself but since that’s impossible I need people who know, understand, and relate to me.”
The pictorial composition helps to read these personal stories: the characters are individualized and stand out from their surroundings. The space of each picture is defined without being too precise: a piece of beach, a cracked piece of land, a blue wall… It could be anywhere and at the same time nowhere. Arousing the curiosity of the viewer, these captures seem out of time. They embody a desire for freedom with the only existing boundary being the photographer’s imagination.
The stories his pictures present are composed using a mixture of his personal emotions, evident in the colors of his environment. Like other photographers of his generation such as Marc Posso or Yannis Davy, colors are at the heart of Nana Yaw Oduro’s work. However, whilst these photographers have historically worked with saturated colors, Nana Yaw Oduro uses alternatively tender, pure, or raw colors in his photographs, alongside those captured in black and white. He explains: “I believe you’d agree with me black and white have always had some power and soulful connection to it and sometimes the photo is just perfect in that.” Whether the colors are bold or in shades of grey, the chromatic treatment structures his images and produces a certain softness and harmony between shapes and colors, between man and nature; underpinning the narrative.
Thus, there is no predetermined and systematically repeated concept in Nana Yaw Oduro’s work. The photographer creates each of his images based on his sensation. He is free from any constraint and lets his imagination wander, composing with what is in existence around him. His photos are inspired by daily life, a song running through his ears, a horse that crosses his path, or a basket of fruits under his eyes. Creativity has no limit for him. Inspiration is everywhere. Poetry is everywhere.