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Photography: This is Africa with Ricky Darko

April 13, 2017

ArtsPhotography | by Courtney Blackman


It’s safe to say we have a soft spot for Ricky Darko. We started working with Ricky long before he went behind the lens for clients like Sky, BAFTA and Timberland. Ricky has captured some of our most proud moments, including The Design Issue launch of Candid Magazine on the roof terrace of Century Club in Soho.

Ricky is a London-based, self-taught photographer who was born in Kumasi, Ghana, moving to London as a young child. In commemoration of Ghana’s 60th Independence celebration (and Ricky’s 30th year), he returned to his place of birth to photograph his peers in This is Africa (T.I.A.). His mission was to find out what career opportunities are available in the historical Asante Region of Kumasi. How did he find his subjects? Ricky says, “When I arrived in Ghana I spent a few days introducing myself to people and businesses in the hope that they would be willing to participate in my project. I wanted to find men of a similar age to me to photograph them in their working environments. I’m a huge fan of environmental portraiture.”

 

Michael sells mobile phone credit from a small wooden cabinet and water sachets from a cooler box.

 

Freddy whom owns a window shop in a residential area in Kumasi. Ricky worked alongside him for the day in his office while his employees were constructing new frames.

 

What we love about part one of T.I.A. collection is the sense of style captured in each image. As Ricky rightly points out, “Photography projects in Africa may typically consist of tribesmen and village communities.” In T.I.A. Ricky explores the life of Kumasi craftsman through striking, cinematic images. Shopkeepers, mechanics, builders and more are conveyed. “For this series I wanted the images to be bold and striking and I achieved this by using overhead lighting for each of the subjects which makes them stand out from the environment. In post-production I graded the images with curve adjustments for the tone and colour, which produced a cinematic visual. My vision was always to bring warmth to the images to enhance the surroundings.”

 

David drives around Kumasi performing various tasks from delivering water to collecting rubbish.

 

Each of the men, ages between twenty-five and thirty-seven years of age works in their own unique trade, often passed down from elder family members. “I built a connection with each of the men to discover their backgrounds and how they developed into their careers, some were not able to read and write but inherited their skills through family.”

 

Collins is a stone mason creating buildings and structures using stone from the earth.

 

Francis is a food vendor in Kumasi. He was full of life and laughed at Ricky all day as he struggled to communicate in the language of Twi. He found it very amusing that Ricky would mix up the words. Francis works along the busy roads of Kumasi selling chewing gum.

 

Ricky spent a day with each subject to fully capture their character and their specific trade – often spending a full workday (from sunrise to sunset) in temperatures of up to thirty-five degrees. “I met each of the subjects at their work location at sunrise ready to start the day. The days were extremely long in the hot weather with very little shade. Everyone I met during my project worked tirelessly throughout the day to earn a wage.”

 

Emmanuel is a day and night security guard for a property in Kumasi. He walks the grounds of the property from sunrise to midnight Monday – Friday and then travels three hours to be with his family at the weekends.

 

Qwame is a driver (private chauffeur) for a wealthy family in Kumasi. During the time Ricky spent with Qwame, they drove the family to visit friends and visited the markets to collect groceries and supplies for the family for their evening meal.

 

“A really enjoyable moment for me is when one of my subjects, Amos (a welder in Kumasi) yelled out: ‘Ricky, are you taking me to London?’ – by this he meant will his photograph be featured and shown to people in London. Thankfully this happened and his request came true. I also struggled with jumbling my words while trying to speak the language, Twi. I understand it perfectly but struggle to speak the language fully. During the shoots the guys would be laughing at me, but luckily I had my brother there to help with any translations.”

 

Akwasi is a welder who specialises in fusing materials together. His workshop is based on the side of a residential road where he constructs steel gates and doors.

 

Ricky will return to Ghana to continue the second part of the project, which will focus further on career opportunities in Ghana, and expand on the relationships with his subjects from the first series.

If Ricky was still in Ghana and wasn’t a photographer in London, what would he be doing? “My passion lies in creativity. As a young man I used to produce my own music and then fell in love with photography in 2013 when I got my first camera. If I was still living in Ghana I would probably be pursuing a different type of career but still working with people such as a teacher, which is what my grandfather worked as for thirty-five years.”

To see the full T.I.A. first series, visit Ricky Darko Photography.

 

Words by Courtney Blackman