Discover the story behind Life in Color, the project of the recipient of the PhotoVogue Festival 2023 Grant
Join us in congratulating Sarfo Emmanuel Annor, the recipient of the $5,000 PhotoVogue Festival Grant.
This grant will provide valuable support for his artistic journey and foster his continued growth.
About the project
Having been a painter and a fashion designer’s apprentice, Sarfo Emmanuel Annor’s art gravitates around two main themes: beauty and fashion. Beyond fashion references and a search for beauty in vibrant colors, Sarfo Emmanuel Annor wishes to pass strong messages about his daily life in Ghana and celebrate the culture and customs of Koforidua, the eastern part of Ghana from which he is from. Sarfo Emmanuel is a visual artist who uses color to share the stories and dreams of young people in his world. He uses vibrant colors as a form of therapy. Sarfo wants to show that we are more emotionally connected to colors than we usually think. They affect people’s mood through different associations. The human brain associates warm colors —such as red, orange, and yellow— with a range of feelings, including passion, comfort, anger, and power. So when people look at his colors, he hopes it can affect them in a positive way. Life in Color, translates the happy and dynamic story of contemporary Africa. The artist magnifies the multiple variations of his community while inscribing himself in the heart of the Ghanaian cultural ferment. Sarfo Emmanuel Annor sublimates the fabric and colors, accentuates the destinies of the continent and reshapes in a joyful way, the affirmation of the African selfie. His energetic portraits capture the essence of Africa’s cultural awakening, with a focus on children reflecting both the demographic significance of African youth and their crucial role in the continent’s future. At the same time, Sarfo Emmanuel Annor explores the human figure, questions the concept of beauty and sublimates reality. Through his art, he celebrates the connections that forge a nation beyond the differences in ethnicity and religion. The rich cultural heritage of Ghana comes from its population’s unique diversity. Each ethnic group in Ghana has its own unique customs, traditions, and beliefs that contribute to the country’s cultural identity. In Life in Color, he celebrates the beauty and richness of diversity.
We asked him a few questions in order to better understand this work.
What inspired you to combine your background as a painter and a fashion designer with photography in this project?
Being always passionate about art, fashion, and photography as a kid, I would say one factor which really inspired me to combine my artistic background in this project is that being a painter and also a fashion designer would give me a deep understanding of color theory, composition, and visual storytelling which I would be able to incorporate in my photographs. I applied these skills to this project which made the images more visually appealing and emotionally resonant. Also, I figured as a young upcoming creative in the Ghanaian creative space, combing my artistic background into this project would me develop a distinct and recognizable style that would help me stand out from the crowd and bring a unique perspective to this project. By merging this expertise, I developed a signature aesthetic that reflects my artistic identity.
How does your art challenge or question traditional notions of beauty?
My art basically centers on the celebration of African beauty and fashion. It tells African stories through beauty and fashion, and incorporating these aspects is my wonderful way of celebrating and showcasing the rich culture and diversity of the continent. My art showcases a diverse range of physical features, dark skin tones, and body types that exists within African cultures. This choice challenges the limited and Eurocentric standards of beauty that have dominated mainstream narratives. My art helps to broaden the definition of beauty, promoting inclusivity and celebrating the richness of African cultures and identities.
How do you approach capturing the essence of Africa’s cultural awakening in your portraits, particularly in relation to children and their role in the future of the continent?
One of the ways I approach capturing the essence of African cultural awakening in my works, particularly concerning children and their role in the continent’s future, is by telling compelling narratives that shed light on the cultural awakening and the pivotal role children play in it. Capturing the stories and emotions behind these images has helped convey a deeper understanding of their experiences. Photography has the power to shape perceptions and inspire positive change, so I approach my work with empathy and a genuine desire to celebrate the beauty and potential of African children and their role in shaping the future of the continent.
Can you tell us more about the role of diversity in Ghana’s cultural heritage and how you showcase it in the “Life of Color” series?
Diversity plays a significant role in Ghana’s cultural heritage, particularly in the art celebrating African beauty. Ghana is known for its rich cultural diversity, encompassing numerous ethnic groups with unique traditions and artistic expressions. One aspect of African beauty is the appreciation for dark skin tones. Many African cultures have historically held dark skin as a symbol of beauty and associated it with health, strength, and heritage. My celebration of dark skin can be seen in the use of dark-skinned models and in the highlighting of their skin. Traditional attire and fashion also play a significant role in when defining African beauty, and play a significant role in Ghana’s cultural heritage. Different regions and ethnic groups have their own distinct clothing styles, fabrics, and patterns that reflect their cultural heritage and craftsmanship. I love to incorporate some of these traditional clothing like the Kente cloth and others in my work.
How do you envision your photography contributing to a broader understanding and appreciation of African culture?
My art can serve as a powerful medium for promoting understanding, appreciation, and respect for African culture, fostering a more inclusive and diverse perspective in the global narrative. Documenting images of various aspects of African culture, including fashion, art, and beauty in my photography helps counter stereotypes and promote a more authentic and nuanced representation of African communities. Also, I believe my photography can foster cross-cultural dialogue by showcasing African culture to a global audience. This will allow people from different backgrounds to appreciate and learn from the richness, heritage, and values of African communities.
What is your dream for the future?
It is my dream to work with top magazines and fashion brands like Gucci and Prada. These collaborations are my big dream because they would help me showcase the rich culture and diversity of Africans to a wider audience in the fashion and beauty industry which would change the stereotypes of beauty in the industry.
Sarfo Emmanuel Annor is a 21-year old visual artist who uses color to share the stories and dreams of young people from Koforidua, Ghana. He uses his smartphone to revive the art of portraiture by capturing colorful images of the local youth, translating the dynamic story of contemporary Africa. Sarfo hopes his work can tell a beautiful African story while providing therapy for his audience. By portraying young children from Koforidua, Sarfo suggests the demographic importance of African youth and its power to shape the continent’s future. Through the lens of his IPhone and an optimistic eye, he expresses his vision of the African story. His portraits are deliberately colorful to open up new perspectives on both the photographic material and the daily life of African children. Inspired by the communicative energy of his surroundings, his work reveals the beauty in the moments of his everyday life and captures the innermost essence of each subject, portrayed with special objects.
This article was originally published on Vogue.com