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Amazing Photographers: Kofi Paintsil

Charmaine Leong

Introducing to you Byrogue’s new series on amazing photographers and local heroes: In the first of this new series, we interviewed London-based photographer and creative director Kofi Paintsil.

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Having exhibited around the world in Paris, Ghana, and Art Basel Miami, Paintsil has a noteworthy client list, including the BBC, Chanel, Channel 4 and Nike. Passionate about visual art, his mediums extend into illustration, fashion direction, set design and filmmaking.

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How did you get started in photography? 

I first properly started pursuing photography while studying for my art foundation degree. I had initially wanted to develop in illustration, something I still wish to explore, but the stars aligned and it all made sense, and I began my journey with photography.

What inspires you?

A lot of things inspire me to be honest: music, art, film, sculpture. Many times even a single word can catch my attention and build into a visual concept in my imagination.

How would you describe your style?

Photographically? Inherently classic, with a focus on light and shadow, texture and form, with clear but quiet strength and beauty via the subject. Clothing wise - black on black haha.

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What was the last piece of clothing you bought? 

I like to collect different pendants, so I think my silver Africa pendant is the last thing I've added to my collection.

Which have been your top three exhibitions you have seen this year?

Firstly, two excellent ones at the Barbican - The first 'Basquiat -  Boom for Real' was incredibly inspiring, especially for such a short yet highly prolific career.

The second was 'Another Kind of Life: Photography on the Margins', including photographers such as Bruce Davidson and Larry Clark, exploring themes and portraying subcultures, outsiders, queer and those who exist in the margins, and the social attitudes they faced in changing times through photography.

The third isn't an exhibition but a documentary film of the late and great Alexander McQueen, both incredibly honest and sad and highly insightful and inspiring. In fact, my favourite past exhibition to date was the Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A a few years ago.

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Where do you think your industry is going, what does the future hold for Photography?

I think what's always important is for visual artists to have a clear point of view and aesthetic. Much of what inspired me as a budding photographer was work from the past which had a clear identity and level of creativity, which I still look upon today as a reminder of the level I wish to achieve as an visual artist.

Also more so than ever is for artists to create their own platforms and collectives. Seeing and connecting with other creatives is so much more accessible today via social media and is such a great tool to use. I love teamwork with like-minded hardworking creatives so am always looking to form new authentic collaborative bonds, and I'm excited to create and to contribute new amazing projects.

What do you think of London as a base? Do you think that your location has helped to influence and/or inspire your work?

As a born and raised Londoner, London is home and I will always love it. I think London is fantastic as it is one of the main diverse melting pot cities of the World with abundant resources and creative opportunities, including things like exhibitions and events. So much can be done here.

That being said, I have learnt personally how extremely important travel and exploring other parts of the world is. London can be so fast paced with elements of claustrophobia and exclusivity, so I am planning to travel and live/work internationally more next year.

What do you think is your best work so far? Why?

 Hard to pick one as they all have special elements to me, a step of progression, a lesson, and new idea to explore further. 

I'm really proud of the challenge of representing a diverse range of subjects within my vision/visual signature while staying true to each person's character and who they are individually.

What are some of the best and worst parts of being an artist?

The best is doing something you love and the privilege to do so, the ongoing learning and progression as an artist. External achievements and appreciation of your work are really cool too.

The worst while working alone can be staying continually motivated, organized and self-sufficient. Any feelings of self-doubt that can creep in, and having the resources to realise the thing you want to achieve.

What’s been your proudest moment so far?

There has been a few, like when I first exhibited at Art Basel Miami, but a sweet one that springs to mind was winning 'best new blood' at D&AD when I graduated, it was both totally unexpected and rewarding, and it validated all the hard work and commitment I had put into my projects.

What’s next for you? Are there more things you want to try? 

Definitely exploring motion and short film, and building on my illustration projects.

Tell us how you feel about Kanye West recent comments on slavery.

....SMH.

The era of slavery expressed such hatred to black people across the board, whether through the forcible movement of black people to be trapped and enslaved across an ocean, the social attitudes black people faced both before and after 'emancipation', all the way to the actual laws that were/are in place to directly hinder the progression of people of colour, that I don't understand how he could land upon it ever being a choice.

I think all I will focus on instead is how incredibly important it is for PoCs to know and explore their history and from there to build upon that knowledge, and to move forward in an equal united way. PoCs are responsible for so much innovation, development and inspiring others, especially well documented in the arts, so I am keen to see more talented and visionary people of colour rise to top rankings thus becoming even more capable of championing representation and inclusivity within both new and existing organisations.

Where is your favorite place in be world to eat? 

I'm easyyyyy, take me to Busaba for a good meal and calamariii lolll.

Where is the best place to shop? Please give us three tips.

I'm not a great lover of shopping haha, so tend to shop all over for things I like/need.

Three tips? Get what you feel good in, have a good stable of wardrobe basics that work for you and you can add to, try and find pieces things that show off and express your identity, I dress super simple so mine thing is accessories and necklace trinkets things :)

To see more of Kofi's work, follow him on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and his own website.