“I want to get across a message of pride, strength and self-determination for African people across the globe. I want to show us as the proud, complex and nuanced individuals we are through my portraits and show that the African experience is as diverse as any other.”
By Rise Art | 14 Jun 2022
Yannis Guibinga’s style of photography is sharp and striking, infused with an innate warmth that runs throughout his work. With his unique attention to colour, composition and light, Yannis documents themes of African identity, heritage and tradition, and the effects of Western imperialism.
We caught up with Yannis, and discussed his approach to portrait photography, the artists that influence his practice, and his new Pigments series.
How would you describe your style and the work you create?
I would describe myself as a portrait photographer whose portraiture focuses on exploring issues around identity and culture on the African continent and its diaspora.
What message do you want to get across with your photography?
I want to get across a message of pride, strength and self-determination for African people across the globe. I want to show us as the proud, complex and nuanced individuals we are through my portraits and show that the African experience is as diverse as any other.
How has your practice evolved since starting out?
My practice was very general in the beginning and I was photographing everything that I felt inspired me. But overtime it increasingly focused on portraiture, specifically and particularly on the kind of portraiture exploring and highlighting the diversity and complexity of identities on the African continent.
Tell us about your new Pigments series
Pigments came out of my interest for the art of traditional bodypainting that has existed across the continent for centuries now. I was specifically inspired by bodypainting of the tribes from Ethiopia’s Omo Valley who use natural pigments from the earth, as well as flowers and plants to create really beautiful and ephemeral art. I wanted to pay homage to this art form by taking a more contemporary approach to their bodypainting process, the makeup artist I collaborated with Amal Afoussi took unnatural and more “futuristic-looking” pigments with vibrant and neon colours in order to have a more contemporary and modern take on bodypainting.
What/Who are your key influences? Have these changed over the years?
A lot of my most important influences are artists who have been able to hone in on a very specific practice or artistic process, and yet are able to grow and show range within this limitation. Lina Iris Viktor and Filip Custic, for instance, are two artists who I think have been able to create a diverse and complex universe while still limiting themselves in terms of the visual language they use.
When did you realise you wanted to become an artist?
When I realised that it was possible to make a living as an artist on your own terms.
Who are some Rise Art artists with work you’re enjoying at the moment?
I love Jenny Boot and Peter Horvath. For Peter’s work especially, I like how colourful and recognisable his style is while each piece still remains unique.
Are you currently working on any exciting new projects?
I am currently working on new series that go in the direction of works, such as Pigments or The Darkest Colour, so more geared towards Fine Art and creating conversations through images.