When Davido graced the cover of GQ South Africa, Kofi Antwi Dua’s name was all over the internet. The golden-hued images stood out so clearly, it was hard not to ask who the photographer is.
His Instagram page glitters with notable celebrities from Eve to Yara Shahidi and Winne Harlow. The young Ghanaian photographer is on the rise and he isn’t stopping anytime soon.
Growing up in a typical West African household, art wasn’t considered a real profession. He told his father he was studying science until the day his mother decided to relocate to the United States.
Recalling this years later, the soft-spoken Kofi Antwi Dua said firmly, “I am African. I am not African-American.” Loyal to his roots with every breath, He expressed being sad to leave Ghana at age 17 with his mother and six brothers.
Moving to America gave Dua a chance to pursue his passion, which he might not have been possible while living in Ghana. His family was initially not on board but his brother Kwaku has always supported him from the start.
Kwaku did not expect his brother to become a photographer because Dua was studying graphic design and dabbling into a bit of music at the time. Kwaku also talked about why pursuing photography in Ghana would have been difficult.
“The support wouldn’t have been there because they don’t encourage young people doing photography. They think taking pictures is just for weddings or ceremonies,” said Kwaku.
Kwaku mentioned that their family had encouraged Dua to do something more practical like medicine because they never expected photography to take him this far. Kwaku added, “Later my mum saved up, to get him a camera and he was happy. I didn’t know he was going to take it seriously.”
Moving to America allowed Dua to fall in love with photography. “I got to New York with my camera and anybody I met, that caught my eye, I took a picture.” Through this practice of taking his passion to the streets of New York, he met new people who loved imagery and aesthetics. He added, “Photography was my mind paradise.”
According to the photographer, he started by attending model casting calls as a photographer looking to work with agencies for models who needed headshots but was turned down several times. Dua felt that his race and appearance was an issue when he approached companies. He said, “If you walk into a room full of white people and you’re black and you have my hair (dreadlocks), they will think you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Eventually, people on social media started noticing his work and he finally had the voice he was looking for in the creative industry.
With the world’s focus on social media, the photography industry has become quite competitive over the years especially because everyone virtually has access to a high-quality camera these days. But Dua seems to be thriving in the industry with his 20.7k following on Instagram.
Since New York Fashion Week is around the corner, Dua spends a lot of time in the New York fashion entertainment scene.
He is currently working as a freelance photographer for Sony Music (RCA), Buzzfeed, Shea Moisture and Discover Puerto Rico. Dua is also set on releasing a photobook which should lead to an exhibition later in the year.
Just like his personality, Dua’s style of photography can be described as free. He often makes his subjects look angelic and there’s a special glow that is strikingly noticeable in his work. I call it, his signature glow. This all made sense when he talked about his ability to work primarily with what’s available to him and emphasized his obsession with natural light. “We don’t have to plan, I don’t need a mood-board, we just have to make it happen,” he explained.
A glance at his Instagram shows a collection of predominantly female models. A few stood social media influencers stood out, including Ebony Davis, Aala Marra, and Nneka Ibeabuchi.
“We started working together in 2016 after he took a photo for a mutual friend,” said Aala Marra, a writer who lives in New York. “He has an eye. He captures the moment but also adds another life to it with his editing. With him I let go of all the visions I have, I trust him.” Dua’s photography embodies a soft, feminine tone, like a signature spaced across his pictures.
The idea of freedom is a theme that flows not only in his work but also in his thought process. While Dua doesn’t believe in looking up to other photographers, he draws inspiration from photography in Russia, Amsterdam, and Finland. He said, “I admire their work but I don’t look up to them because if you look up to somebody, you’ll end up mostly being a copycat.”
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