Born and raised in Abuakwa-Sepaase in Ashanti Region, Yaw Afrim Gyebi (YAG) encountered a lot of challenges growing up.
Raised in a broken home, Yaw was not able to continue his education to the highest level, though he has a couple of certificates in ICT after SHS; but his experiences of life at a young age led him to photography.
“Growing up as a child was never easy. There was nothing like a silver spoon from where I grew up but a broken home and a community full of violence. I never shared my emotions or what I am going through in life with people until I met photography,” Yaw said.
A self-taught photographer, Yaw’s passion and love for photography are inspired by the people around him. The people he mostly photographs are from remote and underprivileged backgrounds.
“Photography to me is an expression of emotion and the feeling deep within one’s heart. However, things that can be felt are harder to pen down. However, doing what I love most is how I can express this emotion within me,” he said.
Interestingly, Yaw started photography not more than a year and a half ago with his mobile phone – a Samsung A31 – which he still uses, but sometimes rents a camera that he can’t always afford.
According to him, he is now saving to get the necessary equipment that will aid him to enhance his photography work.
“This has been my huge challenge and it has really limited me and my ability to travel beyond my imagination to places,” he said.
However, Yaw’s photography journey was inspired by the late Bob Pixel and many more like Quim Fabregas, Steven McCurry, Lee Jeffries.
“Bob Pixel being a Ghanaian, has through his kind of work, given me the confidence I needed to approach this field.”
“Every photographer I know is doing weddings and other stuff. I have been told by people that what I’m doing is a waste of time so I should rather focus on wedding photography and other styles where the money is. However, those are not the focus of my passion.”
“But getting to know Mr Emmanuel Bobbie (May He Rest In Peace), even though I never got to meet him personally, he helped me build the confidence I have now through his work and personality.”
“I remember he once told me during one of our chats that ‘just keep going, don’t stop’…I promised him that I will make him proud and I will,” Yaw said.
The life experiences Yaw had growing up is what eventually led him to specialise in documentary photography.
Giving more insight on that, he said: “Been around these people [those from underprivileged areas], I remembered how life was for me growing up. From that moment, I directed my focus to share their emotions through photography. Photography varies but documentary photography gives you the opportunity to feel and put yourself in the shoes of the people you photograph. It tells the story of your subject in a real-life or realistic way.”
Yaw expresses his feelings through telling stories with the various images he captures, which he calls “The Untold Stories”.
“I am not just about taking photographs of people but I am serving as a voice for them through awareness creation,” he said.
“For instance, I photograph the “Kayayo Girls” to share their stories in life of moving from their homelands to the cities in search of jobs and how some even have no experience in school and end up carrying goods only for people to mistreat and bully them.”
“Some even end up being raped and all that. So I place myself in their situation and tell a story that people barely see through my photos. I am also giving back to the communities in remote areas and the children on the streets even though I’m not making anything from my photography for now. My photos are taken to create awareness of various life challenges people in the remote areas are facing in their everyday lives,” he explained.
He further revealed that his most exciting work so far is an image of a girl he captured in Abofour, which he calls “Wonder Girl”.
“The photo talks about the power of an African woman,” he said. “In the photo, was this young girl full of energy. She showed power through the fists of both her hands she raised up. Maybe, she was just posing but in the end, it told a beautiful story of women empowerment and how strong African Women are.”
For his impact in the rural areas of Ghana, Yaw was awarded a Certificate of Achievement for service to humanity at the 2021 Humanitarian Award Global on September 18, 2021.
He got this Certificate of Achievement through FYDO Ghana, an organization that he founded in 2017 that supports and promotes women empowerment, education and health in remote sectors through community projects, as well as advocating on climate change.
“It was through the organization that I got more closer to these people to know I photograph where I got to know what life is for them,” he said.
Most of the documentary photography work that Yaw has done so far has been in the Ashanti Region.
He, however, hopes to travel to the Northern and Southern parts of Ghana and beyond when he gets the necessary equipment he needs.
“I also wish to travel to countries like Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Mali, South Africa, Zimbabwe, India, Indonesia, Benin, Zambia, etc, and other parts of the world, because I believe in great stories and they are waiting to be captured,” he said.
Currently, Yaw runs an Instagram Live session called “Time With The GOAT” where he conducts interviews with some of the world’s greatest documentary photographers.
“I interviewed my first guest, the great Quim Fabregas from Spain who has received multiple global awards as a documentary photographer and currently the wonder woman, Giovanna Aryafara from Australia but currently living in Bali, Indonesia, who is also a multiple award-winning global documentary photographer.”
“In year’s to come, I look forward to starting a global tour with these great photographers I interview and learn more from them and also to be recognized as the best documentary photographer in Ghana after the late Bob Pixel,” he indicated.
“I look forward to partner and work with private and governmental organizations across the globe. Moreover, I am planning on starting an exhibition where I will highlight some of my photos and use that to raise funds to support these remote communities and the children on the streets of Ghana and Africa as a whole.”
“My whole life is to help people in our communities as an African,” he added. In light of that, he founded AfrikWise, a startup that supports and promote only Ghanaian local artisans and SME’s.
“AfrikWise is just not a branding company, it was founded to support and lift the face of the Ghanaian made products with quality world-class digital media services, because we believe in the God-given wisdom, talent and skills of the African people to create,” he said.
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