Could you briefly describe yourself? How did you come to photography?
My name is Yannis Davy Guibinga, I am a 22 years old photographer from Libreville, Gabon currently based in Montreal, Canada. I initially started photography back in high-school as a way to distract myself with my friends.
In your work you explore the diversity of the African continent and diaspora – what are your main ideas and messages that you want to transfer?
I want to communicate a message of strength, dignity and power. I want my subjects to feel and exude these qualities because I want the people who view it to feel the same way, especially people of colour.
Photography can describe, influence and change perception – how do you want to change the representation of Africa with your work?
I would like to contribute to a change in the way people from across the globe think about and interact with Africa and Africans. With my photos, I want to communicate to the world that Africans are in fact just as diverse, complex and layered as everyone else and that the preconceived notions and biases that have been held against us for centuries are in fact false.
Are there motifs and/or topics that you find difficult to capture with photography?
I think photography is a great medium to address certain topics that are deemed taboo in society or that people might not necessarily be too keen to talk about. However, I believe that photography is not enough to actually change things in a tangible and practical way. While it is a great way to make people think and start the hard conversations, images alone cannot really change the way we do things.
In My Mind, I See A Line, 2018
In your TED talk at the University of Toronto you said “what we see in photographs is not always the whole truth” – in a time where social media, images and videos are powerful and widely spread as never before, how does this influence the photographic scene in Africa and worldwide and involve with current events?
Photography nowadays is a very powerful tool to craft narratives about people and places, whether these narratives are true or not. The photographer is ultimately the one deciding the angle of the story and whether or not something will be depicted in a positive or negative light. With the African context specifically, photography has helped spread the truth by showing the unfair conditions in which people have been treated but also how oppressive certain governments actually were. Photography is therefore used nowadays as a witness to the truth and to what is actually happening on the continent, and because these photos directly come from the people, we are able to see that sometimes what the media and certain governments say is not necessarily the truth.
Do you think that the Internet is a threat or a driving force for artists nowadays?
I think the Internet is a great tool to share your work on a larger and more significant scale, especially for artists coming from the Global South. However, the internet sometimes has its challenges, especially when it comes to people taking and sharing your work without its proper context or just stealing innovative ideas from artists from marginalized communities and with less ressources.
Do you have a vision of what your artistic future might look like? And what topics you want to further explore with your photographic work?
With time, I want to focus more on exploring the complexities of the identity of marginalized communities within the African diaspora (women, queer and trans folks etc.) because I am interested in the conflict between cultural identity, gender and gender performance. I’m not sure what my artistic future will look like but I hope it will be one in which I get to create what I love for a living.
Yannis Davy Guibinga on Singulart: https://www.singulart.com/en/artist/yannis-davy-guibinga-937
The photographer’s TED talk about the role of photography in Africa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIuX24qLU0k