Featuring creatives from Africa has always been one of our main aims. To that end, we feature the phenomenal self-taught photographer Paul Abbah. Born in Abuja Nigeria, the twenty-one-year-old is unashamedly focused on bringing his black experience and black reference point to the world. It’s a reference point that is not (in Paul Abbah’s words) about a “beautiful image” but rather about images that “ignite something in you”. In his powerful visual projects, you cannot help but find something to ignite those emotions and indeed synapses.
Nigeria-tell us about the creative arts/photography.
A whole lot of things are failing in Nigeria, the government, institutions, religious groups and more. They have failed to save Nigeria from its ills and pressing challenges. But I believe strongly that Art will save Nigeria! Not politics, not religion, not one man.
Lots of young people are getting involved in various ways, setting the pace for others to follow. Art is being embraced by this generation because it’s the best outlet for self-expression. For a generation that seeks to be different, art is that one outlet making things possible. Art will change how the international community views us-it will save the youth from going astray.
We know you are self-taught-explain that process?
I started taking pictures when I was eighteen, got my first camera when I turned 19. It’s been the greatest experience of my life. I see the world around me from a different point of view. I pay attention to every detail of the environment. Light, colors, shapes, angles, and dimensions. Everything now draws me to a deep feeling of connection. I’ve come to realize (overtime), that art doesn’t have to look beautiful. It just must ignite a feeling in you. So, I take pictures with the awareness that I’m visually representing feelings and emotions.
Everything came naturally, I didn’t need anyone to tell me this was right for me. My work has mainly been a “trial and error” affair. I still shoot on my first camera, it’s an entry level camera-Nikon D3200 and I edit on my mobile phone. My process is simple so people might look down on my process. I perfect my images from shooting because I don’t have a ‘sophisticated’ editing set up. It’s beautiful if you ask me. I still create visually stunning pieces without the most advanced gears. It inspires me to keep my head up high.
Black representation in media-what are your views and how do you present your views in your own photography?
My art is Afrocentric-nothing is more important than creating art that revolves around the color of my skin. Black representation is key if the world wants to move from its downcast state. There’s a need to love, appreciate and embrace black presence, art, color and existence. I just want to contribute in my little way-my perspective of blackness through my Art.
Vemödalen “I seek the new” a great loaded statement -so explain the name and what you were seeking to do in your images?
“Vemödalen” is a word that describes the frustrating feeling of taking a photograph, knowing it has been created somewhere, sometime before. The same pose, shapes, light, and angles. Vemödalen “I seek the new” was a statement that hit me when I couldn’t stop thinking.
I have always had doubts about myself and my Art. Been battling an “impostor syndrome”, not being authentic enough, being a fake artist probably because people can’t always resonate with my work. I tend to overthink things. I simply create a visual representation of that thought through the poses of the subjects in my image. They were searching for something obviously, or maybe moving towards something. I thought about creating images never created, but damn-originality is a myth.
Love this statement from you- “Been drowning in the frustrating feeling of taking a photograph and knowing it’s been made somewhere, sometime before” explain?
That statement was an attempt to explain how I felt. At some point, I couldn’t help it. I was settling for the idea that I couldn’t be authentic because there’ll always be someone influencing my work and creative process. Those images really did help me escape from that trap I built myself. Though I was drowning in that feeling, I could express the feeling and hopefully, many others will relate on some level.
Meaning is evidently central to your work-you discuss the visual metaphor of the lake in your current work.
The lake represents uncertainty and endless possibilities, at the same time, it represents visual sameness. What I mean is, though I seek something new, I still search from a lake that carries nothing new. This I represented with the coloring of the water. “It’s all the same, endlessly”! And I can’t help it. Black representation remains evident in this piece. All I think and struggle with, is shared by countless other creatives of black descent. Though this struggle is faced by all of humanity, I’ve chosen to portray it from a “Black perspective”.
Melancholy As Told By An Age-great images. What was the ‘noise in your head’ about in this work?
Melancholy “as told by an age”, is a body of work where I wore my heart on my sleeve.
I was just sincerely expressing everything, exactly how I felt it. I’ve always described my endless thoughts and worries as “the noise in my head”. I’ve reached that point where my most dominant emotion is Melancholy. It throws me off balance a lot, I honestly can’t help it.
Anything coming up what are the plans for 2022?
Well, I’m super hyped about the year, got so many plans. Already listed some of my images as NFTs, also got a whole lot of images coming. A short film is in the works, got ideas for an application, which I’m looking to pitch to as many developers as possible. Like I’d always say; “It’s Interstellar Targets or nothing this year”! That’s my mantra. Shooting for the highest points and I’m glad, this is just my beginning.