Philip Kwame Apagya was born in Sekondi in Western Ghana in 1958, after a period of apprenticeship in his father’s photo studio (a former crime-scene photographer), he worked as a travelling photographer for a while in Ivory Coast following the colour revolution in the late 1980s. After his photojournalism studies at the Ghana institute of journalism, he opened his own studio in Shama in the Western region of Ghana in 1982.
Philip Kwame Apagya is known worldwide, because of his participation in many personal and collective exhibitions. among others:
‘Snap Me One!’ studio photographers in africa ,special emphasis was put on the studio decorations. the items shown include 150 photographs,
10 original backdrops from ghana as well as other materials.
visitors had the opportunity to be 'snapped’ in front of a backdrop
of their choice. the photos were taken by Philip Kwame Apagya.
A DesignBoom review of Philip’s works states
In africa, a photo studio is the place where dreams come true. for a few pence, ordinary mortals can strike a pose and achieve immortality, have things they haven’t got and may never have, be people they are not and may never be, have access to the inaccessible. People start asking for personal portraits that go beyond the image usually present on identity papers, often the only 'popular portrait’ available. this open new roads to the art of photographic portrait, with possibility for the artist to catch
special moments in people’s existence: people ask for a picture for several reasons, but with the common desire to have a 'funny picture’. In this process, new forms of self-representation become part of a new social identity: this is the framework in which we might consider the work of Philip Kwame Apagya.
Philip Kwame Apagya’s formal portraits in front of commissioned painted backgrounds seem to be suspended between realism and a sort of naïvité,
They are both unreal and hyperealistic: the dreams of african people are put on stage - against scenery which praises consumer society.
The subject stands in front of a painted backdrop that portrays everything people dream of having: fake new england country houses
showing off some porcelain, VCRs and TVs in bar closets,
modern kitchens with well-stocked refrigerators with coke and cheetos…
portraits with with a quarter / half / full smile, because nobody in africa is really deceived by make-believe… but for one glorious moment they can have it all.
These portraits are highly amusing for us, 'western people’,
but are also unintentionally disturbing because of the insight they
offer into a growing cultural vacuum. This is the dream, and it is empty and materialistic”
Philip’s works has toured the world and exhibited in some of the best galleries.
city museum abteiberg, mönchengladbach;
iwalewa-house, university of bayreuth;
royal tropical institute, amsterdam
a catalogue with the same title is available.
'snap me one!’
studio photographers in africa
'africa by africa’ / ’ l'afrique par elle-même’ / 'portrait afrika’
a photographic view
maison européenne de la photographie, paris;
barbican art gallery, london;
south african national gallery, cape town;
third rencontres de la photographie africaine, bamako, mali;
haus der kulturen der welt, berlin;
noorderlicht 2000 photography festival, fries museum, groningen;
'collezione etro uomo spring/summer 2000’, galleria luisa delle piane, milan