How can foundational stories be understood today, and to what extent is a new visual vocabulary required? Gabon-born, Canada-based photographer Yannis Davy Guibinga (b. 1995) is passionately committed to rewriting outdated narratives about Africa. His research-based practice is grounded in the exploration and re-imagination of mythologies from the continent, particularly Western and Central Africa. His latest exhibition, Children of Distant Suns, is a collection of visual stories which draws from folklore. From water spirits to Christian themes, vice to desire, Guibinga’s subject matter demonstrates the global resonance of myth. These tales transcend geographical boundaries, with the same ideas and figures recurring under different names in cultures all around the world. We caught up with Guibinga as the show, which is filled with bright, sun-drenched and hyperreal images, opened at Doyle Wham, London.
A: Tell us about how you got into working with images – where did it all begin?
YDG: I was exposed to fashion photos at an early age, and wanted to eventually create that kind of image.
A: What’s the focus or message behind your latest series?
YDG: I am always interested in exploring stories from, or inspired by, the African continent. My latest series are progressions from other works, like Tales of the First Sunrise, which explore stories related to African mythologies through vivid colours, strong contrasts and editing techniques.
A: If you could only show us one piece of yours, which would it be, and why?
YDG: It changes often, but right now it would be this image (above) from the Melting Daylight series. I think it represents my current style perfectly, and reflects the kind of visuals I am interested in creating.
A: Who – or what – have been your biggest creative inspirations?
YDG: They change constantly, but, currently, I would say: Lina Iris Viktor, Manyaku Mashilo, Leslie Zhang.
A: What’s been the highlight – or highlights – of your career so far?
YDG: I have had two of my works acquired by the Wedge Collection; been part of the New Black Vanguard travelling exhibition; shown at Art Basel; and collaborated with Chance The Rapper on a piece that ended up on Billboards in several cities. It’s a highlight every time my work is shown in a new country.
A: Do you think you have a “signature” technique or approach? What is it?
YDG: Sunsets, very colourful backgrounds and strong, contrasting shadows are all part of my visual language. These elements show up often in many of my images.
A: If you could do any other job, or be an expert in any other field, what would it be?
YDG: If I had the skill, I would have loved to be an illustrator – working on concept drawings and character model sheets for animated TV shows and movies.
A: Who are some of your favourite contemporary or emerging artists?
YDG: Vladim Vilain, Daniel Obasi, Morgan Otagburuagu, MAR+VIN.
A: Is there anything you hope audiences take away from your new works?
YDG: I hope viewers will see the wide array of storytelling possibilities that can come from being inspired by the African continent, its cultures and its histories.
A: What are you working on right now? Anything else for us to look forward to?
YDG: I am exploring different photography techniques, like auto-portraits, which has been really fun.
Children of Distant Suns runs until 23 March | doylewham.com
All images courtesy Yannis Davy Guibinga and Doyle Wham, London.