African Lens is a new magazine founded by creative director Aaron Yeboah Jr. which showcases work by African photographers working in the continent and beyond. Next month, Yeboah is set to move his 2dots Space studio to Ghana, having already published three issues of the magazine from his Louisiana base in the US. He then plans to exhibit African Lens in Ghana and South Africa later on this year. Before he relocates, we talked to him about his great-looking publication.
Creative Review: What’s the aim of African Lens? Do you look after all the content – editorial and design – yourself?
Aaron Yeboah Jr.: African Lens is a biannual publication that celebrates and showcases African photographers in the motherland and the diaspora. I wanted to create a staple for African photographers (mostly young photographers) to tell their stories and express themselves. Since most stories told in Western media about the continent of Africa leave negative connotations, African Lens hopes to shine a light on the beauty, rich and diverse culture of Africans both in the motherland and those who have migrated to foreign lands to pursue their dreams.
My vision for African Lens is for the publication to stand the test of time. To be a staple for African photographers to share their stories. Create a community forum for communication and creative expression.
I curate and design every aspect of African Lens. I have plans to move beyond just showcasing images but also work on original editorials, bring on board passionate and talented creatives, travel to different countries in Africa to connect with creatives and document each experience.
CR: What’s the creative scene like in Ghana? Is there a strong photographic contingent?
AYJ: There are a lot of incredible talents and creatives in Ghana and Africa in general. Thanks to the power of the internet and social media, young people in particular use photography as a medium to creatively express themselves and tell their stories. There is a revolution of young creatives in Ghana and across the diaspora who are developing amazing projects. What I think is needed is structure and better access to resources – which I want to do with 2dots Space: establish a creative hub/platform that will bring like minds together and make impactful projects.
CR: African Lens has, to date, been run from outside of the continent. How do you go about researching photographers and creatives to feature?
AYJ: The first three volumes I designed while in the States but I collaborated with photographers in the motherland and the diaspora. I looked out for all respective forms of photography, social commentary, fine art, portrait narratives, creative expression etc. I look for photography that documents time, and that has substance and honesty.
I communicated with the photographers as far as choosing the images that will be perfect for the publication. Each photographer also writes about their work, inspiration, creative process and also give a commentary on things such as what it means to be a photographer in their country, the status and future of ‘African photography’, problems and challenges they face and so on.
CR: How does the publication sit within the 2dots Space portfolio of cross-platform work?
AYJ: African Lens syncs perfectly as a creative initiative for 2dots Space. African Lens as a project brings a positive light on Africa; thus providing a positive representation of Africa through the powerful medium of photography.
As an agency, 2dots Space delivers innovative cross-platform solutions to communication and visual design. My purpose is to change the status quo and push creative boundaries. Working on making 2dots Space a creative force in Ghana, Africa and beyond. Using creativity as a tool to inspire, educate, guide creatives and empower creatives.
Having projects like African Lens, curating exhibitions, providing creative direction, plus other creative endeavours, I believe will help the amazing talents and creatives out there. In general, art, design and creativity can change lives, create careers and give creatives, especially the youth, a voice and a platform to express themselves.
CR: Are there any photographers from the three issues of African Lens who you think we should look out for? Is there anyone who you’re keen to feature in an upcoming edition?
AYJ: Honestly It will be unfair to name a few. I will highly recommend to look out for all the featured photographers. Each photographer brings a special element as far as putting Africa on the map and sharing a different perspective of Africa. It is a visual journey, it is an experience, and all of the images come from a place of truth and honesty.
There has not been a publication made by Africans to creatively present the work of African photographers in a way that African Lens does. That is the beauty of African Lens, it is merely not enough to speak about it; one must experience it.
I am always on the lookout for great photographers to feature. Since the first release, I constantly receive a lot of requests from photographers to be a part of the project. It’s an honour to see photographers recognising and respecting the publication. I am currently working with Ethiopian photographer Hilina Abebe on African Lens’ first original editorial which will be featured in volume four.