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APAH BENSON – Short Listed 2023 – The Kuenyehia Prize for Contemporary Art

I’ve always wondered about the intangible transcendental elements of life and the inexplicable eccentricities of humanity. I’ve always wondered how to holistically capture human emotion, beauty, and style in one single frame. This burgeoning, rabid curiosity has taken me through the plains of poetry and has now landed me graciously on the visual scapes of photography.

I’ve worked with a digital camera throughout my journey, dabbling in many genres and exploring different themes. Over the years, I’ve focused my work on fine art and portraiture with themes that border around social-political issues, style, fashion, and beauty.

Through my photography, I aim to explore the complex interplay between identity, society, and culture. I’ve found myself experimenting with shadows and colours to explore these themes, using light and contrast to create dynamic, thought-provoking images. “I capture the beauty in everyday moments and objects through my photography. My work encourages viewers to pause, reflect, and engage with the world around them.”

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Since then, I’ve been drawn to highlighting the richness of dark skin tones through strong, contrasting images with vibrant colours that expand the view of blackness in all of its diversity while illuminating black and silhouetted bodies in their most glorious and confident form. Sometimes, I create characters in my work that seem to lack identity, dark forms of supposedly genderless bodies painted in shadows but imbued with individual narratives, carrying various ideas and concepts related to human culture, style, beauty, and the general human existence.

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My work, whether a portrait, editorial, or fashion, has become a prism through which I can comment on and explore social-political and cultural issues. As an African-born artist, the celebration of black and indigenous experiences specifically has become a huge part of my work, not just because it is a part of me, but also because I have come to believe in the inherent beauty, elegance, mystery, sophistication, and power that is revealed through a bold representation of black skin tones in portraits.

This has become an integral part of my creation and editing process. The intensive and extensive use of blacks and shadows is a signature to the overall message of my works. There’s the easy yoke/burden to make each piece emotion personified, entirely of themselves with their own presence– not of me.

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My keen appreciation of the bizarre but unique works of Rodney Smith and his uncanny poses and composition, the groundbreaking work of Rafael Pavarotti around afro-indigenous people, and the unique works of Chogi Seok and many others have played a huge part in shaping and refining the edge of my artistic expression.

Whether part of a series or viewed individually, my photographs are strong visual renditions of the power of constructing narratives that raise questions and offer appreciation to what appears before the viewer.

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