JOSEPHINE KUUIRE ON GENDER, PHOTOGRAPHY AND TAKING THE LEAP

Josephine Kuuire @ Brazil House. Photo by Liza Tait-Bailey

Digital artist JOSEPHINE KUUIRE is all about encouragement in an upcoming exhibition entitled Second Chance, offering hope to those dwelling on lost thoughts and deferred dreams. Born and raised in Ghana, it was during high school in the U.S. that she first realised she wanted to be a photographer.

Enrolling in a photography class, what Josephine thought would be an ‘easy A’ turned into a lifelong passion. Following her early high school experiments with analogue equipment and returning to Ghana, she realised she needed a DSLR to make this more than a hobby. She took to Twitter to proclaim her desire for a camera. A short time after, an artist contacted her and agreed to help. The familiar anecdote about overcoming obstacles seems fitting in light of her recent work. Two years later, between her second and third years of university, Josephine founded her business and Mumble Photography was born.

ACCRA [dot] ALT sat down with Josephine, ahead of her exhibition @ Brazil House in James Town on 18th March, to discuss her experiences as a woman, a photographer and digital artist.

 

Your exhibition Second Chance is about your own struggles and triumph. What drew you to examine this subject?

Well, last year I actually went through quite a number of unexpected events, and a lot of changes happened. Later on during the end of year I was just looking back at what I’d been through and I was actually amazed at how I was able to come out of all that and succeed.

Then I was speaking to a couple of friends, and we were all just talking about our troubles and what we’ve all been through as women, and I realised that we all had something. It was quite common – everything that we went through was similar to each other – and I figured this was the best way to explain – not just what I went through – but what women naturally go through in their lives.

 

You said that “there’s no obstacle in life that you can’t climb over”. How do you approach obstacles and overcome them?

 I’m naturally an optimistic person. I don’t really see anything as bad. I always look on the brighter side of things, so I think that it is easier for me to go through things that maybe happen in my life than someone who is a pessimist.

I don’t know, I think that’s just the way I look at things. I always look at the funny side of life. I think that’s the way I handle problems.

 

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 How did your experiences growing up shape your photography?

 I, honestly, don’t think that influenced me. When I was growing up my parents were very protective of us so we were always indoors. We hardly used to go outside unless they had gone out. I think it was actually when I started going to boarding school that I started to see a lot of things very differently. It actually wasn’t until recently that I realised that my photography is quite weird, and different from everyone else. I have a weird way of thinking. I don’t know why that it is.

 

Who inspires you in photography?

 There’s this guy called [Benjamin] Von Wong. He grew up in America but he’s Asian and he also does a lot of unbelievable photo manipulations – you can’t figure out exactly how he does it. He’s one person that I have studied a lot. He’s someone who inspires me to do something different.

 

Why did you choose the name “Mumble” for your business?

 The main character in [a film called] Happy Feet is Mumble. When I started photography, there were a lot of people that didn’t understand why I got into it, especially when you’re shooting as a woman because as a woman no one understands why you’re there.

So I got a lot of discouragement. Everybody was saying that I should go and do something else. I was watching the movie one day and I realised that [Mumble] went through the same thing and I was looking for a name for business. I didn’t want to use my real name – in the beginning I didn’t want people to know it was me – so that’s how Mumble came about.

 

A self-portrait in black and white.

A self-portrait in black and white.

 

You’ve mentioned being a woman in a male-dominated field. What challenges have you faced?

 In the beginning, when you go for an event – I used to do a lot of events to make money to buy my equipment – they question you, they question how good you are. They don’t understand why you are there, and I have a deep voice for a woman, so when they call me they always assume that it’s a guy.

When I show up, they’re very surprised and the expectations comes down. That’s one of the challenges I had in the beginning but it always works out in the end when I give them the photos. Over the months I chose not to let that bring me down. If I’m asked to do a job, I go, I do it, I do my best and then I give them the photographs.

If you’re happy, cool. If you’re not happy, we’ll do it again until you are. I don’t let that stop me from doing what I want to do.

 

Do you feel like you’ve had to work harder to prove yourself?

 Earlier, yes. But now I’ve become more comfortable, I’ve realised this is really what I want to do so I just have to do it. I don’t think I have to prove myself to anybody. If you like my work, cool. If you don’t, there are so many other photographers out there.

 

How does digital manipulation allow you to enhance the intended messages of your photography?

 Someone described my manipulations as mood based. It’s very different – people are not used to the photo manipulation, especially in Ghana. Most people, when they see my work, they say that it’s scary. I don’t manipulate pictures until I’m in the mood to do it. The ideas just come at weird times and it’s usually influenced by something that I’m doing.

Recently I did one called “A Human Robot”. I was really tired, it was very late, and I started thinking about how good it would be if I could get someone to do my work for me. It’s not everyday that you’re supposed to be happy. There are days when you’ll be sad, and you’ll go through things but obviously there is always light at the end of the tunnel. There is always the following day to make it better than the previous day. These kinds of things just come up – they are mood based.

I think that’s the overall message that I’m trying to get out there: there will be happy days, there will be sad days, whatever the case, you still have life. That’s the most important thing.

 

-By Liza Tait-Bailey

 

 

 

 

 

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