June 07, 2023

Prince Cartiee | Interview

By 1605 Collective
Interview, Photography

Discover the captivating world of Prince Cartiee, a visionary Ghanaian photographer and visual artist whose work is a testament to the vibrant culture of his homeland. Based in Accra, Cartiee seamlessly blends his graphic design background with his passion for photography, resulting in a truly unique artistic expression. With an innate ability to harness the power of natural light, he skilfully uses shadows to create evocative compositions that leave a lasting impression.

Cartiee's portfolio is a testament to his exceptional talent and versatility. From collaborations with high-profile clients such as La Meme Gang, Condé Nast, Okay Africa and Daily Paper, to exploring personal projects rooted in his deep connection to his Ghanaian heritage, his work is as diverse as it is compelling. Through his lens, he beautifully captures the essence of his subjects, inviting viewers on a visual journey that celebrates the intricacies of everyday life. Join us as we unravel the compelling stories behind Cartiee's captivating photographs and discover the driving force behind his artistic vision.

Can you tell us about your journey as a visual artist and how you discovered your passion for photography? Also, how has your graphic design background influenced your photographic style and approach?

My journey as an artist has been a fascinating one, starting with childhood sketches with pencils and crayons and expanding into various art forms as I grew older. Exploring art history, painting, sculpture, design, literature and film opened up new horizons for me. Eventually, photography emerged as a medium that allowed me to capture and express my imaginative visions digitally. This outlet quickly became an integral part of who I am, constantly pushing me to evolve and push my creative boundaries. Drawing inspiration from my graphic design background, I strive to create compositions that are both expressive and guided by a set of principles that shape my unique approach to photography.

How does your Ghanaian background influence your artistic vision and the themes you explore in your work?

Through my work, I vividly portray a society deeply influenced by its culture, reflecting the authentic essence of our way of life. This process allows me to truly appreciate and embrace my own identity while providing an opportunity to share the true realities of this side of the world with others.

Could you describe the concept of Afro-Surrealism and how it manifests in your photography?

Afro-Surrealism represents a transformative and symbolic journey that transcends individual experience and extends into the realm beyond reality. Rooted in the African continent, this unique form of surrealism encompasses cultural beliefs in spirits, symbols and incantations that carry profound messages and meanings. Embracing Afro-Surrealism places my artistic work in a transitional space where it transcends the act of merely observing a photograph and immerses the viewer in an extraordinary and existent realm.

Prince Cartiee 1 | 1605 Collective
What led you to use colourful compositions in your photography? How do you feel this adds to the overall impact of your images?

To be honest, my preferred working spaces are natural environments that exude a vibrant and lively palette. Within these settings, I experiment with adjusting elements such as surroundings, weather and even clothing to achieve compelling results. I believe this approach has a distinct influence on my work, as it effortlessly captures the viewer's attention. This ability to engage the viewer on a subconscious level gradually developed over time and led me to delve into the study of colour theories and their connection to my emotional experiences.

How do you choose subjects or scenes for your photographs? What attracts you to certain people, moments and places?

In the early stages of my artistic journey, I focused primarily on photographing a small circle of friends who shared a passion for art. Focusing my creative vision on them felt more natural and effortless. However, as I delved deeper into my community, I discovered individuals whose unique features and physiques intrigued me and drew me closer to capturing their essence and mannerisms. This process allowed me to weave engaging narratives around the subjects and the moments we shared during the photo shoots, which proved to be personally fulfilling.

Over time, some of these individuals recognised the potential of being part of my artistic development and accepted the role of model. It has become an exciting adventure for them as they explore this new aspect of their lives. Living in a quiet area away from the hustle and bustle of the city, I am fortunate to have a diverse natural environment in my neighbourhood. I consider my neighbourhood to be my studio, where each season and time of day offers different atmospheres and moods that inspire my work. However, when I feel the need for different landscapes to suit my creative vision, I plan to venture beyond my immediate surroundings.

Prince Cartiee 2 | 1605 Collective
How does your photography aim to convey emotions and tell stories? What message or narrative do you hope viewers will take away from your images?

My artistic journey revolves around an in-depth exploration of colours, environments and subjects. Throughout this process, my intention is to maintain an authentic approach, capturing what is genuine and what has the potential to be unique, highlighting truths and possibilities, embracing the present while envisioning the future.

At the core of my work is communicating messages and stories, expressing emotions and narratives through my unique perspective. My ultimate goal is for people to not only appreciate my art, but to expand their own perception and emotional connection to it, broadening their understanding and feelings in the process.

How do you find the balance between preserving the authenticity of your culture and presenting a modern perspective in your photography?

I use a nuanced application of Afro-Surrealism in my creative endeavours. Recognising the dynamic and complex nature of culture, I embrace how technology has made these perspectives more tangible and accessible. My aim is to remain adaptable to the ever-evolving cultural landscape and to keep abreast of new avenues of narrative expression.

Can you tell us about the challenges you've faced as a photographer working in Accra, Ghana? How have these experiences shaped your artistic development?

In general, there seems to be a lack of understanding of the purpose of artistic photography and the need for platforms such as exhibitions to showcase creative work. This lack of understanding is due to a number of factors, including limited educational institutions that promote photography as a viable profession or career path. In addition, families may view artistic pursuits as impractical for earning a living or achieving success. They often encourage more traditional paths, such as engineering, medicine or administrative roles, as they believe these offer better prospects and don't want their investment in education to go to waste. Furthermore, our society tends to perceive photography and art as mediocre, resulting in limited opportunities for the industry to flourish. Unfortunately, this attitude can sometimes dampen one's passion for artistic pursuits.

For me, it has been a journey of learning and finding ways to break free from such constraints and explore new avenues for recognition. The internet, especially social media, has played a crucial role in increasing my exposure and opportunities. While Ghana's photography industry is still in its growth phase, there is a noticeable shift in society's attention towards it and institutions are gradually becoming more inclusive. However, there is still room for improvement and I remain hopeful that the industry will expand its reach beyond Accra in the coming years. Other cities and communities are in need of such development and recognition.

Prince Cartiee 3 | 1605 Collective

Could you share with us your experience of visiting the Marie-Stella-Maris Foundation x Project Maji? How did this visit affect you on a personal level and how did this collaboration affect your work?

It was a captivating experience that allowed me to witness life beyond the confines of the city, where nature flourishes in its breathtaking beauty. During my visit to the water stations, I saw first-hand how these initiatives improve access to clean water for people living in remote areas.

On a personal level, the experience humbled me and deepened my appreciation for the privileges I enjoy in the city. I was struck by the immense challenges faced by the children who had to walk long distances to fetch water for their homes and then make another journey to get to school. It was truly surreal.

I was also struck by the ingenuity of the design of the water points. Unlike traditional deep boreholes, which require constant manual labour to extract water, the Marie-Stella-Maris x Project Maji water stations are powered by solar energy. They also incorporate a filtration system to further purify the water. What struck me, even more, was the real sense of community that these stations fostered. Women and children from different families would come together to talk about life and how they could support both the community and their own families.

This collaboration left a lasting impression on me, highlighting the importance of community development and promoting social change. While my work is primarily focused on promoting our culture, projects like this bring a deep sense of fulfilment as they positively impact the lives of people in rural areas and lay the foundation for further assistance and support.

Prince Cartiee 4 | 1605 Collective

Your series "Ntaa (Twins)" explores themes of kinship and family. Could you discuss the concept behind this series and the symbolism or messages you are trying to convey through the motifs of harmonious doubling and aesthetic symmetry?

Ntaa presents a compelling exploration of two brothers who happen to be twins, each with their own distinct ideologies. In my tribe, there is a superstitious belief in the supernatural powers attributed to twins. Unfortunately, some tribes see them as a negative omen that disrupts the natural order. This notion reminds me of the importance of observing the mannerisms of my subjects. Despite their physical resemblance, one of the twins embodies a radical nature and often causes trouble. For me, however, they are ordinary individuals bound together by family ties. The idea of seeing them as divine beings or harbingers of misfortune is rooted in pre-colonial ideology. In Ntaa, I embrace the uniqueness of these brothers within their family, challenging the traditional narratives surrounding twins and shedding light on their humanity rather than perpetuating notions of godlike status or curses.

Are there any photographers or artists who have had a significant influence on your creative journey? If so, how have they inspired or influenced your work?

In terms of photographers, Vivianne Sassen has been a significant source of inspiration for me. Her work with abstracted bodies offers a unique perspective on Africa and sparks meaningful conversations. I first came across her art on Tumblr while searching for inspiration and was captivated by how her work seamlessly bridges the gap between artistic expression and commercial platforms.

Another influential figure in the Ghanaian photography scene is James Barnor, a veteran photographer whose portfolio dates back to the early 1950s, a pivotal time in Ghana's quest for independence from colonial rule. His photographs are truly awe-inspiring, reminiscent of delving into my grandparents' old photo albums and immersing myself in their era. Barnor's journey and the stories surrounding his beginnings serve as a great source of inspiration, and his timeless images continue to leave a lasting impact.

In addition to these photographers, I draw inspiration from other active practitioners such as Nadine Ijewere, Tyler Mitchell, Jenny Brough and a few others who have caught my eye.

In terms of artists, the ongoing projects of Kerry James Marshall, Artsoul Kojo (Nana Danso), Jeff Koons, Serge Attukwei Clottey, Ablade Glover and Betty Acquah are valuable sources of inspiration. Their contributions to the art world inspire me to explore and push the boundaries of my own creative endeavours.

Prince Cartiee 5 | 1605 Collective
Looking ahead, what are your aspirations and goals as a visual artist? Are there any upcoming projects or themes you would like to explore in your photography?

Given the opportunity, I would like to show my work in different countries and expand the reach of my artistic vision. I look forward to exploring new mediums and practices, whether it be delving into painting or venturing into the realm of filmmaking. I am also in the process of developing a series that aims to initiate social development, using my art as a catalyst for positive change. Alongside these explorations, I am actively deepening my understanding of colour theory in order to enhance my artistic expression. The future holds limitless possibilities and I approach it with great enthusiasm and excitement.

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