Years ago, Ghanaian Derrick Ofosu Boateng picked up a phone and started taking pictures to capture everyday scenes happening around him. Flash forward to the present day and he has evolved his craft, honed his composition and amassed a devout following on social media. Despite all of this, he has no intention of leaving phone cameras behind. Alex Kahl spoke to him about his process, his love of color and his desire to shine a light on the poetry of Ghana.
This poem, titled Torture In My Mind, was posted by Ghanaian photographer Derrick Ofosu Boateng beneath one of his photos on Instagram.
Filled with so much uncertainties, my thoughts keeps changing each and everyday.
Triangles turned upside down in my head. I feel so unsure about my imaginations.
Convinced to die and convinced to stay at the same time.
Everyday uncertainties and problems, hadn't have found good people around me and permitted me a peace of mind, I would have been nowhere to be found.
These miniature stories give us an insight into his thought process for each picture and always come as a welcome surprise as you scroll through his work. What’s most surprising about the images, though, is that they're photographed on an iPhone.
Once he’s taken the photos, Derrick uses Photoshop to add vibrant, punchy colors to each one, often calling upon those found in the Ghanaian flag. In the images, men and women clutch food and drink or hold everyday objects from newspapers to glasses to the sky against backdrops of bright yellows. Children play submerged in the sea, the water appearing in deep greens and reds. With this use of color, Derrick treads a line somewhere between photography and painting, and the results are captivating.
As a child, he didn’t consider growing up to become a photographer as the practice wasn’t respected in his community. At first, he would casually take photos with his mobile phone and post them on Instagram, but when he started to get a lot of comments on his posts and realised he was on to something, he began to use his father’s iPhone. “I loved it that people were starting to find interest in what I was doing and I started building on what I was creating,” he says.
Many of us find taking photos on a phone limitating, frustrating even, but not Derrick. He doesn’t feel like it holds him back at all, proudly claiming that even if he was offered a camera, he would carry on the way he’s been going. “The camera could have more limitations with its size and weight,” he says. “It feels very easy and fast to create pictures with the phone.”
Derrick creates a premeditated concept in his mind for every image, some sort of composition that appears in his head. Some of the photos are taken on impulse, but most are beautifully staged. Whether the idea is a symmetrical layout of people gazing in the same direction and holding the same object or a single person gazing directly into the lens, he ponders on it before searching for the subjects, mainly people he knows, that will suit it best. Once he’s taken the shots, he sits quietly and edits. This is the stage where the photos become their vibrant best. “The colors in my pictures allow me more space for creativity, and they have a substantial amount of influence on our feelings,” he says. “They allow me to portray beauty over reality.”
Portraying beauty is one of Derrick’s main aims, because he strives to change perceptions about Ghana and Africa in general. “Africa is not portrayed in a nice way,” he says. “Especially in movies and in the news.” He feels that many stories about the continent are exaggerated and is subsequently keen to draw people’s attention to the culture he knows and loves.
The subject matter in his photos is simple, often depicting mundane everyday scenes, but the way they are colored and presented emphasises the simple beauty of his surroundings. Alongside the words he writes for them, the images contribute to his mission to show the poetry in this place he loves, this place he feels is so misunderstood.