His dream is to develop the African version of Flickr or Facebook. His photographs epitomize the true reflection of nature and walks you through natural sceneries. Kwaku Chintoh, who is in his late 20s, began as an amateur photographer but is now revered as one of Ghana’s top tourism photographers.
The graphic and web designer believes photography is a great tool that can help change perceptions but not until people develop the right attitude. Below is the full version of my latest interview for AfricaNews:
AfricaNews: Briefly tell us about yourself?
Chintoh: I’m a Ghanaian and a product of Bishop Herman College. Currently, I am reading Business Information Systems at the Zenith University College. I began my career at myjoyonline in 2004 as a web designer. I played a pivotal role in covering the 2004 general elections for the online firm as a photographer and helped spruce up the website. Then, I knew little about cameras but I enjoyed taking photographs to design websites. I remember covering the Boyz II Men show in Ghana and my photographs had encouraging reviews. Ever since the camera never came off my neck. To me it’s just interesting to know that the ability to capture moments put a smile on the faces of individuals for the rest of their lives. Now I’m just having fun with the camera and learning more with each picture I take. I’m my worst critic but do appreciate help, suggestions and constructive critiques. I am in constant search of situations that challenge my abilities and skills, and give me the opportunity to utilize the experience that I have gathered dealing with people and situations as well as learn from them.
AfricaNews: What do you do at your free time?
Chintoh: I watch movies or documentaries on National Geographic Channel, visit friends that would impact a lot of information in me as well as share interesting ideas in my area of operation.
AfricaNews: What do you read and why?
Chintoh: National Geographic magazine, the Nageo website or bbc.co.uk basically to read captions on their photo stories. I get updates as to what is most viewed now and that really inform my photography.
AfricaNews: What inspired a graphic designer to go into photography?
Chintoh: Well as a graphic designer, I work a lot with photos and the boredom here is tweaking photos that are considered to be very bad for the work while you can take a better one for the work. Also the ability to capture moments that put smiles on the faces of individuals most especially the joy it brings to them that stays with them for the rest of their lives.
AfricaNews: What do you photograph and for what purpose?
Chintoh: I love to capture breath-taking sceneries of resort, our environment and moments that will never be with us again. These shots, if well taken will push people to visit these places and to me it’s a major boost for tourism in Ghana which I want to strongly promote.
AfricaNews: What attracts – colour or black and white photographs [monochromatic]
Chintoh: This to me is about developing an ‘eye’ for a picture. Photography is about seeing something pictorial and recording it in an interesting and graphic way. If the subject doesn’t have the content to begin with, you can’t mysteriously add it. In short most of it depends on how detailed the information on the photograph is, some are very colourful that monochrome might not be able to tell the story, on the other hand, the environment plays a major role, a monochrome of certain environment brings back memories.
AfricaNews: What projects are you involved in?
Chintoh: Well, on the part time basis I manage a photo platform called mokocharlie but I’m busily occupied with photo editing for myjoyonline. I’m also part of a group of young graphic designers and photographers coming up with a photo manipulation website. Watch out for it.
AfricaNews: Tell us more about mokocharlie.com
Chintoh: Nana Kwabena Aning is solely the web programmer for mokocharlie.com and we started this project a year ago. Mokocharlie’s mission is to organize community photos and promote products and businesses online in the most professional and distinct way. Often, tourists and holiday makers that visit our country take very beautiful pictures and keep them on their computers. They later create an album on their laptops, email it to friends or upload them on other social networks that are exclusive to members only. Ghanaians in the Diaspora often wonder how their communities look currently, simply because the last time these places were toured could have been on a school trip or a family holiday. However, after their long absence, they are intrigued and curious to see and tour these places once again. The average local in our regions have heard tremendously exciting things about big companies and establishments all over the country. Such vast investments are within the capital cities and its surrounding areas. Many locals should be privileged to see such developments. The website’s name which is a combination of English and Ga (a Ghanaian Local Language) refers to a ‘best friend or a good buddy,’ as the solution. Holiday makers, tourists, students and families can now share their beautiful pictures with friends all over the world by uploading onto the website, companies can also do the same and add their details as caption. One can also email interesting photos to friends, comment on them and also report for deletion. I’m grateful to the CEO of Ghana Business News (ghanabusinessnews.com) Emmanuel Dogbevi for his help in pushing traffic to mokocharlie.com due to the banner exchange he offers us.
AfricaNews: How do you convince people to buy into this concept?
Chintoh: It’s not that difficult to convince people to buy into it since people love to watch photos. Companies have also embraced the idea because they are able to reach a wider range of people with their products via mokocharlie.com as compared to other platforms. Ghanaians in the Diaspora also plan their vacation by just going through the various albums to choose a suitable location for holidaying.
AfricaNews: Any views about the picture quality in the local newspapers?
Chintoh: Depending on where you find yourself incidents can be captured with a mobile phone or a pocket size camera, so quality although is paramount doesn’t really matter to me. I think the graphic designers should be cautioned on how they treat the pictures, some of them resize the photos so badly that the images appear compressed and pixelated after printing.
AfricaNews: What’s the relationship between you and other professional photographers
Chintoh: Well, it’s nice to have people to look up to and most especially have people who look up to you too. We share ideas and it doesn’t end there, when a project requires more hands we call on each other .
AfricaNews: How can Africa use photos to change its negative perception to the world?
Chintoh: Well we can’t do much if we can’t renew the way we think and do things, photography has no major role to play here since it tells the story just as it sees it.
AfricaNews: How do you use Facebook to promote yourself?
Chintoh: Facebook is also a photo sharing website and I appreciate all comments, critiques and feedback. Especially on flickr, there are so many talented people there, I could spend hours looking through photostreams and a big thanks to all for sharing your amazing photos which encourage me to improve. Everyone is on Facebook now and in order to promote my mokocharlie magazine, I created a group on Facebook some three years ago, where members send their photos for a picture makeover. This has really helped me to improve my graphic design skills. Nana Kwabena thought we should give our members the chance to design their own magazine covers so he developed an Application on Facebook for our members and other interested Facebookers to design their covers. Don’t be left out. Most of the referrals I get for my website is from Facebook.
AfricaNews: Any gratitude?
Chintoh: Putting God first has really opened doors. Alex Majoli, is a photographer based in New York and Milan, won the 2004 Magazine Photographer of the year award given by the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) with a portfolio that was exclusively made with his digital point-and-shoot cameras. The stories were shot in China, the Congo, and Iraq, mostly for Newsweek Magazine. Reason being “ the size of the digital SLR cameras was so big, I didn’t want to work with them” this simply told me that the art is not well defined and your mind’s eye is the most efficient tool in photography. Photographers like Emmanuel Bobbie, Nana Kofi Acquah and Sefa Nkansa have inspired me a lot. Aside photography, my mum is the pushy type and when you feel you can’t she is always there to say yes you can. Nana Kwabena Aning my partner with whom I started mokocharlie is in the UK, he is a programmer who is well organized in all he does and I think I have learnt a lot from him. My fiancé Adjoa has been very supportive in all the projects I have handled, with her valuable suggestions and I’m grateful.
AfricaNews: What do you hope to achieve in the next five-ten years?
Chintoh: Turning Mokocharlie into a one-stop shop for tourism photographs of not only Ghana but the entire continent of Africa and the world as a whole.
AfricaNews: Few words to upcoming photographers?
Chintoh: Put God first and work hard. Photography can be as technical as you want it to be or can be just plain fun, but always remember to photograph what interests you than what you think you should.