The Ghanaian-born and based visual artist Prince Gyasi, who reached fame with his vibrant and powerful images, mostly shot in his hometown of Accra, is to photograph the 2024 Pirelli Calendar.
The 28-year-old, who has risen rapidly to global prominence, employs bold colours and contrast in his art. His images tell visual stories that capture the atmosphere and vibrancy of his community and generation while aiming to challenge traditional narratives about Africa, elitism in art and western-centered ideals of beauty.
Although his equipment choices now extend to state-of-the-art cameras, Gyasi started taking photographs at age 16 using a smartphone.
“I had aspirations of becoming an abstract painter but found love in creating art with my phone” he told CNN Style in 2019. “I do not want to be recognized as a photographer, but as an artist. Most of my images look like paintings because they are art pieces, not photographs.”
Gyasi's work is deeply personal in both subject matter and style. He favours locations in his home city and has shot many of his photo series in popular districts of Accra. Gyasi employs bright block colours and stark contrast in his images, often putting vivid reds, blues or pinks side-by-side with Blackness, celebrating and highlighting the beauty of Black African skin while presenting his home in an uplifting and inspiring way.
“I will keep telling the stories of the kids in Jamestown and Ghana in general,” he told CNN. “People need to know about the culture and our story.”
Gyasi's images celebrate childhood, fatherhood, motherhood, and often focus on education, or the lack of it, stressing the vital role it can play in helping the less privileged escape poverty. “As a visual artist, I think what I need to do is repaint Africa to the world by taking the negativity out of the images and show the positive sides of Africa”.
Gyasi's bold aesthetic invites viewers into his hyper-colorful and singular world of synesthesia.
Affecting around 1-4 per cent of people, synaesthesia creates an unconventional interplay between the senses, so someone might “taste” a shape or “hear” a colour. For Gyasi, the phenomenon causes him to associate words with colours; Wednesdays are aquamarine to him for example.
The artist considers his work as “a therapy through colours” and believes colour can have a positive impact on people's mental health and happiness.
In 2017, Gyasi co-founded the non-profit organization « Boxed Kids », which provides educational opportunities for children in Jamestown, a popular fishermen district in which his mother, Abena Serwaa Ophelia, was born. As many of the kids from this district, Prince's mother had to quit school at a early age before launching a successful career as a gospel singer and fashion designer.
Gyasi's striking, provocative work captures the vivid elegance and dynamism of his hometown and his generation and made him among the most in-demand artists working today. In 2021, Artsy, the leading platform to sell and buy art online, reported that Gyasi's photographs offered at fairs on the site had “the greatest number of collectors enquiring about them of any artist on the platform, surpassing blue-chip mainstays like David Hockney and George Condo”.
Gyasi's work appears in some of the world's most prominent contemporary art collections, including those of Jean Pigozzi and the Pinault Foundation. Recent exhibitions include a solo show at the 2022 edition of the Kyotographie international photography festival in Kyoto, Japan, and group shows in Brazil and France.
In 2022, Olivier Rousteing and the Fashion House Balmain chose Gyasi to reinterpret the world-renowned novel « Le Petit Prince ». The whole story was shot in Accra with local models and featured kids from Jamestown. The artist has also collaborated with Converse, Virgil Abloh (for Off-White), was commissioned a worldwide billboard campaign and a story on the Ghanaian musical genre « Hiplife » for Apple. Prince photographed Naomi Campbell for the cover of Madame Figaro in 2021 and Nigerian music icons Burna Boy (2020) and Wiz Kid (2021) for GQ US.
Next year's Pirelli Calendar will be the 50th edition, following the launch of the original in 1964. Gyasi's turn behind the lens comes after that of Australian fashion photographer Emma Summerton, who shot 2023's Love Letters to the Muse-themed Calendar featuring models including Cara Delevingne, Precious Lee and Adut Akech.
Gyasi is the 40th photographer to shoot the Calendar and among the youngest. He follows previous Calendar photographers including Norman Parkinson, Herb Ritts, Helmut Newton, Peter Beard, Mario Testino and Patrick Demarchelier. Each artist has brought their own style and signature to The Cal, ensuring constant evolution and innovation. Now Gyasi is joining the list of greats and it's clear he will bring his own vibrant stamp to the 2024 edition.