Sharp Sharp in Paris, and Accra

Street-style photographer Ed Suter reports from Ghana.

From the Series

"I have been shooting in Ghana for about five days in Accra and now at a smaller town further down the coast called Cape Coast (site of the World Heritage listed forts where slaves were shipped from)," Ed Suter tells Design Indaba. "Shooting street style in Ghana has been much more difficult than in South Africa. One has to contend with the humidity, intense contrast in light and people unused to the idea of being photographed in public. At first I was quite paralysed with figuring out how to do this, but I have met some really helpful people along the way who have made it easier."

The array of fabrics is unbelievable – colour and amazing pattern everywhere, says Suter.

"In a way the style of dressing here seems more formal, covered up, long fitted dresses. Most men here seem to be wearing the most incredible shirts. If Paul Smith hasn't been here before, I suggest he come and be inspired by the cut and fit of the shirts the men wear."

When I was doing publicity for Sharp Sharp, I was often asked what I would like to do next and I often answered doing a version of Sharp Sharp in another African country. Ghana and Mozambique always came to mind. So here I am, trying to get a sense of another African country through photographing style on its downtown streets, Suter reports.

Before hitting the Ghanaian capital, Suter exhibited his photographs and gave a talk in Paris on Sharp Sharp, his book of photographs of great South African street style.

The month-long celebration of all things Johannesburg is on for ten more days. Four photographers and an illustrator were selected to participate in Sharp Sharp Johannesburg, which forms part of the 2013 France – South Africa season.

“The Sharp Sharp Johannesburg exhibition in Paris went really well,” Suter said. “My pictures from Sharp Sharp were on a continual loop on a wall of the gallery for a week. Three other photographers, Liam Lynch, Zanele Muholi and Roger Ballen, also showed their pictures over separate weeks."

Suter goes on to talk about the extensive programme: "There was a live gig each weekend with artists such as Spoek Mathambo, Desmond and the Tutus, The Brother Moves On and BLK JKS. I went to a Shangaan dance event. I was interviewed in front of an audience on Sharp Sharp and photography in Johannesburg and was approached after the event by a lot of French people who had lived in Joburg at one time."

There was a recreation of a minibus taxi, a South African braai outside on the street, a range of South African designed objects for sale – all in an incredible arts centre called La Gaîté Lyrique, which had been a venerable old Paris theatre until, in the last five years, it opened as an incredibly modern arts centre.

"I was invited to be part of it by the artistic director, Benoit Rousseau, who had bought my book on a trip to Joburg earlier in the year. It was a huge privilege to be part of it and a thrill to see my work in that amazing building in the middle of Paris.”

Sharp Sharp Johannesburg is billed as “a portrait in sounds and images of a city in mutation”. There are free installations, photo exhibits, talks, screenings, performances, music and workshops that seek to tell the story of “an urban, critical and political context that shows a remarkable human energy and lessons on the sharing of the city.”

At La Gaîté Lyrique, urban creativity in all its forms is showcased and celebrated. Each year the venue sets out to explore the artistic identity of an interesting major city.

Catch Sharp Sharp Johannesburg in Paris till 8 November 2013.

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