Campbell Addy is a British-Ghanian photographer based in London. News of his new publication, Niijournal, is highly anticipated as a mix of photography, fashion and literature. The publication hopes to spark discussion around the diaspora from Ghana to New York on racial and cultural identity within fashion and photography. We interviewed Addy on the upcoming Niijournal….
What is the motivation behind Niijournal? What inspired you to launch the publication.
Niijournal is the result of many encounters over the last year. From traveling to Ghana, West Africa to Harlem, New York. I met an array of talented people from all walks of life who were able to strike a chord within myself. The majority of the people I met were within the same age group as myself, and despite being from different continents I felt as if we had the same identity struggles growing up. One common denominator we all shared was the feeling that we couldn’t relate to the visual work we saw. At the time I was on my year out from Central Saint Martins, so it was a time of reflection before I embarked on my final major project, it was clear to me what it would be about. I wanted a place where the 13yr old me, my present self and my future self could relate to. From the conception of Niijournal to the launch its been journey of discovery and the people I met along the way, especially my close friends, inspired me to launch Niijournal.
Yes I am African, but I am also British and with that comes a whole lot of conflicting views and arguments which I’ve been dealing with via my work.
You are about to complete your studies at Central Saint Martins, what would you say has been the most important part of your education?
It’s hard to pinpoint a specific factor that’s been very important to my education, many things have helped me along the way. From my tutors, to my peers I’ve been lucky to be exposed to a variety of different people and cultures simply by being a student at Central Saint Martins. Within my class alone we have British, West African, Canadian, South America, Korean, Chinese, Taiwanese and many others from all walks of life so being able to work with people who I’d not necessarily be able to, has really enabled me to view the world as place of adventure and excitement.
Now more than ever before, with platforms such as instagram, we are seeing more African creatives reshape African visual culture. What do you hope to contribute in terms of visual style, language and culture?
Well, due to the fact that I am second generation British in my family I find it interesting to see the relation I have with ‘African’ art as apposed to someone who was born and bred in Africa. Yes I am African, but I am also British and with that comes a whole lot of conflicting views and arguments which I’ve been dealing with via my work. I hope to contribute a style and language that resonates with the people who may not have direct contact with their roots, but are still living it through whatever means they find possible. Being British allows me to draw on many factors to inspire my work and I believe that’s true for many other artists in the world at the moment, and I hope I can be one that shines lights on the ever changing face of African art.
I hope to contribute a style and language that resonates with the people who may not have direct contact with their roots, but are still living it through whatever means they find possible.
In an interview with Dazed, the journal is described as a ” 140-page exploration of what it means when young black creatives look closely at the relationship between aesthetics and politics” Can you give us an idea of what to except, what are the themes that your edition will focus on. Why was this important to you?
Within Niijournal you’ll find articles on youth, and what’s making them tick today. I believe it was imperative to speak to a wide age range as we all know they’re the future generation and I remember feeling hinder as a youth as there weren’t many outlets for me to express myself freely without feeling penalized. In addition to speaking with youths, I’ve explored themes such as black masculinity, the search for ones ‘blackness’, and the struggle that often befalls people of colour in modern day. I really wanted Niijournal to encompass all that inspired and effected me over the years and it was very important to involve other people to increase the variety of the content.
Can you tell us a little about your collaborations? Who is part of the team? Can you briefly describe how you all begun to work together?
A lot of the collaborations happened organically and others where people I’d been wanting to work with for some time. A long time collaborator and very good friend of mine Ib Kamara, is someone I often bounce ideas off and when it came to shooting for Niijournal it was a no-brainer. I enjoy working alongside him as he honestly pushes me to think in ways I wouldn’t necessarily do on my own. As for other contributors, we didn’t have a relationship before shooting for Niijournal, but we do now, especially the likes of PC Williams. We began by genuinely being interested in one another work, particularly via instagram, and things just progressed from there. I wish I had reached out to a lot of the contributors before Niijournal because then we could’ve created even better work, but there’s always next time.
I believe it was imperative to speak to a wide age range as we all know they’re the future generation and I remember feeling hinder as a youth as there weren’t many outlets for me to express myself freely without feeling penalized. In addition to speaking with youths, I’ve explored themes such as black masculinity, the search for ones ‘blackness’, and the struggle that often befalls people of colour in modern day.
Our audience is primarily from within Africa, we reach a lot of young creatives who are interested to go further than their instagram accounts, like you have, what sort of advice would you give them on developing their own visual style.?
One of the best advice I’ve ever been given was from Annie Leibovitz. Along with other students from Central Saint Martins we were able to have a Q&A discussion with her whilst she was in London promoting her exhibition. She advised us to look at our work as a whole and take our time to build and reflect. Prior to this I had never physically looked at my entire body of work as one entity, doing so allowed me to see my strengths and weaknesses. I believe it’s imperative to look at your work as a whole if you wish to progress.