David Tamsey: Creating Art Through Smartphone Photography
I first came across SASA (Speakers and Singers Association) in 2011 through their association with my campus fellowship. SASA was this cool group of artists that anyone with a creative leaning aspired to join. They were composed of spoken word artistes, singer-songwriters and generally artists and art enthusiasts. Their signature events was a great way to spend a good evening by being treated to beautiful spoken word performances and mesmerizing new music as well as other art forms. A few months after experiencing SASA, I met Selorm Tamakloe, a dynamic, unassuming and intelligent young man through a mutual friend. Then the big surprise was when I discovered that SASA was Selorm’s brainchild. For the past four years or so, we’ve moved from being aquaintances to friends. Selorm is part of the worship team at my church and I get to hear him sing every weekend. Starting late last year, he began posting breathtaking images of everyday objects, buildings, landscapes and created experiences on his personal Instagram account in a way that can only be described as art. So I decided to find out more and discovered that he was doing his photography with his smartphone. Fastforward to June 2016, and the David Tamsey Instagram account has more than 200 pictures. In May, I joined him to the opening of his first smartphone exhibition at the Accra City Hotel, formerly Novotel which is still ongoing. – Evans Osei-Wiafe
Let’s get to know David and learn more about the smartphone photography genre.
Tell us about yourself
My official name is Selorm Tamakloe, and David Tamsey is my artist name/pseudonym. I’m an individual who loves creativity and the company of creative people. I’m interested in integrating various art forms and using art as a tool for social impact and change.
When you were a little boy (let’s say 10 years old), what did you want to be when you “grow up?”
Interesting question! At 10, I wanted to be a doctor. At 12, I felt pharmacy would be a safer route (I really wanted to avoid the sight of blood). At 14, I became interested in architecture and started taking architectural draughtsmanship lessons. At 16, I felt being an animator would be cool. And at 18, I considered becoming a computer scientist. By 20, I felt that something art related should become a notable part of my life. What to be has been a moving target for me. I’m enjoying the trajectory though, and I know it will all fit perfectly in the end.
When did you know you wanted to be a photographer?
Somewhere late last year. The resolve came when I started getting a lot of encouraging feedback from people who saw photographs I took with phones.
What first inspired you to pick up a camera and start taking pictures?
I would say the beauty of moments and the realisation that they can’t be recreated. I can’t really tell the first time I picked a camera and took a picture, but I know the beauty in nature has always inspired me to find a way of sharing what I get to see and how I see it with others.
Of what form is your photography? Is it for art purposes or is it commercial? How long have you been doing this?
I’m still exploring my place in photography at the moment, but I find myself drawn towards nature, scenic, landscape, travel, and abstract forms of photography. I would like to try out other forms as time goes on. I’m more interested in photography as an art. I hope to hold more exhibitions as the years come by. My exhibition at Accra City Hotel happens to be my first exhibition. I will like to take this opportunity to thank all those who came for the opening.
When and how did you learn about the concept of smartphone photography and what made you decide to experiment with it?
Well, I started smartphone photography because that’s the only camera I had.
There’s a saying that “your best camera is the one you have” so I decided to make the best use of my phone’s camera. The cool thing about smartphone photography is that it takes all the cumbersomeness away. You have this light device in your pocket and you can go almost anywhere with it, almost without any resistance. By far, there’s only been one significant resistance that I faced taking pictures with a phone, and that was in The Gambia. I took a photograph at a police checkpoint and that became something else. They stopped our vehicle and insisted that I delete every photograph I took of that area before they would allow the vehicle to move. And they were pretty aggressive. They shouted and tried to get physical, by getting everyone out of the vehicle. They questioned me. It seems they thought I was some undercover person or something of the sort, and I don’t know if they were doing something bad that they didn’t want captured on camera at that time. But I eventually complied and deleted the pictures, then they let us go. I will never forget that experience.
Any other smartphone photographers you know?
Yes. I know a couple online: @yankahmccoy @da_radinger @irenecoker, all on Instagram.
What device do you use for your photography? What made you choose this device? Is it for the convenience/availability or it was intentional, say for how powerful the camera is?
I use a 1st Gen Moto X. I didn’t choose this device. It was a gift, and I discovered it could do much, though it’s honestly not the most powerful smartphone camera. So in all, it’s more like making the most out of what I have.
Do you edit your photos? If you do, what editor do you use?
I do edit my photos. I use Google’s Snapseed and Adobe’s Photoshop.
What type of photography do you do most? What do you enjoy shooting most and why?
I enjoy scenic and conceptual photography. I find it interesting to capture a scene or to create something abstract or conceptual from something that everyone can clearly see as a simple object.
Is smartphone photography something to be taken for serious? Is it serious business anywhere and particularly here in Ghana? Does it have a place in our picture-saturated world?
Smartphone photography should be taken seriously. I know of some international galleries that hold smartphone photography exhibitions. I’m hoping to push smartphone photography in Ghana. I think there are great Ghanaian smartphone photographers out there, I see them on Instagram. It sure has a place. I think it’s unique, and so long as the photograph comes out with much interest, it is able to catch attention.
Who are some of the influencers on your photography style?
One significant person who has influenced me on my journey as a photographer is Teresa Meka. In 2012, I worked with her, assisting her on her photography projects. It was a rich experience and a good platform for exposure. Most of what I did was to carry equipment, hold reflectors and play auxiliary supporting roles, but those moments served as great grounds for observing and gaining experience. Another person of influence is Hans-Peter Boakye, my photographer friend and roommate from university (KNUST). At the time we shared the same room, I had some interest in photography, but not as a career option. Hans always had videos of photography tutorials playing in the room, so I ended up learning a lot about photography in a rather passive manner.
Describe your photography style. How did you develop your style?
Well, I’m still developing my style. Every now and then, I’m experimenting with something new, trying my hands on something different. I think it may take a while for me to find a fully developed style, but I’m still in the stage of exploration.
What is the most challenging part about being a photographer for you?
Perhaps because I’m drawn towards scenic and travel photography, my major challenge at the moment is how to find time and the means to be at all the places I crave to photographs. Aside that, I want to be able to make the most valuable use of my photographs. I don’t want my pictures to remain on my phone, a hard-disk, or on an online cloud platform. I also don’t want them to just be shared on a photo sharing platform and have likes, comments, and reviews. I want them to be put to use, to be framed and placed in a home, a hotel, a restaurant, an office, or even given as a gift to someone. I want them to tell a story, to change lives, and touch generations. Those are things I’m still figuring out.
What would be some tips you would give to a beginning photographer out there who has a smartphone and believes he can do something useful with it?
Just keep taking photographs, and ask for a lot of feedback from friends with artistic eyes. Start sharing the photographs that get a lot of good feedback. You can share them on any photo sharing platform of your choice and convenience. You also need to feed your eye with creativity from other photographers. Look out for photographers that inspire you, study their photographs, follow them on Instagram, and read about them when you can. You can also take an online photography course from Coursera or any other site that has one available. Just develop a willingness to learn and a readiness to explore.
Where do you showcase your works on the go? How has the response from your friends (and even strangers) been?
I share my works on Instagram and the response has been encouraging by far. Day in day out, I come across new people from different parts of the world liking and sometimes commenting on my works. It’s exciting.
Going into the future, do you see yourself continually doing smartphone photography or this is a passing interest?
I will definitely continue doing smartphone photography. I know that technological advancements will bring forth more powerful devices for capturing moments and creating art. I’m looking forward to them. I’m looking forward to getting either a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, but even when I do, I’ll still pursue smartphone photography because of its uniqueness and convenience.
You are currently exhibiting at the Accra City Hotel. Tell us about that.
Yes. I’m holding my first exhibition ever at the Accra City Hotel, and I’m really excited about it. I applied for the opportunity to exhibit in the hotel with a friend, Negyem Adonoo, who is a painter. We went through the interview process and finally got the opportunity to exhibit. My photographs are in the hotel throughout this month of June, and are available for sale. You can visit the hotel at anytime to go view the works. I’m hoping to get all works sold.
Any closing words?
I just want to thank all who’ve been supportive on my creative journey by far. And thank you for taking the time to interview me. Thanks to MyWeku Tastes.
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