Escapes and Landscapes: PK Opoku’s Photographic Journey
Can photography be a therapy? A place of escape? An emotional outlet? Does Ghana have enough photographable landscapes? In this interview, we explore how creative processes can serve as profitable distractions, and how PK Opoku is making strides in creating outstanding landscapes of his motherland (Ghana), and gradually, the world at large.
Let’s get to know PK Opoku a bit. Can you please introduce yourself?
Huh?! Introductions are my worst nightmares (Laughs). Well, let’s see. I’m a bit of a scientist, and a bit of an artist. A lot of my professional experience has been in software engineering and a bit of data analytics. Currently, I’m furthering the latter passion in school. Because, statistical modelling and machine learning are pretty awesome fields. I also happen to be a photographer, which is why you’re talking to me now (Laughs). I’ve been doing this for about four years now, and though my photographic tastes have changed a lot through the period, one thing that’s pretty consistent is that I like to shoot people, and I like to shoot places.
In what ways have you had your photographic tastes change?
That’s a tough one to define. I guess the things that pushed me to raise a camera to my eye have changed. I used to be very trigger-happy, now I find myself doing a lot of mental weighing before I decide to shoot. I also have a tendency to shoot dark themes. Dark is good. Come to the dark side. Let’s try some low light photography.
What genres of photography have you explored aside landscape and people photography?
I have tried product photography. I’m probably never going back to that. I’ve also tried HDR. Who hasn’t? It has its uses, in moderation. I’ve also tried astrophotography, which is actually really exciting for me. But I’m biased because I love astronomy in general. Right now, something I’ve been doing a lot lately is turning phrases that hit me into pictures. Words alone, are a pretty big inspiration.
And how do you manage to do that? Turning phrases into pictures?
That’s the fun part. Translating a passage into an image. There’s this one that I’m still wrapping my head around: She was dead before suicide. It’s something a friend told me once, and I’ve been tossing the idea around in my head for a really long time. What would be a good way to show someone who was living, but only going through the motions of life in one still image? Maybe a gaunt looking woman, working hard at socializing at a party. But in the mirror across from her, all the people she’s chatting with seem to be chatting with other people, while she sits with her head buried in her laps. With a good contrasting colour scheme, maybe? Or maybe a strong grayscale image? I have not settled n any one idea. But I create a mental image, and then I go ahead to create a physical one.
Speaking about suicide and depression related issues, the fact remains that there are lots of people still battling with stuff like that. Do you think there is a way photography can brighten a person’s life and lift away some depression?
Possibly. In my case, my mood often colours the kinds of pictures I make. Sometimes when I feel really down, it’s good for me to express it in a picture. It gives me something to do which is better than brooding while in bad spirits. It’s certainly a good distraction, I think.
This sounds like some sort of therapy. Honestly speaking, everyone in life has down moments, and needs a form of therapy. And I think it’s how an individual deals with those down moments that matters. It sounds like you’ve just mentioned something that can change a lot of lives – finding something creative to do to serve as a distraction from brooding over the low tides of life. How does that sound?
Couldn’t have put it better myself. Photography has been a very good escape for me, and I’m sure it could be for many other people.
Can we talk a bit about your landscapes? I find them incredible.
Sure thing. Landscapes are always fun. And, thanks for the compliment.
Where do you think your passion for landscape photography sprung from?
Well, I probably only first seriously started trying to capture landscapes after stumbling upon Trey Ratcliff‘s work. He does HDR landscapes. Very well at that, I should add. His work was what started my exploration into the field. I began to explore flattering ways to capture a full scene. And over the years, I guess I kind of developed an affinity for it. It takes a lot of patience. Sometimes waiting for the right time, the right weather, or the right social interaction, if it’s a street scene.
And what has been the drive for you? To make images like that of Africa?
Not in a tacky way; it’s easy to go overboard with HDR. I know, I’ve been there. But, yes, I was tired of seeing the stereotypical picture of African countries in general. Not that they are all untrue, I just felt like there should be some yin to the yang. Over time, it has kind of switched from that, to now seeing the beauty in the very things around us.
Architecture, or rolling hills; the world around us often makes an interesting scene, if you’re looking at it the right way.
Progressive I should say. Well, you’ve been creating lots of interesting landscapes of the UK since you moved there for school. I’ve heard a lot of Ghanaians say there aren’t enough interesting landscapes to photograph in Ghana. What say you?
I’m willing to bet those who do say that are sitting comfortably in Accra and driving around the city looking for things to shoot. I strongly disagree. I have a large portfolio of landscape images taken in Ghana, and there are a lot of interesting places outside the capital. My last road trip in Ghana took me through the highlands of Kintampo. You may have read about Kintampo in your Social Studies class, but you should see it. It’s breathtaking. I think if people are willing to really explore, they’ll be amazed at what they find.
Do you have some travel and landscape photography plans for when you come back to Ghana?
Definitely. One thing that is certainly on the bucket list for a lot of photographers that I know, at least, is a cross country road trip. I am no different in that respect. I would like to cover all the districts, to take it all in.
Districts? That’s a lot to cover!
It is. It’s a project for a lifetime.
My best wishes. Go for it!!!
There will be no shortage of things to photograph, that much is certain.
No Gray Zone
David Tamsey: Well, it’s time for the no gray zone.
PK Opoku: Sounds scary. But go on. Shoot!
David Tamsey: Science or Art?
PK Opoku: This is incredibly hard for me to choose. Science.
David Tamsey: Basketball or Football?
PK Opoku: Basketball any day. Go Spurs!
David Tamsey: If you need someone to export some roadside Ghanaian food to you for breakfast. Will you go for Hausa Koko or Waakye?
PK Opoku: Waakye
David Tamsey: Reading books or watching documentaries?
PK Opoku: Another tough one. I love both. If I had to choose, I think I’d go with documentaries.
David Tamsey: Hats or Caps?
PK Opoku: Hmm… hats.
David Tamsey: And finally! Nikon or Canon?
PK Opoku: Canon
David Tamsey: Thanks for your time. I’ve enjoyed this.
PK Opoku: Likewise. Even though you have made me want waakye. This was good. (Laughs)
David Tamsey: Do you have any final words?
PK Opoku: I like to think I’m one for pithy remarks, but, I have nothing. So a shameless ad. Hi everyone! I’m on Instagram. Do check my work out.