We took time to chat to Yannis Davy a young photographer from Gabon (Central Africa) currently living in the Toronto Area (Mississauga) in Canada. We spoke about young people connecting with each other, being young & black in Toronto & his travels.
CN: Please introduce you? Who are you & what’s been your creative journey?
Yannis Davy: My name is Yannis Davy Guibinga and I am a 20 years old photographer originally from Gabon. I started by doing graphic design in high school (which is something I ended up being not really good at) and gradually got into photography and it's been almost 4 years that I am doing this rather seriously.
CN: What pushed you to do photography?
Yannis Davy: I actually started to take photos because of graphic design. I was doing collages and things of that nature with photos of my friends or random photos from the Internet but the quality of the photos were not always up to par, so I decided to create my own content. It's then that I realized that I enjoyed taking the photos more than doing the graphic design work, so I decided to stop and focus more on photography instead.
CN: You are from Gabon, when & why did you leave?
Yannis Davy: I originally grew up and lived in Libreville (Gabon's capital) and left in 2013 after graduating high school to study in Toronto and I have been leaving here ever since.
CN: What's it like being a young black African in Toronto?
Yannis Davy: Thankfully, Toronto is a very diverse city in terms of ethnicities and cultures so I never felt like I didn't fit in and I was kind of a Other (unlike some other places I have visited in the past). However, I feel like I do not have a specific community I belong in here because while Toronto has a lot of Africans, most of them are from West or East Africa. They all have these cultural habits and similarities that I feel like I cannot really relate to (I have not met anybody from Central Africa in Toronto yet). But we're still all Africans at the end of the day so we still all have similar stories and relate to one another at a certain degree which is why I think the fellow Africans I have met here were very nice and welcoming for the most part.
CN: As a photographer on the outside of the continent, do you feel the images that presented as Africa are positive & are reshaping the way Africa is presented?
Yannis Davy: A lot of people I met overseas have the typical stereotypical image of Africans being poor and living on trees etc. At least they all think Africa is this extremely underdevelopped country (because some of them are not even aware that it's a continent) from which nothing good ever comes out of. I would not necessarily say that the images presented in Western media are overtly negative because most of the things depicted in movies and so on are sometimes true: War, poverty and corruption are still things that plague the entire continent. I however feel like they (Western media) do not necessarily go out of their way to show another and more positive angle of the continent. Which is mostly why one of the things I would like to accomplish through my work is to reshape the image people have of Africa as much as I can. I want to show that it is a beautiful place. And I feel like it is something every African creative (especially the ones of the diaspora) should keep in mind. People don't really think about artists, photographers and so on when they think about Africans but we also deserve to be recognized and praised as much as the other ones because I believe that we are just as good, sometimes better.
CN: What's your style of photography? What messages are you trying share through your work?
Yannis Davy: I started by mostly taking portraits and things of that nature but now I just take photos of whatever catches my attention. There's not much thought process in terms of the messages I try to put forward, most of the time I just capture something that I found beautiful and/or interesting and that I think others would to.
CN: Besides photography how do you keep yourself busy?
Yannis Davy: I paint sometimes; even though that's not something I’m particularly good at. I also started to do some collages studying the interaction between (mostly) black bodies and color. (The explanation doesn't really make sense but you can see them here: http://www.yannisdavy.com/moodboard/)
CN: What's do you think young people need in terms of helping them along in their creative journey?
Yannis Davy: I think what a lot of young artists need is just a platform to share their art. It's really important for young artists to feel like they have people they can share their art with and people who might help them improve in their creative journey.
CN: What's the creative community like in your city?
Yannis Davy: Toronto is really an amazing city to be an artist in. There are so many extremely talented individuals here that I can't help but by inspired. There are lot of collectives and other groups of artists collaborating and creating together too, which is a great thing.
CN: Is there a great support system for young creatives?
Yannis Davy: I feel like it's still pretty hard for young creatives to promote themselves and get support, especially since so many very talented photographers and artists are already established and that it is pretty hard to get into the circles they are in. But I and some friends are actually in the process of creating a platform aiming to promote young artists (mostly student-artists) through our website but also events and exhibitions we will be having.
CN: What's next on your creative journey?
Yannis Davy:I'm not sure, though I know for a fact that photography will be a constant. I just want to keep creating and learning new things as I continue to grow. I might get into shooting videos or something of that nature and maybe get back to graphic design.
CN: Do you plan to go back to Gabon?
Yannis Davy:Yes I’m going back to Gabon at the end of the month. I'm excited to go back and take as many photos as I can.
CN: What does creativity mean to you?
Yannis Davy: Creativity to me means to be able to freely express yourself, to channel your thoughts and ideas through art and to use a medium to create and communicate meaningful messages.
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