After embarking on a seven year odyssey across the vast sand dunes and culturally-rich lands of Africa, 38 year-old photographer John Kenny has compiled a collection of stunning portraits of the African people by photographing the most fascinating faces he encountered. Proudly displaying their wide smiles and glistening eyes, the local men and women who posed for John’s camera all connects to the viewers in an arresting manner, vividly sparkled by their colorful swathe of traditional clothing fabric, hair beads, copper rings, native earrings, hair-clip and beaded necklaces. Their portraits now graces the pages of Kenny’s book ‘Facing Africa’ and a photographic series called ‘African Beauty’, which goes on display at the The Africa Centre in London this month. By documenting these beautiful inhabitants of Africa using the chiaroscuro effect, the method of relying to the strong contrast between darkness and light against a black background, Kenny was able to create a more dramatic set of portraits teeming with intimacy and intensity, making his series stand out from the many portraiture images produced by conventional travel photography.
In an interview with Daily Mail UK, Kenny reveals his motivation to pursue a shoot that eventually took him to the countries of Niger, Ethiopia, Angola, Namibia, Burkina Faso, Kenya and Togo. “I was excited by extraordinary people and fascinating cultures and wondered how I could possibly communicate and express these feelings of excitement to friends and family back home.” The idea of photographing them using the chiaroscuro came into fruition when he “started to imagine each of these people in front of me emerging from the nothingness of darkness, with no distractions, hoping that this would provide a real feeling of proximity between the viewer and the person in the picture.” Kenny adds “It’s simply the illumination of natural sunlight, and sun on dry earth, that reaches into the darkness of huts and lights up these remarkable people.”
Photographing the friendly people of Africa didn’t went exclusively smooth for Kenny, as the continent’s scattered volatile regions caught up with him sometime in 2009 when he was shot at in Northern Kenya while driving with his guide in a remote dark highway. After that close brush – Kenny continued with his exploration and discovery among the continent’s greatest gift – Its people.
John Kenny’s photography series “African Beauty” is display at The Africa Centre, located at 38 King Street, Covent Garden, London. The exhibit will run from 24 May until 9 June 2013, Tuesday-Sunday. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.john-kenny.com