Growing up, Tacitus Nana Yabani aka the Ga Greek God, was always fascinated seeing himself in photos. A curiosity to know how photos were made led to the dream of becoming a professional photographer. But as a street child, he had no idea how he was going to make this happen. With determination and perseverance, Tacitus didn’t let his vision go to waste. Like the saying goes, “little by little the eagle builds its nest,” Tacitus learned photography by teaching himself and developing his own techniques. Small small, Tacitus became the photographer he always envisioned he’d be.
Tacitus describes himself as an urban street photographer meaning the lens is a reflection of the society that he belongs. Tacitus’s photos have been exhibited in Germany and Accra. A year ago he published a coffee table booklet called “Trotro Diaries”. Tacitus still considers himself an amateur of the craft though he believes his distinct style of shooting is part of a new school of photography.
On 21st February, Tacitus will premiere a photo exhibition at Alliance Française [Exhibition Hall]. The exhibition is one that he’s very passionate about because it is all about children. Hence the title, “African Child.”
I sat down with Tacitus Nana Yabani prior to the exhibition opening and here’s what he had to share.
ADA: You are largely a self-taught photographer. How did you get into photography?
TACITUS: Well, getting into photography is about a dream. Photography is something like a passion and something I’ve always wanted to do. As they say, dreams do come true. It is something I followed and it worked out. . Photography is me. So it’s all about hard work.
When I had the dream of becoming a photographer, I told Wanlov the Kubolor. He said if that is my dream, then I should go for it. They’ll support me in their own ways. So I started by following people who were into photography and sometimes carrying their equipment anytime they were going for a photo shoot. Wanlov the Kubolor saw my enthusiasm for photography so he bought a Fuji digital camera for me. With the small camera, I was able to do a project called “Trotro Adventures,” with a German friend. After that, I was always taking pictures wherever I went. Again, Wanlov saw the passion in me, and later bought me a Canon Rebel T3i. With the help of some already established photographers, I was able to learn how to use the camera. Here I am today, a street child turned photographer.
ADA: The focus for a lot of your photographs is children and the beach. Why these two subjects?
TACITUS: This is because me myself…I grew up somewhere by the beach while I was a kid. This subject influences my photography. I’ve been a child before and I’ve been in their shoes. Photographing children gives me a clear memory of my growing up.
ADA: What does it mean to be a photographer to you?
TACITUS: It means so much to me. I see photography to be an art that reflects the images of life.
ADA: How do your photographs reflect your society?
TACITUS: First of all, I see myself as an urban street photographer. So what I do is capture things that are around me and things that I’m facing, and generally, the realities of my environment. My pictures tell the exact stories of the things happening in my society – how my community looks, a pure fishing community with a lot of busy hardworking people and the many happy children there. Those are the realities my photos exhibit.
ADA: What are some of the challenges you experience as a Ghanaian photographer, and how are you overcoming these obstacles?
TACITUS: Well I experience a lot of challenges. Me getting up, taking my camera early in the morning to do a photo shoot is not easy. And sometimes they take my camera from me. It is not easy being a photographer in Ghana, especially with the kind of places I choose to take pictures. I normally meet these challenges whenever I go to take pictures of the markets in James Town and Agbogbloshie and also the beaches. Sometimes people assume I’m taking photos of them when I position my camera to shoot. In James Town, I hear people insulting me and some even ask for money before I’m allowed to take photos. When this happens, I sometimes go to the police to come and intervene.
ADA: Tell us about the upcoming exhibition on the 21st of February.
TACITUS: This exhibition is called the “African Child”. I chose this topic because children inspire me and being an inspired street child got me here today. The exhibition is a show and tell of my adventurous life and how children are a part of my photo journey.