Sackitey Tesa Mate-Kodjo uses photography as a tool for escape. Having initially studied a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at the University of Ghana, it was after a suggestion made by his friend Nana Yaw Oduro that his interests in the medium started to grow. As such he continued to pursue photography, commencing his practice with mobile photography and, as “more and more people” started showing interest, he later purchased a DSLR. “I never thought I would be practicing photography as a means of escape from daily life,” he tells It’s Nice That.
Currently based in Accra, the capital of Ghana, Sackitey transfers his daily musings into prop-fuelled, delectably toned and mesmerisingly serene photographs. Working predominantly with local Ghanaian creatives, much of his work is self-initiated and comes riddled with context. “I would describe my work as raw, simple and eccentric,” he says, “photography that focuses on highlighting social issues.”
Working on various personal projects, this means that the photographer is able to proceed with plenty of freedom when conjuring up plans for the shoot – rather than being confined to a brief, for example. Then, when inspiration strikes, he takes to sketching down his ideas, amending the outcome until he feels like the idea is refined enough to build on. “Sometimes I even make last-minute adjustments on the day of the shoot,” he adds. “Then comes the clothes”. Secondary to the photography but by no means less important, Sackitey also styles his own shoots, making alterations where necessary and even deconstructing old items for new props. “I like to shoot outdoors where certain elements cannot be controlled, because it makes every project a new experience.”
Props are a vital component throughout his portfolio, as he cites the work of Seidu Keita, James Barnor, Viviane Sassen and Ibrahim Kamara as his points of reference. The projects that he embarks on as such, usually depict a unique array of props in some form or another, “or things that I see around me that I consider a challenge to work on, from plastics to old clothes and bags.” This means that his work is organic; perhaps he’ll walk past an object on route to the shoot, or maybe it’s an object that’s been in the works for quite some time – something he's upcycled or repurposed.
At the moment, Sackitey explains how the pandemic has made his process rather difficult, especially in terms of sourcing props and casting models to shoot with. Luckily, he has friends who live close by who are more than happy to help. A recent offshoot of lockdown creativity is a project titled Fake News. “It’s inspired by a personal experience with fake news when the pandemic started,” he explains. “I shared a photo on my status, only for a friend to confirm that it was fake news. After I did some research, I found out that he was right. The pandemic has increased our search for information and a lot of people are propagating fake news.” A vital and timely topic indeed, the result is a powerfully posed series of portraits of a model sporting a toy snake and fluffy pink cowboy hat. “The toy snake is supposed to signify fake news and how we tend to cling to it in desperate times. I can’t generalise, but in Ghana, the pandemic has brought out a superstitious side, making people more susceptible to fake news.”
As for other projects, his most favoured is a series titled Yesterday’s Shopping. Devised as a means to question what the viewer considered beautiful, the project features male models in “improvised outfits” and a “heap of trash” to symbolise, quite literally, yesterday’s shopping – the pieces which were “once considered by the buyer because of brand preference or stylise packaging, only to be discarded with little afterthought on the effect it has on the environment.” Shot with his neighbour named Governor, he refers back to this project as a beautifully fun challenge – particularly as the model hadn’t ever modelled before nor had he much interest in art.
Creating this fantastical dreamland filled with ubiquitous objects-turned-bizarre, Sackitey’s vision of photography is an etherial one. Not only does he use it to traverse to a more creative land, he also sees it as a vital tool for documentation: “[Photography] allows us to document our thought process and our uniqueness,” he concludes. “I believe the story of every individual is worth telling; I take photos because I want to tell my story in the little way I can and to inspire others to tell theirs.”
GallerySackitey Tesa Mate-Kodjo
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she became online editor in 2022 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.