His colourful creations have intrigued critics and audiences alike, and Paul Sika has been described by the New York Times as a multi-media prodigy. But the Ivorian photographer, prefers to call his work the art of “Photomaking” because his photographs are a combination of digital photography and the art of filmmaking (for they are created the same way a motion picture is made with attention paid to in-depth storytelling). Sika came to the UK to study software engineering but what started as a cathartic moment in London after he saw the trailer for the movie, The Matrix Reloaded 2, would change his life’s path. A self-taught cineaste and photographer, Sika’s passion for “photomaking” stems from his passion for storytelling, with monochrome, illustration and photomaking forming the multi-facet strands of his photography. He tells Omenka why his work is “A work of love rather than a work of reason.”

What inspires your art and the images you create?
My photography has quickly evolved from doing a lot of monochrome in the beginning to an enormous amount of photo illustration to finally settle in a personal style, which is known as “Photomaking.” “Photomaking” can be reminiscent of cinema, painting and even drawing at times, and puts a strong emphasis on storytelling and staged actions. What truly inspires me is known as Paisley – “Paisley is that which is the most beautiful in the world. Paisley is when you have the right amount of all things.” This is evident in my work Lillian’s Appeal. In this collection of photos and stories, there is a twofold description of Paisley shared over generations. This is what inspires me and my work. I don’t know if it sounds cliché but my imagination also inspires me. It is basically bending and distorting reality, this is what I think attracts me most to it. The fact that I can see it and put it on a screen. You know, being able to distort reality and turn it into something that is beautiful. I think this is something that inspires me the most.

Asita, from At The Heart of Me series

Asita, from At The Heart of Me series

Why do you call the work that you create “Photomaking?”
Explain the process to us and what photomaking is all about and why you believe this is the best medium for you to tell the stories that you want. Photomaking is a word I coined from photography and filmmaking, reflecting my appropriation of the techniques of movie making and applying them to the medium of photography. This includes the three major stages of preproduction, production and postproduction, which encapsulate steps such as story imagination, writing, sequencing, casting, rehearsing, the principal day of photography, image manipulation and digital painting. Photomaking is very effective in the sense that it allows me to produce and tell a story in much less time and investment. It also lends itself to an aesthetic expression that can only be rendered as a static image, in the same manner that only a book can capture descriptions and emotions. My vision and oeuvre is in reality, a multimedia experience. This explains the reason I have released the book, At the Heart of Me. In the long run, well I see video games and films adaptations of my stories, which will also capture the intricacies of the different media. My passions are both in art and technology, therefore, do not be surprised when something which is out of this world comes out.

Colour plays a big role in your “photomaking” creations, especially the unusual way in which you make use of it. Tell us about your fascination with the various colour components, which are very vivid, that go into your creations, and how you go about the process of these different blends of bright colours to create the  final work that we see?
The Truth is, my work is a work of love, rather than a work of reason; my colouring happens to be what speaks to my heart. Thus, I follow what my heart likes.

From the point of conception to actualization, what role does imagination, your environment and the vision of what you want to create, shape the process of the work you come up with?
Environment in the sense of perceived information is the springboard upon which imagination will jump to reach, to follow vision. Once this loop is entered, the three elements feed each other.

Studio photography was for a long time a big part of photography in Africa but you have moved away from that and are now part of a new generation who focus on the external world around them rather than create it in a closed environment. What excites you about the new generation of photographers on the continent and are there particular photographers, whose work you admire, follow and why?
What excites me about the new generation of photographers is the amount of discovery we do. We have very different perspectives, which all together work to show Africa in its legendary vibrant aspect. The frames that will fill the minds from now on will leave beautiful souvenirs; and beautiful souvenirs will bring beautiful relationships and beautiful relationships will foster a more united humanity. In the end, this generation of photographers are contributing to a better world.

That said, which word appeals to you more to describe your work, “photomaker” or photographer and what are the boundaries you want to push when it comes to the creation of images using photography?
Photomaker is an aspect of me and photographer is an aspect of Photomaker. The more work I produce and the more evident it becomes–I’m simply creative. I believe the time will come, the best way to describe me is to simply say “This is Paul Sika”. The boundaries I wish to push are those of beauty. Beauty here goes beyond just visuals, it is about harmony that materializes in many ways and demonstrates the essential pattern and fabric of life.

Dandelia from Lilian's Appeal by Paul Sika

Dandelia from Lilian’s Appeal

Can you tell us about the technical process involved in creating your images, including the technical aspects, and ways in which you have evolved and enhanced this process since you first started?
I’m becoming colour blind. This has become very evident while working on Lilian’s Appeal. There is a series of photos entitled “Puneu Puneu” in which the colour scheme is different from the other series. While I was working on the photos, I could see how different they were becoming from the others but there was such a subtle yet strong voice in me telling me to continue. By heeding it, I grew in appreciation and started to see beyond just what my eyes could see in front of me. This is what I mean by becoming colour blind and being able to visualize the bigger picture of an image and the impact it can have on the eyes and mind viewing it.

How would you describe the current contemporary art scene in Ivory Coast, in particular the reception of photographic artistic work, and in what ways does this influence your work?
While photography is getting more and more to the expected art forms, the scene is still embryonic. However, with the right efforts, I am certain we can have in this generation the type of growth Ivorian soccer has known with the generation of Didier Drogba and Kolo Touré. My country, my environment provides me with a visual language, which is unique because of its unique realities. In a way it is as if I had come into contact with a new alphabet, opened a new dictionary – and what a beautiful book!

Full interview published in Omenka volume 1 issue 3.

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