Paul Armand Menye: "One Perfect Shot Changed my Perception of Photography."

 That day, I discovered I could capture more than just moments…I could capture life and beauty in a different way. This talented Cameroonian photographer tells us more about his story.

Tell us about your beginnings, how did it all start?
The beginning was very small. I had no idea of what exactly I wanted. I was just taking every opportunity to shoot until I shot a friend of mine in Bobo Dioulasso, in Burkina Faso. She felt like crying when she saw the pictures. It was her, the way she thought she could never dream of herself. She was seeing a completely different person in the picture, what she was longing and feeling she will never reach. That day, I discovered that I could capture more than just moments, I could capture life and beauty in a different way. My way of working attracted people from the Fashion world and this is how, I started to shoot models. In 2012, I had the privilege to be the main photographer for the Ouaga Fashion Week. The pictures were published in all the main African fashion magazines and from there, my work went all over the region.

cevine by paul armand m

#LookmeIntheEyes © Paul Armand 

Photography: passion, business or maybe both?
Photography is mainly a passion for me. Who knows, a passion can become a business.

Does it pay the bills?
No. That is not the objective for now.

When you are shooting, does skin color/tone have an influence on the photography style, the postures you decide to go by when working with a model (consciously or unconsciously)?
This question could have several answers depending on the various steps or stages I have known in my photography life. Answering from the perspective of today, my first concern is to create something, a concept, an environment and then, make things fit inside (colors, skins, etc.). Of course, they can request I do some adjustments, but I think it is more interesting to have photography as a creative process. My next shooting should reflect this idea much more.

craig by paul armand m

#DontYouDare © Paul Armand 

Is there any message you try to pass through with your images?
Showing Africa in a different way is at the Centre of my work, especially when working in Africa or with Africans. I have that feeling that we are not doing enough in terms of image to showcase what is rich inside our people. So even if I mainly work with models, I am always trying to get the shining aspect of the life or of our culture that they can show.

Can you say there is a “Paul Armand” style? If yes, can you describe it?
I think I am still building a style. I have had several directions so far and I have a clearer idea of where I want to go to. But the reality is that there is still some work to do before stating any Paul Armand’s style.

African models vs Europeans, who do you prefer working with? Why?
I won’t make this choice. I work with people who want to work and go far. I have seen them both in Europe and Africa and even in other places of the world.

donia by paul armand m

#IjustDeyObserve © Paul Armand

What do you find as the most difficult in your work?
To get the preparation and the assistance needed for an extraordinary picture is the greatest challenge I have faced in my shootings. I think this is something I have to work on.

The perfect shoot, what does it look like?
The perfect shoot for me is the shoot well prepared. A clear concept, an easy-going model, a good location, a good assistance and the right material. This is just magic!!!

What inspires you?
Liberty, freedom, life, beauty, infinity…

Tell us about one of the funniest experience you had while shooting?
When you work on Fashion photography, especially in Africa, you can face serious misunderstanding. I remember something that happened in one country from West Africa. Some angry policemen came after me and the team because we were shooting models in bikinis and their interpretation was that we were doing something out of orthodoxy. They finally realized that the pictures were professional pictures, the models were professional models working with an agency and that there was absolutely nothing beyond our shooting. Before things all calmed down, so many comments were made by people who were alerted…it was not very funny even if I can laugh when I think of it today.

sylla by paul armand m

#WetHot © Paul Armand 

Tell us about your portfolio, people or companies you have worked with, any award?
My portfolio is made up of shooting with people from all over the world. I was even privileged to discover models in Iran or Afghanistan very professional and very passionate. I have had the privilege to shoot some Fashion weeks and some popular stars in Europe and Africa. I received the prize of the best photographer of West Africa in 2014 in Burkina Faso during the 2014 SIMO (never had the copy of the document because I absent due to professional reasons). But it is true that I have had the opportunity to work all over that region and to train very talented photographers there.

What is your opinion about African photography today?
Photography in Africa is emerging and there are more and more talented people. I have interacted with very high-level people in Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Madagascar, Gabon, Cameroon, Togo and many more. When I see what they are doing, I am very optimistic. The future of imaging Africa is in good hands and I think this is something that will deeply impact the way Africans see themselves and the continent. This will definitely impact the way we show Africa to the world.

 Paul Armand is on Facebook and Instagram, you can also check his website.

 

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