Growing up in Windhoek, Namibia, Kyle Weeks would have his father relay the news headlines to his son. His father would watch the news every morning before work, and again at lunchtime. Although, the headlines were a constant cycle of gloomy outlooks on Africa; “There was never really any good news,” Weeks remembers. Now, as a photographer, he’s questioning that narrative by focusing his lens on the creativity of the continent’s youth.
Few years down the line, it would seem that this view is resonating. In 2016, Kyle Weeks was honored at the Magnum Photography Awards for his 2015 series “Palm Wine Collectors.” The series captures Makalani palm harvesters from the Kunene region of Namibia tapping palm trees to make a nourishing moonshine. Meanwhile, that same year, he had a solo show at the National Art Gallery of Namibia. Since then, Weeks has exhibited everywhere. From Red Hook Labs in Brooklyn to London’s 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, While landing commissions from the likes of Vogue Italia and the New York Times.
Over the past four years, Kyle Weeks has been regularly traveling to Accra, Ghana, for an ongoing body of work. What started as a loose investigation into Ghanaian manhood has evolved into a project that highlights the endless creativity of the city’s young people. On one of his early trips, he organized a small fashion shoot with local models. One bag, worn by a model, with “Good News” printed on the side, became the series’ title. It sounded like a suitable reply to those negative headlines he grew up with.
“There’s a very rigid idea of what masculinity should or shouldn’t look like,” he says. At first, Kyle Weeks was struck by the display of superior masculinity in Accra: muscles and motorbikes. While spending more time in the city, he’s met many creatives who are upsetting preconceived notions of manhood.”I bump into a person and he exudes this beautiful energy,” Weeks speaks of his subjects. Meanwhile, these subjects, include rappers and performance artists – “When photographing characters like that in a space like that, it’s almost like the space transforms.”
“It’s a lot easier for me to approach men as a stranger than it is for me to approach women,” he reflects. “So naturally throughout all my personal work, there’s always a focus on the representation of African men.” Kyle Weeks continues; “My fashion editorials play into similar themes.” “I’m mostly photographing menswear stories and making sure that I use a diverse cast to counter the whitewashing that’s so prolific in today’s fashion industry.” However, Last year, Weeks made some exceptions. Himself and London-based, Sierra Leone-born fashion editor Ibrahim Kamara went to Accra to shoot a story for M Le Magazine du Monde titled “Femmes Alpha” – A depiction of powerful women. “It seems to be such a male-dominated society, meanwhile, when you’re in the home, it’s actually so often the mother who runs the household and calls the shots,” he says.
Kyle Weeks, who is currently based in Amsterdam, often comes from a different background to his subjects. Most time he’s met with skepticism when he intends to photograph a subject. However, there’s a common ground that they share, that he hopes is visible to a wider audience. “I want to use the medium of photography to shed light on the rising youth culture within Africa, and it’s through engagement with my peers that I’m able to tell that story,” he says.
Weeks hopes to develop his intimate art on the continent, and to publish “Good News” as a book.”My intention is to make beautiful, positive pictures of people from within Africa and to just let that guide me along wherever I travel to make the work that I do.”