Prince Gyasi sees days of the week in color. Monday is brown, Tuesday orange. Letters and words, too. “My senses are mixed. It’s supposed to be bad but I’ve made it work,” says the Ghanaian artist.
A touch of synesthesia goes a long way in visual communication. Gyasi, 28, draws on the emotions he associates with those colors to embed meaning into his photographs, which have become globally recognizable. From high-fashion campaigns for Balmain and Off-white to the platform Artsy, where he racked up more collectors than David Hockney in 2021, his images—vibrant, utopian, distinctly African—occupy the space between painting and photography. “I knew society did not respect photographs as much as paintings and I wanted to change the game by creating a bridge between the two,” he says.
Next year, he’ll be the first Black artist to shoot the Pirelli Calendar, a symbol of contemporary culture photographed by the likes of Annie Leibovitz. Gyasi will platform all Black talent such as Idris Elba and Naomi Campbell. “I spent three months on the concept,” he recalls. “I would sit in my hotel room, just sketching and ripping pages off trying to find the perfect message for each individual.”
Growing up, Gyasi “developed this idea of do-it-yourself behavior,” he says, starting his photography career with an iPhone.“I like to remind people art is not about the tool in your hands, but a clear message from within.” But it’s never been style over substance. His 2017 photo series and related non-profit “Boxed Kids” addresses the struggles of kids in Jamestown, a fishing district where his mother grew up. “I could have been one of those children on the street corner, so I would like to stop that cycle,” he says. He wants to engage them in a community hub they will want to come back to. “It’s about taking these kids out of a box that they can’t get out of, and repackaging that box as a gift to the world.”