‘BEAUTIFUL is a celebration of diversity in black beauty captured through the lens of Paris-based Cameroon-born photographer Mario Epanya.’ – SHOKO PRESS
From his iconic featured covers for Vogue Africa to his globally recognized Glamzonia photography exhibition, Mario Epanya has over a decade of experience in the fashion and beauty sector.
We spoke to Mario Epanya to learn more about the inspiration for the book and his thought on African representation in the media.
- How did the idea for your book, ‘Beautiful’ come about?
Well I was invited to be part of this Beautiful project by Tapiwa Matsinde, owner of Shoko Press in 2015. She sent me a message saying that she loved my work and engagement as a beauty and fashion photographer, and here we are today
- A lot of your past work focuses on celebrating black beauty. Why is this so important?
Representation is important. Back in my days working as a hair and makeup artist in the high fashion industry I noticed the lack of diversity and decided to focus a little more on promoting diversity in my work. It is very important for everyone to be represented equally.
- Who are the women in the photographs?
The women whose photographs appear in the book are a mix of models and people that I have met through social media, and others are longtime friends of mine.
- How did you choose which women to feature in the book?
Well, they had to be black of course, in keeping with the harmony of the project of representation. Most of the women I asked agreed and thought that is a beautiful tribute to black beauty.
- There are different narratives in the way Africa is portrayed in the media. Do you place any importance on how you represent the continent when you set out to do a project?
Absolutely, this is one of my mottos. It is up to us [Africans] to tell our story; it is up to us to show our culture and more. For centuries, Africa has been portrayed by others and not in the good way… that is why it is important for all Africans to be great PR representatives for Africa in everything they do…
- How did you get into photography?
I got into photography by accident. I quit my job as makeup artist back in 2007, and back then photography was the first option I thought of to let me stay and continue working in the fashion and beauty industry.
- Are there any photographers that have influenced the way you work?
Well, I admire Jean Paul Goude a lot, but I must say photography is first of all a vision; a very personal way to view the world we live in and share it with others, so I will say that I try to tell my own story without having any influence.
- How can our readers learn more about your work and purchase the book?
My website is: www.mario-epanya.format.com, readers can see examples of my work and send messages to say hi. I am also on social media: Instagram: @marioepanya, Twitter: @epanya and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/mario.epanya
BEAUTIFUL: Portraits of Black Beauty is available in separate English and French editions and can be purchased from Shoko Press.