My favorite photographs N°6: Stanley Lumax

Stanley Lumax (born in New Jersey, US where his parents, Ghanaian immigrants, settled) lives in Brooklyn. He has made a name for himself photographing hip hop and basketball culture. In our “favorite photographs series” we ask photographers who make portraits of African subjects to introduce us to their work. They pick their five favorite photographs, describe the subject matter, what brought them to the image and what kind of mood they were trying to capture. Thanks to Stanley for obliging. 

Look your brother in the eye

While studying at Temple University, my photography professor Ed Trayes talked about capturing a photo of window washers. For some reason, I’ve obsessed with capturing this photo ever since that day. I’ve taken others, but never managed to capture an eye to eye image until this day in South Africa. It was symbolic in so many different ways. Looking out of a window and seeing someone that looked like me, in a continent that birthed us. Here I am on one side of the window with all my privilege given to me by a business trip to see the World Cup and volunteer at an HIV-camp. There he is risking his life to earn a honest living in the South African winter as high up as the mountains that serve as his background. As simple as a photo as it was to get, my hesitation was always based on potentially making the subject uncomfortable, as though I was literally looking down on him. My simple head nod confirmed that wasn’t the case. I also couldn’t help but notice the slight cock of his helmet. Again, natural style. Hip hop influence as I saw it.

Beautiful music without a sound

I volunteered in Khayelitsha while in Cape Town for the 2010 World Cup. It was fulfilling in many ways. I went there with assumptions and was not only pleasantly surprised, but inspired by the spirits of the youth. Beyond their joy and ambition, I was moved by their sense of creativity, which manifested itself in their style.

I came across this young girl whose sense of style and confidence caught my eye. She was so comfortable with the camera it was as though she’d been waiting all day for me to show up.

Check out my chucks

My last day in Johannesburg, Nthabiseng, a fashion designer who gave me the opportunity to shoot students at a school in Daveyton, took me to an area called Yeoville. When I told local folks back in Sandton that I went there, they would look at me the same way they would in New York if I told someone I was in Brownsville or The South Bronx. It also set the tone of what to expect when as we drove on to the main street. Nthabiseng said: “Stone, turn off your computer. People here are hungry.” She was warning me that the additional attention I was bringing to the car by downloading photos as we drove was not a good idea in this area. It definitely had that vibe. Immigrants from all over Africa, reggae music, tons of discount stores and people hanging out.

I was attracted to this photo because of the Chuck Taylors this man was wearing. He was trying to keep warm rubbing his hands together over the Imbawula, because contrary to popular opinion, South Africa gets cold. I’ve always made it a habit of giving people I photograph something in return for their allowing me to photograph them. I’ve always had a bit of a naive approach to photographing areas considered dangerous. I never look at myself as an outsider and I’m humble and open to learning when I approach my subjects which I think is easy to see.

Colonialism revisited

After seeing Ghana beat Nigeria and lose to Cameroon in the Cup of African Nations and then two years later seeing their remarkable run at the World Cup, I decided I would take my first trip to England to see the Black Stars play the English national team at Wembley Stadium. Never having been to a football match in England, I had no idea what to expect. Having talked football with some Milwall fans at work, who educated me on how newspapers could be used as weapons, I definitely had some anxiety that this would be an intense game with some heated fan interaction. The game went on without incident. The most intense moment was walking back to the train from the stadium.

Imagine thousands of people leaving a football game at the same time. Amongst those people, some English, some Ghanaian, there were police officers on horses. Barely any room for us to move and now we have to clear the way for horses. Although there was some playful taunting of the officers it was pretty harmless.

Father and daughter start their day

In 2008, I returned back to Ghana, the birthplace of both my parents. The year before was my first time in 25 years, so this trip was a bit more familiar. I had the opportunity to spend the night in Afiadenyigba In the Volta Region. Home of the Ewe people who my father belongs to. My uncle Bright, who is the caretaker of my deceased grandfather’s house, was taking his oldest daughter to school on his motorcycle.

The photo moved me, because I was expecting my first child, a girl as well. I had given him a shirt that a good friend and college roommate Chris Hermitt had created for his line of T-shirts, “I’m So NY”. My uncle definitely had a sense of style, with his vintage by function not fashion motorcycle, his helmet, shades and sandals. His daughter wearing her school uniform and Mickey Mouse socks.

For more work by Stanley, visit his website: Stoneface Photography.


5 thoughts on “My favorite photographs N°6: Stanley Lumax

  1. Great shots and meaningful stories to every pic, particularly liked the pic of Uncle Bright on his bike with his daughter beside him!!!

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