Immanuel: God in the Body of a Man

  • Nana Nyarko Boateng
  • 2 weeks ago

In his exhibition entitled Immanuel Kwasi Kyei Mensah, a roving photographer based in Accra, captures the texture and presence of God in the everyday person.

“Look to understand, not to accept or reject and certainly not to judge,” Kwasi Kyei Mensah says about his photo exhibit, Immanuel. In this eponymous photography project, the focal subject is Immanuel, who Mensah describes as his muse and a gift.

Every person around us has a story the world needs to hear, says the photographer. Beyond the Hebrew meaning of the name Immanuel which is “God with us,” the show explores the diversity of masculinity without distraction and vanity. Covering the physical, the spiritual and the emotional, each image at this exhibit is a visual conversation with the viewer. Immanuel looks at the unrestrained freedom of the human body with each detail telling us distinct stories about the male body. In Mensah’s words “these photographs provoke, seduce, intrigue and confuse the viewer as well as make them smile, reflect and most importantly start critical conversations questioning the status quo.”

Taking centre stage is the portrait of Immanuel, the focal subject of the exhibit. A quiet exploration of the idea of God at the centre of our existence. Viewing the centre piece is like looking into the eyes of safety and longing. God with us, but where exactly is He? In us; perhaps that is what the photographer is suggesting.

The presence or absence of God becomes a question that forces the viewer to take a closer look at the images. Much of what is on display is an uncovering of something beyond skin– an evocation of divinity, spirit, and vulnerability. The photographs, from a man pointing to the sea, people walking close to fire and others walking away from it, a “God is watching” inscribed mommy truck, a coconut tree at the seashore to naked male bodies, draw the eye into a world that is serenity, often breath-taking and open-ended.

Mensah is a minimalist. He uses photography to tell stories by cutting through the noise and clutter in today’s complex world to remain simple and focused. He believes in less is more and reveals depth through a minimum amount of visual information. Photographing in black and white is his trademark.

He responds to photography as his true calling, finding worth in the mundane through the medium. “I don’t only photograph people and places with distinct meanings, I photograph the way they make me feel.” The resulting images of this photographer’s feelings is something worth its creation. Mensah humanises the presence of God in the physical, metaphysical and intimate nature of man by showcasing portraits of people who have shared compelling personal stories of impact with him on his journey as a photographer.


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