I still vividly recall one late night in 2019, Danny and I talking about the potential of Africa and the abundance of opportunities available to those of us in the diaspora who dare to dream, be bold and make the move back “home”. It has been a year since that inspiring conversation, and in that time, Mr. Wonders has pushed past his initial fear of returning to his ancestral home of Ghana; and, in typical fashion, has made an impact as an emerging cultural ambassador (without portfolio) of Ghana, and the wider African continent.
He’s not only found his calling but, in doing so, has showcased the motherland as not only an amazing place to visit but one to live your best life and thrive.
Danny Wonders in his own words:
How long have you been capturing portraits, and at what point did you consider yourself a professional photographer?
I have been capturing portraits for two and a half years now.
I was the kind of friend that broke their blackberry and upgraded to a Samsung S4 rather than an iPhone. At the time, I had the best camera in my crew; so my friends would ask me to take their photos and later send it to them via WhatsApp. During all of this, I never once thought I'd ever need to, or even want to do photography.
Fast forward a couple of years later, in 2017, I found myself in a situation where my camera equipment was confiscated by the police during a video shoot that unfortunately occurred at the wrong time and place. I continuously pursued the police for my equipment, as they had taken it unfairly, and I felt a deep attachment to my camera.
I literally said to God, “if I get my camera back, I promise to use the camera to its full capability.”
Thankfully, by the end of the following year, in 2018, I received an email stating that I can get my camera back! The camera felt so heavy in my hands; I felt the weight was an expression of the potential I had to bring out of it.
I took a photo of my sister, contemporary artist Sarah Owusu, and she posted it on Instagram and received her first 1000 likes! Ever since then, I decided that I'm going to take this craft seriously.
Tell us a bit about your background. Where were you born and raised, and what was your upbringing like?
I was born in Homerton hospital and raised in London in a three-bedroom apartment with five people; my four younger siblings and two parents. I wouldn’t say we were raised in poverty. The hood (Hackney) is like a community in which we are all struggling, so at the time, I just felt like we grew up normally. The most important thing was that we were able to build a strong family unit, especially amongst my siblings. I think that strong foundation and bond with my siblings helped a lot in shaping the man that I am today. It doesn’t sound believable today, but back then, I was the type to be out every day, with a crew of up to 30 guys, just looking for trouble or doing nothing with my time at all.
Despite that, I still always saw myself as bigger and better than my circumstances and surroundings. I knew one day I’d live a better life. Eventually, my parents managed to move us from Hackney a bit further out to the Waltham forest area - I was now away from my neighborhood and could focus more.
Even though I’m a “uni dropout”, I needed that one year of university to teach me independence, and that’s where I officially learned to think for myself.
Where do you currently live and work now?
I work remotely. Anywhere in the world I can make wonders happen. I am currently living in Accra, Ghana, in West Africa. It’s a whole new experience, especially as I was the type of person who always vowed that I’d never live there or anywhere in Africa. In late 2018 I got a calling in my heart to travel to Ghana to reconnect with my roots. When they used to say, “if you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you’re going”, I always thought that meant coming from “The Hood”. Once the true meaning hit me, I made it my mission to face my fears and retreat back to the motherland.
Your work today pays homage to the African experience and people and dispelling the negative narrative associated with the continent. What was the inspiration behind this?
Funny enough, when I started photography, I was shooting any and everything. Whether that be the train station or a random man playing the trumpet on the streets. Before my trip to the motherland, I spoke to my friend Raph Dapaah, and he asked me if I had heard of a photographer called “James Barnor”. I hadn’t heard of him, but Raph assured me my work was going in that direction, so I should check him out. He sent me his book, “James Barnor, Ever Young” and it helped me align my purpose in what I was going to Ghana to do as nobody in my generation was doing so. I was also working on my documentary at the time, and real-time documentation was my thing, so I decided to focus on it full time.
Name three visual artists, painters and photographers included, who inspire you, and why?
I’m the type of creative that isn’t really inspired by other creatives; I’m inspired by thinkers, innovators, anyone who went against the grain whether it be Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Marcus Garvey, Kwame Nkrumah all the way to Dame Dash, Master P and even my personal friends. Anyone who said they were going to do something and they did it. Inspiration is all around us as long as we look for it.
As the global visual art world has been impacted by Covid-19, how has the lockdown impacted your work?
When the lockdown first hit, I didn’t know if it was serious. I continued creating as if there wasn’t a lockdown until I couldn’t go outside to shoot anymore, and people were afraid of Covid. I went back to my YouTube channel and made myself more productive by creating content. I realized that where we are going in this world, content is the real currency. The more I’m able to create visually and photo-wise, the more people can consume whilst they’re at home. I would say COVID-19 taught me to never wait for disaster to make moves, but prepare and work during the process as if a disaster is coming. At the end of all of this, the only thing that’s immune from danger is the work we leave behind. I’ve been motivated to work harder and to not procrastinate.
What is next for you as a visual artist, and what can we expect in the future?
My legacy is building; I believe I’m solidified now in my field. It’s not the magazine features, TV interviews or celebrity co-signs that will do this, but the execution and the heart I put into the outcome of my processes.
I’m also at the point in my life where I'm ready to build up the Wondervision team on a global level. I understand I can’t do this all on my own, especially if I want to build a solid empire. I am focused on being the best and doing the best. I will go down as one of the most legendary creatives to ever do it in this generation, all whilst having fun along the way. I will also become an example that being creative isn’t just fun; it’s also about owning your business and keeping your integrity. The game does its best to tear you down to become a monster, but you have to avoid all the traps. I’m on my way to impacting the masses, and I can't slow down now. Wonders shall never end.
You can check out Danny Wonders portfolio at www.dannywonders.com
By: Raphael K. Dapaah, Art Contributor