Interviews

Interview with Gill Bonney

Be patient, focus and shoot

My second blog interview for the year, and it is with an amazing gentleman who is passion driven and steadily making great strides in his chosen profession.

Patrick Kofi Nkwanta Bonney is my guest. Gillbonney is a friend and I’ve known him for the past fourteen (14) years. He is a fun person, calm, and the reserved type. He is a young research scientist and at the same time a photographer.

He has been doing photography for the past ten years and he says: doing photography alongside his work as a Research Scientist has been a learning experience for him.

I had this lengthy, but fun and exciting chat with him sometime last month on Mother’s Day. In it, we talked about his life, insights and journey as a photographer over the past decade.

Senyo Inspires: Hello Bonney. How has been your day?

Gillbonney: I have been home, sitting behind my PC all day working on a document I have to submit.

Senyo Inspires: You’ve been busy I can tell, but let’s get started. Let’s get you introduced to everyone. For those who don’t know you very well. Who would you say is Patrick Kofi Bonney?

Gillbonney: I’m a free-spirited person and an introvert. I have always seen Science and Art as a calling. Because, I have love for both fields (Science and Arts). I studied Science related courses right from Senior high school to the post graduate level. I later added the Art aspect to it, thus photography. So basically, I’m a creative person practicing both Science and Photography.

Senyo Inspires: That’s an interesting bio. So, you do both Science and Photography? Interesting combo too.

Gillbonney: Yes.

Senyo Inspires: So, as a scientist, what do you do? We want to know a little bit about that aspect of your life.

Gillbonney: Yes, I’m a young Research Scientist; my specialty, is in the area of Crop Sciences (Genetics and plant breeding). I’m currently working as a Research Assistant on an African Union-European Union funded project along with other donor funded research projects. I and my team members are evaluating for high yielding mutant cowpea genotypes. In one of these projects we are evaluating for the adaptability of Soybeans accessions we got from USDA (Unites States Department for Agriculture) in Ghana. There are several other projects ongoing, but the fundamental objective of these projects is to select or breed for high yielding, environmental stress tolerant/resistant varieties for consumer and farmer preference.

Senyo Inspires: I’m guessing that’s a lot and fun for you at the same time. Now to the main thing, photography! Of all the amazing things you could have fallen in love with, why photography? And how did it all start?

Gillbonney: As I mentioned earlier, I have been a fun of art. Art has been an escape route for me whenever I feel pressured, stressed or depressed. Art has been a therapy for me. I started art at a young age. I used to sketch anything that interests me. I did a lot of pencil drawings in my journal. I made drawings of people by the streets at Makola whenever I visited my mum’s shop at Accra Central. Also, way back in Junior High School, friends would give me their books to draw for them. I also remember scheduling appointments to do take home the assignments of my friends who felt lazy to do their Technical Drawing assignments. I wanted to do Science or Visual Arts at the senior high level, but I took a gamble with my decision, I told myself I can do Science and later add the arts, but I can’t do arts now and add the Science later.

Fast forward, I came across images from Steve Adusei on Facebook and I was inspired to read more about professional photography. Before that, I used to take pictures of people using my cousin’s smart phone or his digital point and shoot camera.

Later, I met Stanley Osei of (StanO photography), he was a Senior colleague from Senior High School. StanO, was a Teaching Assistant at the same time doing photography as well. So, we clicked along and had several conversations about photography. He gave me the chance to assist him on some of his 'gigs'. After undergraduate studies, I helped a friend, he was also an old student from my senior high school, Frank Okata Odei. He (Frank) owned a camera and had also started a Christian fellowship/ministry. He gave me his camera often to cover his programs as well as my 'gigs' that was somewhere in 2014/2015. I did lots and lots of self-learning and also assisting people even when I didn’t own a personal camera then. Later I met Griffith of Sirgriff photography, we worked and still work on several collaborative shoots/projects. That's how I developed my skills.

Senyo Inspires: wow Gills! Congrats for coming this far. This is inspiring. You really are someone who is eager to learn and succeed. I love these virtues I see in you.

Gillbonney: Thank you. It’s by God's grace. If not for God, I wouldn't have made it this far.

Senyo Inspires: So, has it been worth it all: your time, energy and resources, plus all the other investments you've made into it? Are you glad you chose photography?

Gillbonney: The hard work is still paying off. Photography has taken me many places: it has given me the opportunity to meet with different people from all walks of life; from the very rich, most influential persons, the poor, the beautiful, just name it all. Photography has trained me to be very keen when it comes to details.

Yes, I'm happy I chose photography because now, I can’t sketch or paint as I did when I was in primary school, but digital photography is also another medium I can use to tell the same stories I did when I was younger.

Currently, I'm exploring photography in science. I take images of plants, insects etc... I have my own stock images I use for scientific write-ups or publications.

Senyo Inspires: I know we have different kind of photographers. Which one specifically are you?

Gillbonney: There are so many genres in photography. I wish to explore all the genres but for now I do events, portrait shoots, urban/street/cityscape/long exposure photography.

Senyo Inspires: I have seen this project of yours on Instagram. It’s called Light up Accra. What’s that about and what’s the inspiration behind it?

Gillbonney: Well, I want to tell the story of Accra in my own way. I'm using a lot of genres in photography to document what I see in Accra. I'm combining urban, taillight/long exposures, architecture and cityscape to tell my story of Accra. I got this inspiration from some few Japanese based photographers: Kohki Yamagushi (@kokhi) and Ryosuke Kosuge (@rkrkrk) when I decided to take photos of the busiest cities in Tokyo, Japan. I saw their photos as I searched for their cityscape photographers in Japan.

Senyo Inspires: That’s very nice and innovative. Anytime I see those photos, I’m stunned, and I ask myself, is this really Accra?

Gillbonney: Ha-ha! Yes, Accra is a beautiful city.

Senyo Inspires: you mentioned earlier on that during your post graduate studies, you were doing photography at the same time and still schooling? How did you combine the two?

Gillbonney: It was a tough and rough moment then. I managed my time very well and disciplined myself to study when I have to. I mostly did weekends and late evening 'gigs'.

Senyo Inspires: So, when did you officially turn professional, and do you remember your first “gig”. How did that spur you on?

Gillbonney: Professional? I understand a lot about photography than I did, and I employ all the tips I have learnt from other professionals into my kind of photography. I don’t want to call myself a Professional because I don't do photography as a full-time career job. I prefer to be called a hobbyist.

Senyo Inspires: Ok. That’s interesting.

Gillbonney: My first gig? I don’t remember but taking free photos for family members and for close friends gave me the confidence to shoot big programs.

Senyo Inspires: Talking about your family, how was your parents’ reaction when you started doing this?

Gillbonney: I don’t remember them complaining about it. I guess they understood me somehow.

Senyo Inspires: So, they were supportive?

Gillbonney: Yes, they were because I was studying alongside it.

Senyo Inspires: Nice of them. So, what makes a good and quality picture standout and what kind of preparation goes into it?

Gillbonney: You get good images from good lighting (either from natural or artificial light source). The quality of the image depends on the type of gear you are using for that shoot. To prepare for a shoot, you need to know what you want to shoot. Know where you want to have the shoot. What time you want to shoot (especially if it is an outdoor shoot or late-night shoot), and more especially who or what you want to shoot.

Senyo Inspires: Ok. So, as a photographer, what do you offer to your clients or what makes your work standout from the rest?

Gillbonney: The most important thing I offer clients is a satisfying work and a good relationship.

Senyo Inspires: Who do you look up to in the arena of Photography? And why them?

Gillbonney: I have a long list of photographers, because at every stage of learning you want to be like some of the top photographers in Ghana and outside of Ghana. Each photographer is unique. They all have their own style of telling stories. I admire the works of Steve Adusei, Steve Ababio, StanO, Emmanuel Bobbie, Apag, Ghog, Seantucker, Khoki and the list goes on and on.

Senyo Inspires: How has photography evolve over the years and what more can we expect from the photography industry with the rapid increase and advancement in technology?

Gillbonney: Yes, it has evolved really fast. Moving from film cameras to DSLR cameras to mirror less cameras in less than 2 decades tell you the industry is catching up with advancement in technology. In Ghana we now have more professional photographers than previous years.

Senyo Inspires: It’s a good thing. Right?

Gillbonney: Oh yes! It is good. These modern cameras and lenses are helping photographers to produce high quality definition images easily than they could have down with film cameras.

Senyo Inspires: Can you please tell us a full filing experience in your journey as a photographer?

Gillbonney: Hmm, I can’t recall because I see every job as an interesting and fulfilling one. But I feel fulfilled whenever my clients are happy with their images.

Senyo Inspires: Worst experience?

Gillbonney: The worse experiences have been moments when some clients don't want to pay you after delivering on the job or when they aren’t satisfied with the work you do for them. Maybe also, being sacked from a shooting location. Sometimes it is really embarrassing.

Senyo Inspires: So, which is which? Has photography helped you become a better Scientist or rather the vice versa and how so?

Gillbonney: It has helped me a lot.

Senyo Inspires: Are you fulfilled in life?

Gillbonney: I can’t say I am for now, but I hope to get that fulfillment when I’m old and look back at my accomplishments.

Senyo Inspires: If we were to take your best 100 pictures over the past decade and print it out into a book or display in a gallery, what would be the title or theme?

Gillbonney: I haven’t thought about the right theme or title to describe my journey.

Senyo Inspires: Ok. You say photography has been a learning experience for you? What is the greatest lesson photography has thought you over the years?

Gillbonney: Being patient, focus, and shoot; it has taught me to learn to pay attention of what is around me.

Senyo Inspires: Great lessons. What should we expect from you in the coming future: a memoir, collection of your best pics in a book, or may be a movie or any new project in the offing?

Gillbonney: I look forward to print some of my images into an album. Establish a gallery or studio.

Senyo Inspires: That will be super awesome. We look forward to that. Advice for young photographers who aspire to be on these same journey as you?

Gillbonney: Keep working hard and be you.

Senyo Inspires: What one skill would you advise them to focus on or develop?

Gillbonney: Training their eyes to see the best things around their surroundings.

Senyo Inspires: Hmmm, Charley! I have so much to ask and more I would want to know, but it seems it’s getting very late. Maybe we may have to do a part two?

Gillbonney: Sure, that will be cool.

Senyo Inspires: Thanks Bonney for making time for us to do this, especially when you had lots of assignments to complete. I really admire you; the passion, your enthusiasm, calmness and the commitment you attach to your work. Your eagerness to learn continuously and succeed is worth emulating. I pray you continue to make greater strides and get to the very top.

And it has been absolutely fun doing this with you, I enjoyed it so much and I have also learnt a lot. We will definitely do a part 2. Thank you once again, and all the best in the coming years.

Gillbonney: It’s Ok already. Thanks a lot, Amegah. Let's do it again. It was fun.

Senyo Inspires: You welcome.

You can follow Gillbonney on all his social media platforms to see and appreciate more of his works and also get in touch, if you have any upcoming event or photoshoot in mind.

Instagram pages:

Photography page: @bonneys

Personal account: @bonneys52

Project account: @Lightupaccra

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