SOME DIGITAL PERSONAS By Ezequiel Olvera
SOME DIGITAL PERSONAS By Ezequiel Olvera
Published By 16 Lovers Lane
A5, 40 pages, Full color offset printed inners, Full risograph covers, Saddle stitch, Ed. of 100, 2016
"In sub-Saharan African countries mobile phones are the primary devices for data storage and internet access. High-priced PCs, and a comparable home computer culture, have never flourished in the region. Now decent internet is available to anyone with a 3G smartphone.
Through Franck Koura (pg. X), whom I had met while studying in Bereba, Burkina Faso, in 2012, I became mutual virtual friends with other people in the region, and began to notice aesthetic contours and graphic trends within this extended community. The photos in this zine were chosen from around 300 profiles belonging to people from the ages of 18 to 55. The majority of people are from Burkina Faso, with a handful from Mali and Ghana. All of the Facebook profiles in this publication were made in or after 2012, with typically fewer than 500 friends and an average of 50 posts since the creation of their account.
The Facebook profile photos I archived had a resolution of 72dpi or lower. An abundance of applications allowed users to adorn or transform their picture. Applications such as Imikimi, Photo Lab, PhotoGrid, and Frame-it Pro specialize in pre-designed frames and scenes through which the user can insert their photo, in a comparable fashion to knocked-up mobile portrait studios in malls and sticker booths in video-game arcades. These applications frequently allow the user to lay word art, web graphics or accessories over a photo. Hamado Ima (p. x) superimposed a crown, sunglasses, and a ‘tropical’-themed frame adorned with palms on a photo of himself standing in a field. Other applications such as Photo Editor - Fotolr and Visage Lab provide filters and accessories, where through a portrait mode the user can apply wigs and full makeup to their photograph via a drag-and-drop process. Salimata Oubda (Pg. X) applied eyelash extensions and covered her natural hair with a dark digital wig using one of these applications. MagicEraser,KnockOut, Back Eraser and BackRemover are among the applications which allow subjects to cut themselves entirely out of the scene and be placed in front of a background such as a garden, car or house. Tidane Don CFA (pg. X) digitally rendered himself to be sitting in a grassy garden while his name in black text boxes floats in the foreground. Niche apps do a single thing well: Man Suit, for example, is a popular application for superimposing suits on the user’s body (Rene Ouedraogo, pg. X).
Vibrantly colored clothing such as dashikis, boubous, hijabs, Fulani hats, madiba shirts, kangas and dresses made from Kente cloth (Fatoumata Cam, pg. X) are consistent African cultural presences. Apart from a few images showing ritual masks and mask ceremonies, depictions of traditional or historic Burkinabe culture are not prominent. Images of African celebrities in the regional pop genres of Coupé-Decalé, Zouk, Zouglou and Dancehall such as Dj Arafat, Yemi Alade, Maître Gims and Flavour prove consistently popular. Body language, costume and blinged-out excess express unfiltered embrace of western hip-hop aesthetics.
In 2002, only 8% of Ghanaians said they owned a mobile phone, while that figure stands at 83% today. Similar growth in mobile penetration is seen in all African countries where survey data is available. Roughly a third of South Africans (34%) and about a quarter of Nigerians (27%) say that their device is a smartphone such as an iPhone, Blackberry or Android device. Many of the photos in this publication originate from cameras under 2 megapixels, with the lowest-resolution 0.3 megapixel and VGA camera coming from unlocked cell phones costing around $80. While a median of 17% in sub-Saharan African countries do not own a mobile phone, sharing of phones is commonplace—58% percent of Kenyan non-cell phone owners have access to them. Africa is on pace to triple its Internet penetration to 50%, or 600 million users, and increase the number of smartphones sixfold, to about 360 million, by 2025."