Photographer Synthia Bahati. Photo / Babiche Martens

How Novel! 5 Books That Made An Impression On Synthia Bahati

The rising photographer shares the invaluable tomes that have given shape to her practice

"We are all different and have different experiences as young Black creatives," said Synthia Bahati, when she spoke to us for the first issue of Viva Magazine. "For me, it means often being the only African person at exhibitions. It means having a lot of older people look down on you for pursuing a fine arts degree and then asking if you can photograph or paint a portrait for them. It means people taking advantage of you where they can. But it also means being free to create and be who I want to be in this world."

The rising photographer has nurtured her talent with a strong belief. "I’ll always remember being told to not worry too much about what others think of my work. To just keep going with what I’m doing. Follow my gut and create. Create with intention."

A book I couldn’t put down
I couldn't put down Portraits by Gunner Stahl when I first received it. I love images and this book boosted my confidence creatively. It reminded me of the importance of documenting people as their authentic selves and the role a photographer takes on when doing so. We are essentially storytellers.

A book that changed my perspective
Black Looks by bell hooks and Frames of War by Judith Butler. These books influenced how I view images and the way they're used in society. For good, for bad, to control or make people think of something or someone in whatever way they wish to portray. As a photographer/creative, I try and think consciously of this now and the ways I can use images or whatever I create with good intent.

A book that influenced my creative practice
The New Black Vanguard by Antwaun Sargent. From the beautiful images by the various Black photographers featured to Antwaun's writing about the importance and influence of Black creatives in the fashion/art world, this book influenced the way I think about fashion and the discourse it can evoke through the way someone is dressed in an image.

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A book I wish I had read sooner
It would have to be You Look Beautiful Like That: The Portrait Photographs of Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibe by Michelle Lamuniere. This book was the first time I found African photographers whose work I heavily resonated with. Their work filled me with a fresh perspective and inspiration and still influences me today.

A book I wish I owned
Pampara by Renell Medrano or Nadine Ijewere: Our Own Selves. I know those are two but they're two of some of my favourite photographers. Both of them are incredible at what they do and to be able to see their work in real life would be a dream. I think that print is so overlooked these days with everything being digital. It's so nice to be able to run your fingers down a page, experience the smell, and get up close and personal with a physical print. It's a different experience.

Explore Synthia Bahati's work at @Synthiabahati.

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