Our ninetieth interview in this series of intimate interviews is with talented photographer and artist Amado Ergana from Ethiopia, Africa. You may know Ergana’s imagery from his popular Instagram account @ergana.amado. Ergana’s photography epitomises the craft of light and shadow, of course the former defining the meaning of photography. The Ethiopian light itself plays a key role in his work, as Amado deftly tames the light and shadow around his subjects moving beyond the ordinary and into the realm of dramatic street portraiture. Inclusive of his imagery, he draws us in with his revealing text, this is an interview that profoundly peels and exposes the senses. Enjoy!
To read the other published interviews in this series including artists, Adria Ellis, Rino Rossi, Mehmet Duyulmus, Alexis Rotella, Lou Ann Sanford Donahue, Irene Oleksiuk, Kerry Mitchell, Filiz Ak, Dale Botha, M. Cecilia Sao Thiago, Deborah McMillion, Rita Colantonio, Amy Ecenbarger, Jane Schultz, Anca Balaj, Joyce Harkin, Armineh Hovanesian, Kate Zari Roberts, Vicki Cooper, Peter Wilkin, Barbara Braman, Becky Menzies, Sukru Mehmet Omur, Sarah Bichachi, Michel Pretterklieber, Alon Goldsmith, Judy Lurie Wahlberg, Andrea Bigiarini, Sean Hayes, Oola Cristina, Kathleen Magner-Rios Linda Toki, Deb Field, Emilo Nadales, Lydia Cassatt, David Hayes, Jean Hutter, Frederic Deschênes, Mark Schnidman, Fatma Korkut, Fleur Schim, Rob Pearson-Wright, Dieter Gaebel, James Ellis, Marco P Prado, Jeronimo Sanz, Manuela Matos Monteiro, Bleu Chemiko, Manuela Basaldella, Stefania Piccioni, Luis Rodríguez, Marilisa Andriani (@mitrydate) Mayte Balcells (@artofmayte), Nicole Christophe, Jennifer Graham, Cathrine Halsør Paul Toussaint, Carol Wiebe, Julie Denning, Kim Clayton (@berleyart), Karen Messick, Serap Utaş, MaryJane Rosenfeld, Paul Suciu, Susan Latty (@pause.and.breathe),John Nieto, Phyllis Shenny, Joy Barry, Max Lies Derdonk, Rita Tipunina, Violet Martins, Nizzar Ben Chekroune, Lynette Sheppard, Paul-Andre Hamel, Rejane Rubino, Susan Detroy, Rosalie Heller, Wayman Stairs, Cintia Malhotra, Anita Elle, Juta Jazz, Cheryl Tarrant, Hanni König Kaoru Shintaku David Gilbert Jana Curcio, Mary Lorincz and myself, go here.
All images ©Amado Ergana
What was your earliest childhood ambition?
I was starting kindergarten when the fight between Ethiopia and Eritrea broke. The war was very much propagandised, almost everything I remember at that stage of my life was about the war. Music, news, conversation among elders and even our game play was about it. We used to make guns out of false banana trees and fought among each other, which is followed by war songs. And my aspiration was nothing more than my favorite game, to be a solider.
I was not a fast learner when I was a kid but I always managed to get the passing score and at some point, teachers have suggested I should repeat certain classes but my parents let me proceed. And before third grade my uncle tutored me for the whole summer and gave me some advises. I stood first that year and won a book. It was a trilling experience.
I wasn’t given any job as I was the youngest of the family until I had a little brother, then I joined my siblings on being my brother’s and house keeper after school until mom returns from night classes. The job was simple to keep the house the same, clean and quite for two hours. We almost failed every time.
Private or State school?
My father is strict when it comes to education but at the same time, he wanted us close to home. Therefore, whatever private school that is within a kilometer radius is where the whole family go. I guess that is why we have attended only two schools until high school graduation.
University or Work?
University. Landing a job is much harder than pursuing collage in Ethiopia and I think that is why it is not customary in my community to go to full time work especially if you have passed the national university entrance examination. Universities are almost free and the country has huge unemployment rate.
Who was or still is your mentor?
I don’t have mentor per se but I always had people who inspired me. I have two milestones in my journey of discovering art. The first was before high school graduation. a good friend of mine showed me how to cut out pictures on Adobe Photo shop, which had become my way into the world of design. And second during my senior year at college, I interned at an advertising agency as a graphic designer where I met a fellow photographer who introduced me to street photography.
How physically fit are you?
I have always worked out since high school. I even had some weights to workout with at my home but as schedules get tighter, gym has become a leisure. However, I do still workout now and then. I sustain on long walks I have each day.
Ambition or Talent. What matters more to success?
I believe everything is learnable. Talent just reduces the learning curve. But you don’t learn if you don’t have the drive. the desire to know or the determination for your goal. So definitely Ambition goes a long way when it comes to success.
How politically committed are you?
Ethiopia has ethnic based politics so by default you are forced to choose a side, especially since the past four years. Ethiopia had number of up rises that over threw governments in history. we virtually had one last year. The turmoil among the ethnic extremists and the nationalists kept the country unstable. I try to advocate the later in my social circle.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
Currently I do street photography using my phone but lately I’ve a growing interest for travel photography. There are scenes I would like to recreate that are stuck in my mind since forever. So I would like to own professional cameras and maybe a drone to assist me with the production.
What is your biggest extravagance?
It has not reached “extravagance” level yet but I think printing of my art works is a front-runner.
In which places are you happiest?
It is not a place but rather a setting. As the day is getting over and the sun rushes into the horizon, walking down slowly across the busy streets feeling fulfilled about my day ………… huhhhhhhhhhhhhh, that’s the life.
What ambitions do you still have?
Graphic design. I always had a thing for visual art and didn’t pursue it as I should have. I have a great ambition for vector and 3D illustrations. I do try some from time to time but not enough. I’ve collected some resources on the subjects and hopefully will start working on them very soon.
What drives you on?
Photography has never been a way of searching an answer, well at least not until now, but rather a filter for my questions. It is my way of taping into the unconscious mind. May be that is where my drive for art comes from, life questions.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
I don’t think I have achieved my greatest yet but graduating college on 2017 comes close second.
What do you find most irritating in other people?
I don’t feel comfortable around people who are cocky.
If your twenty year old self could see you now what would he think?
definitely he will not be surprised
Which object that you’ve lost do you wish you still had?
Not an object but I wish I still could believe, on some subjects, without a question like I used too. I’ve come to understand that not every question has an answer and not every answer is fulfilling.
What is the greatest challenge of our time?
Social media. It is morphing nations culture and people perception in unexpected way at an accelerating pace and I don’t think anyone has the tool to control it.
Do you believe in the afterlife?
I do, there are some people I would like to see again.