YONAS TADESSE: Ethiopian Contemporary Photographer To Watch

We first stumbled across Yonas Tadesse through the page of stylist, set designer and creative extraordinaire, Kevo Abbra. Abbra is having more than a moment right now -with his most recent projects being Absolut One Source Live, Queen Sugar season three’s official promo images, and ILGELUNOT. Thus, when we discovered that he’s done a couple of projects with Tadesse, we were curious to find out who this photographer was. A quick leap to his Instagram page and we’re met with the quote, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” He goes on further to describes himself as a ‘Photographer who tell stories through images’. So, who is this beauty and fashion photographer from Ethiopia?

Born and raised in Ethiopia, Tadesse has always been fascinated with the art. He is a self-taught photographer who has the ability to utilise the resources around him. A necessary skill in a country where resources are limited. However, he hasn’t let that get in the way of building his fashion photography career. While there is a strong fashion angle to his images, Tadesse seeks to always incorporate the richness of stories beneath the glamour.

PARADISE FASHION LOOK BOOK [PFSS 2018] for designer Genet Kebede [Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
PARADISE FASHION LOOK BOOK [PFSS 2018] for designer Genet Kebede [Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
 

His keen eye for stories and fashion has seen him receive mentorship from some of the best photographers in the world. One being his personal mentor, Aida Muluneh. (You can read more about Muluneh here). According to an article in Vogue Italia, it’s thanks to her mentorship and the Desta for Africa Creative Consulting (DFA) PLC programme she created, that Tadesse has not only grown as a photographer but has also been able to find his voice in the art scene. He also had the opportunity to be an intern and lead assistant at Prokraft Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, working with industry heavyweights such as Thandiwe Muriu and Osborne Macharia.

First project in 2014 and first exhibition at Addis Foto Fest [Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
But he hasn’t just limited himself to fashion photography. His interest in sharing stories has seen him work on a variety of themes. One of his most notable series from his career so far was his showcase at the Addis Photo Fest 2014, which was centred on the theme of prostitution. Most recently, his work was featured in The Guardian where he captured the Addis Ababa Massacre memorial service. According to the article, “The Addis Ababa massacre or Graziani massacre, in which 20,000 to 30,000 Ethiopians were killed by Italian occupying forces on 19 February 1937, is commemorated at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in the Ethiopian capital.”

[Image: Yonas Tadesse / AFP / Getty Images]
[Image: Yonas Tadesse / AFP / Getty Images]
 

Furthermore, he started the Humans of Addis Ababa (HOAA) which was inspired by Humans of New York (HONY). For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, HONY started out in 2010 as a photography project by Brandon Stanton. His mission was to photograph 10,000 new Yorkers to create an exhaustive catalogue of the city’s inhabitants. As the project progressed, he started to interview the subjects and began to share their stories along with their portraits. The result was a vibrant blog that inspired 20 other countries to start their own. Similarly, HOAA takes a glimpse into ordinary people’s lives in Ethiopia.

Collaboration project with Kenyan Digital artist Isaiah M Wakoli [Image: Yonas Tadesse]

The mixture of fashion and storytelling brings out a portfolio that leaves you wanting to see more from this young Ethiopian creative. As we wait to see where his career goes next, especially having been trained by great photographers such as Muluneh, we’ll leave you with some of his previous work and inspiration:

Modern Slavery

This was a collaboration project with Kevo Abbra, which the stylist describes as, “A generation without contemporary slavery institutions. To become fearless of the mind’s movement and predictive programming in order to remain free to create, to live, to love. Embrace every individual’s right to express and communicate opinions without censorship or restrain due to fear of retaliation. Being able to hold a viewpoint without interference of other people’s viewpoints. Not forgetting the Human Right to be able to travel from place to place regardless of boundaries and territorial sovereignty. These are the institutions that persist to continuously exist in the present day.”

[Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
[Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
 

Malkia

“Swahili word for a Queen, in a monarch, the queen exudes power. As a symbol of royalty, elegance is depicted by her class and sophistication. Everything about her, her jewellery, fabrics, attires, colour choice depicts that, she is a fashion idol!”

[Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
[Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
[Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
 

Missing Rib

Another collaboration with Abbra, they did this project with the objective of presenting it to Vogue Italy. “Perfect match, perfect fit. A woman was created from a man’s rib according to the creation theory: strong yet fragile and delicate. That’s the missing rib!”

[Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
[Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
[Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
 

Kiondo

Swahili word for basket, this project was inspired by African Women.

[Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
[Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
 

Afro Wedding

This editorial shoot was done during the Hub of Africa 2016 in Addis Ababa Ethiopia for the VOGUE ITALIA Talent Project.

[Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
[Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
[Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
 

KIROSH
Photoshoot for designer, Yordi Design

[Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
[Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
[Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
 

Beach chick

Pieces by Ethiopian designer Genet Kebede of Paradise Fashion, this shoot was featured in Vogue Italia.

 

[Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
[Image: ©Yonas Tadesse]
 

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