The Afrobeats scene has not only been a sound or music genre but also deeply inspired by photography and filmmaking – one of the most notable ever.
Even further, the typical Afrobeat fan can be notoriously protective of not only the artiste they support but their appearance in photos during shows, music videos, at the tiny desks, cover arts and tours as a whole.
What APM World, a Ghanaian-American Creative Director, says he wants to achieve with his role of documenting the Afrobeats scene is so apt for globalizing the sound to the rest of the world.”
The stories are in the eyes of the Artistes. They can’t forget it and therefore as a creative, I can’t hide it,” he explains.
“There is a lot to capture in the heat of the Afrobeat shows and moments,” states APM World, and even looks out for capturing moments which lends credence to his previous experiences.
“An artiste will always leave a story on stage. I have a storyboard of each artiste I work with. And so, before I shoot an artiste, I’m looking at their interviews, their previous shows, and even sometimes, I go through my previous shoots to see what I missed and what I need to amend.”
“My work is not just about picking a camera and being around these celebrities because I’ve put myself in places that strategically got me here,” he clarifies.
All of which is to say that APM World always possessed a high tolerance for branding, positioning and marketing himself. More importantly, he puts a tremendous amount of money where his mouth is to ensure his USPs (i.e. storytelling, colours and angles) shine through his output for artistes causing fans to constantly swipe left.
Since 2015, APM World has been the brain behind some of the spectacular photographs and film of Afrobeat superstars. His recent work was the cover image of Burnaboy’s “ItoldThem” Album and Mag.
His photography hobby transitioned into an international brand when he started directing creative works for African superstars, including Burnaboy, Davido, Asake, Bnxn (fka. Buju), Stonebwoy, Wizkid, Black Sherif, Ruger, Kwesi Arthur, Gyakie, Show Dem Camp, M.anifest, Firebwoy among others, during their American/European tours especially in New York since 2015.
Basking in all the glory on a personal level during a media round in Accra in January 2024, APM World said he feels great to see his creative works around the world. “We don’t get to capture ourselves as photographers, but I try to capture myself once in a while — there’s an APM Docu-series in the pipeline and that will be mind-blowing,” he says, with a straight grin.
“And in fact, Ghanaians are the most pivotal people when it comes to creative works around the world and having this conversation alone shows that I’m making a point,” he added.
The international creative underscored the need to document Afrobeats and iconic moments through his analogy of Neil Armstrong who walked on the moon. “…there was a camera deployed to film it with someone behind it”, he states, expressing the relevance of photography and an emptiness about failing to document the heydays of our Ghanaian Musicians which of course he was part of: “that would have been a huge amount of money to rake in on Netflix alone”.
APM World won for himself the notable Ernie Paniccioli Award for Best Photographer by the Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC) in 2023. The international filmmaker and photographer has been involved in creative projects for Festivals & Concerts such as Rolling Loud, I told Them Tour, Twice As Tall Tour, Coachella, Flytime Festival, Afro Punk, Afro Future, Afro Nation, Yemi Alade Concerts, 5th Dimension Tour, Governor’s Ball, Hip Hop @50, Canadian and South American tours, NBA, NHL and many others.
Unlike many creative directors who have been around artistes, capturing the right moments beyond limits is not always a given. APM World actually has a different view on the creative freedom issues of creators like him face.
The APM photo-mark according to him is invisible but strike chords — “storytelling, colours and angles,” he couched.
APM World approves of the fair use of work by creators but adds an instructive note: “I don’t photomark my pictures. But I have an invisible photomark and people actually call to confirm and clear with me. My work is about storytelling, colours and angles. More importantly, I don’t get worried about other creators stealing my work because once there’s money involved, they are going to find me because you can be sued,” he explains.
APM World does not put himself in a box as a photographer because he is a creative director and a videographer too. “I tell stories, create NFTs and Presets. I take courses in the field to learn new trends”.
APM World has a pipe dream of hosting a gallery show and unveiling an already finished documentary. “There’s a documentary about my first project titled “Hopes and Dreams”, I filmed from 2015 — December 2019 which tells a compelling story about Kids in Jamestown” he revealed, while intentionally keeping a little more under the radar – for now at least.
“This year, we are shooting 500 horses”, states APM World, and even when he is poked a little harder, he still keeps some of the inner workings close to his chest: “I would rather people follow me on this journey and not let out too many details”.
Around the time of the interview, Safo Newman, a new highlife sensation, was making waves on socials with a single, dubbed “Akokoa”, attracting media attention and top hit-lists on Apple Music. APM World expressed satisfaction with his sound and his openness to work with him and upcoming hip-hop star, “Xlimkid”.
As to whether the Music inspired many of his shots, APM World referenced Burna boy, Stonebwoy, Yemi Alade, Black sherif, Bnxn among others.
On Recent Work: Burna Boy’s “I told Them” Album & Mag Cover
APM World paints an insightful picture of the making of the Iconic “I told them” Image. “The actual picture for this album was under the LES Coman Park between Brooklyn and Manhattan…so that was supposed to be the album cover for me. Cause I was told every picture from this scene was going to be an album cover, and that was the video shoot for Big 7,” he reveals.
He added: “It was the video shoot for Big 7 so that was another scene. So, in the music video, you can actually see these moments in there.”
APM World underscored the need to have a team as a creative. “I have a small team but great minds. I invest in my team and treat them on a family level. I relate with my team on a personal level. I don’t turn down any phone call, once the call is referred to me, I do justice to it.”
Beyond an internal team, he also describes himself as a home team person. “I support Ghanaian artiste whenever they come to the states”.
APM World believes that there is more for us to learn. The more you live, the more you learn. APM pays for LUTs, Presets and as well design presets. He is willing to give out presets for free because he agrees that he been in that situation back in the day in Nima.
Advice to Creatives in the Field
Quite apart from literally interning and learning the ropes of photography with his dad, APM took extra steps to hone his skill in the art hence helping him diversify and become entrepreneurial.
“I don’t put myself in a box as a photographer cause I’m a creative director and a videographer too. I tell stories, create NFTs and Presets. I take courses in the field to learn new trends” he disclosed.
In some advice to young creators looking to breakthrough with the creative side of things, APM emphasized the need for a quality work ethic — don’t go hard, go the hardest.
So, how should young creators use social media? Well, APM believes reaching out to people on socials became a head-start for him. On a second advice to creatives, the international filmmaker, intimated that young creator “can just dive deep into whatever they want to do, identify a niche doing that and study and from them.”
APM dedicates himself to lifelong learning. “There’s no day I’m not learning. Came here, looked around and said to myself I wanna have this someday. I am constantly looking at other photographers, storytellers and the likes of Jeremy Snail. Instead of chasing trends and doing stuff that would make you trend for a day and a half, search and study about the creative field”.
“Know where you come from. I’m from Nima, I grew up around a lot of artistes, I’ve been around them… We were designing for R2Bees, Sarkodie, and actually had a hand in the R2bees logo design. I learnt and built off those early exposures”.
As regards finding the balance between being behind the lens and the business administration side of things since they are mutually exclusive, APM uses a vivid analogy to explain how he overcomes that: “It starts from looking at the market women in Makola. Whether it’s raining or shining, they’ve got things in order. I took relevant cues from my mom running a shop and constantly listening to other people who have done the business helped me a lot”.
For the journey of a young photographer, the international creative director suggested starting with your phone. “We started shooting basketball freestyles on an old “Sony camera and a Samsung Phone back in the day”. You don’t need a 2,000-dollar camera, you can start with the phone.”
“You don’t do this business to chase clout and say the girls would like me Bro. I wanna live a legacy, Bro. I wanna die a legend.”
From Fashion, Basketball to Photography
APM’s dream of becoming a world class NBA Star transitioned into photography when he got denied an American visa after securing a scholarship in the United States.
“I was like let’s do Central University now and when the American time came, everything aligned, and one thing led to another. My dream was to play in the NBA. Me and my brother wanted to play in the NBA so bad, but it didn’t happen. So, what do you fall back on — talent.”
Things changed for APM when he quit his 9-5 job moving him to a different stage. “… this is the guy I met, he was a stylist with PDD and he’s called Kwasi Kessie. He styled Rick Ross, Fergie and, Remy Ma all the way up and that connection changed everything for me.”
APM World first had a stint for fashion where he used to design a clothing line he dubbed “Stolen from the Gold Coast”. APM is not disowning his past as he is collaborating with a long time friend and mentor in the fashion space called “Kulaperry”, to create what they call a “Fear No Man Virtual Merch Exhibition”.
“APM World took some pictures that had depths. So we collaborated to have a paid Merch exhibition experience that will have a scan area taking viewers on a whole storyline. This collabo will be properly announced in due time,” said Kulaperry, in an interview in Accra.
As to whether he has any connection with Virgil and whether his connection has impacted his work: APM admitted “I didn’t have a personal relationship with Virgil, but I was inspired by him from a mile away. Virgil inspires some of my works — visiting the Brooklyn Museum. I am a student in the game. Your work must not be perfect, just be you, tell a story from where you were born…”
Major Downtimes & Personal Life
As all may look rosy, the international photographer and filmmaker, recounts some major downtimes where he lost hard drives, missed out on some major shows, laptop crashes etc. He added: “Depression is real, check your mental health. I understand the Artist when they turn down a request for photo opportunities with fans sometimes. I deal with myself, how great I wanna become, and keep the fighting spirit up for myself.” On a personal level, I like to do a lot of restaurants in Brooklyn and making unintended time for chilling. APM recalls shooting photos during COVID in empty streets, walking across the bridges, and shooting a Casanova holding the plague which become one of his most viral shots in spite of the chaos.
APM taps into so much whenever he is in Ghana. He visits the regular beaches, bustling streets of Accra and marketplaces because there is too much to capture, he argued. Meanwhile, he is careful of the crowds because he feels “one doesn’t know the energy they tap into. If I was in Ghana for the next few months, I will capture more of the market women. On his view on tapping into the local creative economy, APM asserts that “when one is closer to something they don’t see the beauty in it until they go further away from it.”
When asked about how he met some of his all-time favorite artistes he currently works with in no particular order: “APM World recounts great moments of meeting Stonebwoy, for example, through a brief call on Facebook back in the day, with one thing leading to another. He also speaks highly of the many backstage conversations leading to working with big stars like Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, Benson, Yemi Alade among others which put him in high-profile events and rooms he would not have been.
“Last year was 2023, I was telling everybody in 2022 that was a Jordan Year for me, and we were going to be balling like Jordan. I’m a Capricorn and 29th December is my birthday and so we all saw the great things the year presented,” says APM. “This year is the Mamba Year, we are going be on Kobe Bryant things,” he alluded, slightly hinting of setting new records, break old ones, appear at places etc.