Born in Douala, CameroonMario Epanya is a world-renowned photographer living in Paris. Mario’s story is one of determination and resilience as he fought his way up through difficult circumstances to become one of the world’s best beauty photographers. We caught up with Mario from his base in Paris to talk about his dream for Vogue Africa and how he got started in the industry.

Interview+With+Beauty+Photographer+Mario+Epanya

Zen: Who is Mario Epanya and where does he come from?
Mario: I am a French beauty photographer based in Paris, born in Cameroon in 1975. I grew up in Douala and moved to France to become an artist. Voila!!

Zen: Tell us Mario, what inspired you to become a beauty photographer?
Mario: I started my career as a professional hair and makeup artist and the job gave me so many opportunities to work with the best talents and creatives in the international market. As you know, Paris is the city of fashion and beauty so I had no excuses. After a while working as a hair and makeup artist, I wanted to move forward and do a job where I had total control and I also noticed while working in the high fashion industry, African fashion and beauty was not so well represented. So I decided to use my photography as a weapon to show the best of African creativity by working with young and unknown models, stylists, makeup and hair stylists to create powerful images to share through social media and online.

Zen: What is your relationship with Vogue Africa?
Mario: I created VOGUE AFRICA in 2007 . This ambitious project was just a continuity of highlighting Africa’s beauty and fashion. I told myself why not? So I proposed to Conde Nast France the idea who declined. At that time they weren’t ready I think, but Franca Sozzani clever as she is in an interview for Italian Vogue said they are planning to create Black Vogue six months after so I am happy and also seeing Naomi Campbell stand for a Vogue Africa today is pretty cool.  Hopefully she’ll be the editor in chief, that will be cool, Right? Anyway I’m very happy to see that I am a part of the revolution of the Africa fashion industry. I believe that is the whole point to my work. To bring diversity.

Zen: Which photographers have greatly inspired your work?
Mario: I have a special admiration for the French photographer Jean Paul Goude for his creativity. He’s very talented and inspiring. I also like like Erwin Olaf’s lighting and composition. I love Oliviero Toscani for the powerful messages behind his images. I will say some photographers can be inspiring through their techniques of photography but not the messages because we are all unique and each of us has a special message and vision of the world.

Mario11 of our favourite images from Mario Epanya

Zen: Could you kindly share with us some of your most memorable shoots and why they are dear to you?
Mario: My GLAMAZONIA COLLECTION is one of my favourites. The photo collection was a black and white series of portraits of beautiful black women that I met through Facebook. We worked together on this project and this exhibition has been in Bruxelles Tervuren, a wonderful museum dedicated to African culture, in Rio de Janeiro with the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, in the U.S Fashionafricana who organized a wonderful opening and exhibition in 2013 in The Prestigious Auguste Wilson centre Museum and a program has been created since then with colleges to promote diversity.

Zen: When you are not doing photography, how do you spend your time?
Mario: Well, I do sports. I do a lot of biking and I enjoy time with friends. Recently I discovered a natural cooking club so now I also spend my time learning how to cook healthy food. 🙂

Zen: What are your future plans?
Mario: I have been working a lot with The Miss Gabon Organization since last year when I was invited as its’ official photographer so expect more from us this year as we are working on a host of new projects. Also, I have got some plans to visit South Africa to see what’s happening in the fashion and beauty market and also to support the industry over there as I believe they are doing amazing things.

Mario6

Zen: Words of advice to beauty photographers or anyone aspiring to join this field?
Mario: My main advice to all aspiring photographers is to be passionate with photography. You got to have something to say with your images. It’s not only about taking pictures and talent doesn’t come with the gear. It’s about hard work, searching, improving etc…and enjoying it. It ‘s not easy for anyone. It’s an everyday struggle with clients, creativity, inspiration but as long you’re happy with it, then do it.

Zen: What do you think of Zen Magazine Africa?
Mario: It’s wonderful to see Zen Magazine doing so well in showing and sharing with the world a positive side of Africa. I think we need that. I also think you are doing a great job and the magazine looks fresh. Nice covers and I think with time you’ll become a kind of African Vogue. That’s what I wish for you and Team.

Interview+With+Beauty+Photographer+Mario+Epanya“Photography is not only about taking pictures, it’s
about hard work, searching, improving and enjoying
it.” inspirational words from Mario Epanya

For more information on Mario Epanya, visit www.marioepanya.com
To learn more about his charity organisations, visit www.fashionafricana.com | www.defisdefemmes.comwww.onehundredblackwomen.com

Interviewed by Harriet Owalla