TwinsDntBeg – meet Emmanuel and Samuel Appiah Gyan
Monday, May 3rd, 2021
TwinsDntBeg (twins don’t beg) have made a name for themselves as one of the most sought after photographers in Ghana. Harriet James caught up with the duo during their recent tour of Nairobi for this year’s edition of the Entrepreneur Fashion Week.
Apart from working with various celebrities and brands, idential twins, Emmanuel and Samuel Appiah Gyan, are self-made professionals who are also the official photographers of the Ghanian presidency.
Despite their achievement, their friendly and humble demeanour coupled with their great sense of humour welcomes you at first sight, and unless they narrate their story, one can never tell what the two have been up to.
The middle-born in a family of five, the duo grew up in Kumasi in Ashanti Region of Ghana, and life was not a bed of roses.
Their father was a company driver and their mother ran a small shop where she sold food to university students.
“I remember closing school and going to the trailer to assist my mum sell the food.
As a young man, selling the food was difficult since sometimes we would see young people like us passing or buying food and would be embarrassed, but we did it,” says Samuel, adding that despite the challenges, the two of them grew close together since they were always united in decision and in action.
After senior high school in 2008, they moved to Tema to stay with their big sister in a quest to find new meaning to their lives. Here, they tried their hands on many things including music.
They sang hip life, a Ghanian type of music that fuses Ghanaian culture and hip-hop.
During this time, producers and brands tossed them to and fro. Samuel recalls when one of them told them that they were just bathroom singers.
“He told us to get out of his office and that comment really broke us down and when we went home, we vowed that no one will make us beg again. That’s how the name TwinsDntBeg came along.
We were going to prove to everyone that hard work really works and pays,” he says. Sadly, their father was a church elder and wasn’t pleased that they were singing secular music and threatened to disown them.
They had to look for another passion and that was acting. In 2010, the two were admitted to Kwame Nkurumah University of Science and Technology. Samuel studied bachelor in agriculture while the brother pursued landscape-design management.
While there, they got involved in events, short films, music promotions as well as politics.
In 2014, while they were in campus, they met a Ghanaian producer who they assisted in creating a film.
“Though we didn’t act, the opportunity was a platform to learn all that we know in film and photography because we had face to face contact with sophisticated production machines.
We also met the biggest actors in Ghana and Hollywood including Jimmy Jean Lewis, which really built our network,” says Emmanuel.
They did this for two months and desired to purchase a camera with the money they received.
The cash was only 40 per cent of the required amount and the producer agreed to pay for the remaining amount in appreciation for their services. That is how their journey into photography began.
“We had a camera and didn’t know how to use it. We tried to talk to other photographers to assist us in learning, but no one really wanted to help us out.
This made us make YouTube our friend to learn the techniques,” adds Samuel.
They did a lot of exposure gigs and offered their services to a lot of events for free, and that’s when they noticed there were a few event photographers in Ghana. “This birthed in us a desire to begin what we call celebrity photography,” says Emmanuel.
The celebrity photography involved attending events and taking good photos of celebrities and then posting them on their social media pages.
They would then ensure that by midnight, they would be the first to have posted the photos of which newspaper and magazine outlets would pick and publish and this is what made them popular.
Event organisers too started paying for their services, especially during movie premieres.
“One of our friends in campus worked closely with the now vice president, and when she saw our photos, she requested us to organise a photo shoot for the vice president’s wife.
We wrote a proposal and they accepted us to not only take photos, but also manage their social media pages,” Samuel narrates.
From then on, they started touring with her, taking her photos and managing her social media for free.
It was a great sacrifice that paid off when Nana Akufo-Addo won the presidency in 2016, and their biggest client became the Second Lady of Ghana.
When President Akufo-Addo was sworn in, Samuel and Emanuel were asked to join the presidency as photographers; Emanuel worked with the vice president while Samuel with the president.
“Being a presidential photographer has its own pros and cons. The good side is that we automatically became famous and more successful because our status changed.
Money was still an issue because it takes a while before you even get paid when a new administration comes in,” says Emmanuel.
Despite the perks of the job, some conflicts with the head of photography made Samuel quit after seven months on the job.
He now handles all the celebrities and events and all the other administrative work in their company, while his brother still handles the presidency gig.
In February 2020, the two were part of the photographers who captured moments for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Awards in the USA, giving them an exclusive opportunity to interact with Hollywood celebrities such as Jamie Foxx.