The SAPE —The Society of “Atmosphere” Setters and Elegant People— is a curious and flamboyant movement, a veritable show, an art for some, a cult to appearance for others, where brilliant and impertinent elegance is not to be improvised. A clear perspective of this fascinating movement, rich in both visual and ideological meaning, can be found in the work of Héctor Mediavilla. The Spanish photographer investigates the psychological and social complexity of the SAPE as an external observer, but above all he challenges our collective image of Africa and its peoples. Mediavilla leads us to a deeper knowledge of the rules and prescriptions of these youths and most importantly, he compels us to journey to the world of their dreams and to understand the nature of the cult they practise. We see that they carry an implicit message of resistance and struggle to undermine the social status they hold, firstly within their own community, country and other African countries, as also our own westernised unwavering and impassive view.
Hector Mediavilla is a visual storyteller based in Barcelona. The focus of his work addresses issues relating to the construction of identity in unique human groups. He currently spends most of his time devoted to projects with moving images. Last summer he directed, for instance, the award-winning mini-documentary about sapeurs in Brazzaville for the Guinness beer brand. His photographs have been published in many international magazines and he has received awards in competitions such as Picture of the Year International (POYI), Hansel Mieth Award, International Photography Awards (IPA), Fotopres, among others. He is member of the photographic cooperative agency Picturetank (Paris) since 2004. In 2007, he founded the photography collective Pandora with three other documentary photographers (www.pandorafoto.com). In 2013, the publishing house “Intervalles” printed Mediavilla’s first monograph, S.A.P.E, which gathers his photographs of Congolese sapeurs. It was recently awarded the Grand Prix du livre de mode 2014 by the University of Lyon, Louis Lumière.