Tejan Karefa is the best photographer you’ve never heard of. He was born in New York and his life has taken him around the world. He has lived and worked in the United States, Europe, Africa and South America, but in the last few years he has developed a special connection with Italy.  From Italy he has gained everything a photographer – and a man – could want: friends, inspiration and, last but not least, love.


Tejan's Italian girlfriend in a photo taken by him in Paris.


Karefa has always been an eclectic photographer and today, in keeping pace with his family’s tradition (his uncle was the famous writer James Baldwin), he is a truly international artist. In fact, whether he shoots supermodels in exclusive locations or captures simple scenes of common life, you will notice the same beauty, spontaneity and improvisation in all of his photos:


Pizza with Italian friends in Paris | photo Tejan Karefa

Amalfi | Tejan Karefa


With the unbridled curiosity of a child,  I used my first camera to  investigate whatever captured my imagination.  This type of photography continued on my first trips to Africa and Europe.  It wasn’t until 2006 that, on the suggestion of my friends, I began to actively shoot and archive my photographs. Soon photography became a way to write my story. It developed into a process of ‘self-identification,’ an attempt to grasp the movement of  things around me with the same persistent awe of a child. 




What do you like to shoot the most and why?

That is a provocative question for any photographer, but I happen to know the answer. There is nothing more interesting than observing human activity in all of its varied levels and expressions in different settings and environments. Although there are no superlatives for what an observer’s eye can capture, the setting I prefer happens to be the street corner.


A behind the scenes photo taken by Tejan when he was working as the assistant to Italian photographer Gianluca Santoro in Paris. The model is Nicole Trunfio.

NYC street scene | Tejan Karefa


What is Italy for you?

There are many reasons why the hearts of artists yearn for Italy . The Italy I was exposed to (particularly in the South) was very personal because it refused to give me the convenient excuse of being an ‘American tourist’. The Italy I met told me ‘you are at home’.  And so, although I got some very compelling scenic material, my favorite photos were taken in the intimacy and sanctity of Italian dwellings, in a family-centered environment. The genuine openness and hospitality took me a little by surprise. The families I visited gave me tours of their homes room by room and, despite the language barrier, I felt that they welcomed me.

Karefa currently lives between Washington DC and Paris. His personal site is under development, but part of his work may be seen online.


Limoncello in Amalfi | Tejan Karefa

Apartment entrance in Rome | Tejan Karefa