Edson Chagas' photographs are simple and striking

Edson Chagas, the acclaimed Angolan artist, is taking his photographs to the MoMA.

From the Series

After completing a degree in photojournalism at the London College of Communication, Edson Chagas studied documentary photography at the University of Wales in Newport. Today, Chagas lives and works in Luanda, combining his artistic work with his day job as the image editor for the Angolan newspaper Expansão, where he has worked for the past two and a half years.

Chagas has been invited to participate in New Photography, the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) longstanding exhibition series of recent work in photography. This year the exhibition turns 30 and is expanding to include 19 additional artists and artist collectives from 14 countries.

This year’s New Photography exhibition has been named Ocean of Images, and prompts photographers to examine various ways of experiencing the world. Using African masks as a trope, Chagas' last three exhibitions, Oikonomo, Found Not Taken and Tino Passe, have focused keenly on cities and what they tell us about contemporary consumer habits.


Wearing plastic bags from several retailers on his head, Chagas addresses the culture of mass-consumption, and global consumerism. In Africa, consumerism is further compounded by the influx of second-hand goods that saturate local markets throughout the continent.

Found Not Taken

Chagas walked through the streets of Luanda, London and Newport, Wales, (cities where he has lived and worked) collecting discarded objects and moving them, at times slightly and in other instances significantly, before photographing them. Found Not Taken is a catalogue of unwanted, abandoned things, which highlights the excess of a growing consumer culture.


Tino Passe

In this body of work, Chagas stages portraits of models wearing traditional African masks borrowed from a private collection. Similar to Found Not Taken, the artefacts have been removed from their original context. The models are dressed in contemporary clothes from street markets and large imported retailers, but are wearing African masks, which are commonly associated with pre-colonial Africa.  

“Ocean of Images: New Photography” runs from 7 November – 20 March at MoMA in New York City.