For these portraits, I use a plain background to eliminate any cultural or ethnic context. Viewers are not allowed to place these subjects in the expected settings, whether of urban disrepair or African wilderness. I want to contest the predictable “National Geographic” approach to peoples who may be unfamiliar to the photographs’ viewers.

—Ima Mfon

Editors’ note: Ima Mfon is one of the 50 best emerging photographers for 2015, as voted by the eight-member international jury for the LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards 2015. Here is his winning entry and his artist’s statement. View his profile to learn more about him and to see more of his remarkable work.