There are the first set of Joy Sports’ Gary Al-Smith’s social media pictures —the suit and tie batch, in the first rank of profile picture choices; straightforward in their testament that the recognisable face, charming with smile, also means business. And then there are ones thus —playful in the way that they are made, invoking either belly laughs or nervous chuckles of concern —the pictures whose lessons are so subtle that they most certainly are missed; that it is the job you should take seriously, not necessarily yourself.

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And if you can appreciate the pictures, you can appreciate the man.

Ultimately, all of the photos he posts on his Facebook timelines (typically of himself, or of the dish waakye) are calendar –pretty, for they sparkle in some way.13700164_10155070778044616_2636307169967838299_n

These photos (and the captions which accompany them), whether they show him smartly dressed for work or weddings, or in summer shorts under calming sunlight, are permanently made in crafty, precise, and warm aestheticism. It is clear that there’s a meticulous excellence he intends for the camera to find him in —whatever his temperament. Or, maybe it’s just the quality of his smartphone’s camera lens.

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Gary’s photos do rouse more than merely vicarious thrills of his non-stop globetrotting (he has been drastically busy since getting into journalism at a mere 19 years old, starting with inputs on BBC, and then going on to contribute regularly for SuperSport, The Guardian, New York Times, ESPN, Al Jazeera, CNN, among other global media brands. Here in Ghana, he’s assistant editor at JoySports, among other things).

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They might actually, also be an education on creativity, fun, and overall purpose. If it is what you were born to do, you’ll always look pretty doing it, no matter how hectic. You can’t tell his location sometimes —you only know where he is if he announces it, in words or pictures —he’s on your radio tonight, next morning, he’s interviewing spectators in France for EURO 2016, and then he’s back, and then he’s off to England, and then the US, and then to England again. There’s a World Cup/ Olympic Games in Brazil, AFCONs every other year, a radio show, a TV show, websites to run, endless meetings and constant deadlines on brilliant features. I’m panting just enumerating them. Still, he’s the happiest face online and on-air.

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Creativity. Fun.

Of course these words do not sufficiently describe him (there’s exemplar, workaholic, visionary, life student, teacher, comedian, perfectionist, authority, Eminem lover, waakye devotee, creative force, free bird, hash tag originator, “goodbye month A, hello month B announcer”, and twenty-seven other nouns and adjectives you can immediately update this list with), but creativity, and fun, also describe him enough. Indeed, they might be what it actually comes down to, in the Al- Smith question.

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He has insisted on, and lived a career based on these. “Never lose sight of the fact that sports is entertainment”, he submits in a 2015 interview, for example, “what we’re doing is not just feeding people who are hungry for information. We give them the information in such a way that they don’t forget where they heard it from and how they heard it.”

Anyway, back to the trivialities of his Facebook pictures. I have concluded, that the one I selected to sell this essay of journalist Gary Al –Smith (Geneva, 2015), together with another of him mid-air, bare his obsession with American action figures and/or Bruce Lee as a child. There’s another one, taken moments before or moments after, where he sits with his legs crossed in front of him, as if in fellowship with the spiritual whispers blowing in the landscape, but it’s certainly not theatrical enough, therefore not apt in serving as featured image for this piece.Screen-shot-2016-08-10-at-07.50.33

There are other such photos on his Facebook –they may not surpass his Geneva episode in terms of spectacle, but are sufficient in wit. Take for instance, this latest one taken at the Piccadilly Circus –London, July 29. Sitting on the concrete floor and wearing extra- red red shoes and a customized cap, he’s pointing to a stand of KEEP CALM souvenirs. KEEP CALM, if it precedes anything, has proven to inspire laughter: KEEP CALM, I’m the boss, KEEP CALM and shoot zombies… His blasé face is staring away from the camera’s focus, and his left forefinger is pointing specifically to the quote; “I don’t need Google, my wife knows everything”. When you’re smiling and shaking your head at this photo, you’re not completely sure what exactly you are smiling at –the message he intends passing across or the one that is reaching you.

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Zuckerberg era has made celebrities of all of us, and for professionals like Gary Al- Smith, it is virtually a requirement to grant followers extra glimpses of their lives within and without the office. These additional images foster the feeling of family between icon and admirers, and both hastens and improves his career climb. Also, this is an especially tricky line to navigate as it could lead to our icon losing focus in the fog of all this affection and filiation –in Gary’s case over 100, 000 across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter –and more elsewhere.

Thankfully, he’s among an impressive few who share enough (just!); an impressive few who are neither misled nor intoxicated by the opium that social media can be if not engaged responsibly. In fact, he is (surprisingly arguably) a pioneer in applying social media (twitter mainly) as integral broadcast kit and not merely as an accessory. And so, #WaakyeJournalism for example. And while we may not completely grasp what it stands for except his diligent expedition for waakye on the streets of Paris, or London, or Durban, or Fortaleza, it has also become a key component of his brand, a stress-free way to assess him and his work, and might even hint at how this endless work timetable “tastes” to him.13669556_1134792309936750_7383282680759691868_n

The photos I have selected for this essay might neither be fair nor accurate enough in representing the man Gary Al- Smith completely –nothing does, I’ve conceded that already –but the motive for their making the list, I find, is worth thinking about.

Creativity. Fun.

 

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