Tell me about your love for photography ?
Kene Esomeju : Photography is so many things to me. I fell in love with it 4 years ago and since then things haven’t been the same. It all started because I was always imagining in my head how certain people would look cooler. Once I started capitalizing on that, my vision got clearer, I realized the world is just whatever you make it, so even if it means making a plate of jollof look cool then I’ll do just that.
What’s the vision ?
Kene Esomeju : So much, I wanna change the atmosphere for the young kids out there. There used to be this stigma on how pictures are supposed to look, It’s perceived like, all the other young kids are looking up to our styles and they feel like if they don’t have what we have, they’re not putting out good stuff. I want to end that notion. My pictures are usually very vibrant and I make sure I use colours in ways people don’t expect them to be; Back in the days, people expected a good picture to be dark and shiny or to not be too edited and have a watermark etc. When I started taking pictures, I was following these “requirements” for quite a while till the day I said to myself “bro, you got a very crazy imagination, you can break the barrier, do your own thing, make your own requirements and rules” and trust me, I stuck with that. That was the day my confidence came out, and I saw my vision, to inspire, to help other photographers, and to also and most importantly, make something appealing to the eyes. I would describe my pictures as “JPEG high”, ‘high’ because I want it to have pleasure, I want my pictures to have this thing that people just want to always come back and look at them, but they don’t know why and that all started the moment I decided it’s time to change the game. My brother Thompson as well, he also does his own thing, as fellow creatives under the new age, I feel it’s very important that we let people to be able to express themselves in ways possible. I’m also loving the progress of fellow Nigerian photographers, It’s too amazing.
What’s photography currently mean to you as a New Age creative pushing Africa forward ?
Kene Esomeju : Man, a whole lot, I’m trying to change the game with my brothers. It’s like, before, photography was mainly taking pictures at events and concerts etc. At least that’s what I grew up seeing. Until, the new era started and photographers started to understand more about photography. A lot of people argue that there was no New Age, and to be honest I once believed that, I felt that we had always been that creative, it’s just we felt people won’t accept our skills. It was until one day I got really educated about the concept, and I realized, the new age is alive and very alive. The new age of photography is more than just a good picture and a model, now it’s more about story telling and your pictures being art. There was this stigma before that if you wanna have a good shoot you can’t do it in Nigeria and I once thought that too, but surprisingly, some of my very iconic shots have been in my estate back home. So it’s like, even if I’m not there, I’m still a new age Nigerian photographer.
I love photographing women, they are so so beautiful.
What’s your take on African Photography and how it interacts with the global world ?
Kene Esomeju : It means a whole lot for me, because it’s like now everyone is starting to actually appreciate the things we do, and get inspired by it. As a photographer it makes me to do more and more, we have to be able to do more as African photographers, Inspire more people, drop more projects, I feel like now, everyone is catching on to the wave, everyone is finding how creative they are, everyone is getting that vision. In a few years, African photographers are going to go mainstream, and our art would be appreciated fully worldwide. This is the beginning of something new, and great, It’s like the era of graphic design, there were different eras of graphic design, from just typography to the new era of graphic design that we see today. So that’s just the same with photography, very soon we would get the well deserved push.
Your work uses includes a lot of women of color as your subjects, why is this such a predominant feature of your imagery ?
Kene Esomeju : I love women of colour, God’s gift to man. With my work I want to break that norm that if you are abroad all your models have to be white. It’s not like I haven’t shot white people, I have, a lot, but I want my art to just have a certain vibe, that would be appreciated by everyone, be it the model is black, white or Asian etc.
The role of a visual creative is sometimes downplayed, I’m sure you must have heard someone say “anyone can be a photographer.” How does this make you feel ? What’s the art of photography which makes it a skill, job, a gift ?
Kene Esomeju : Yes, I hear that a lot often too but the truth is, anyone can be a photographer, but not everyone can have the same style/vision. The reason why people prefer some certain photographers is because they have already recognized that persons style, and they love it; A skill can be learnt, it’s just what you do with that skill that is the talent. I used to assume photography was easy, and to be honest there’s STILL so much I am learning up till this point; i have my fellow teachers, friends and people who have paved a way for me today. There’s this photographer called Gunner Stahl, I remember when I first stumbled across his page and saw his pictures, I thought he was overrated, because then I was a lot younger and new in the game, and mostly also because I didn’t know how his pictures looked like that, they looked like he added a VSCO filter and grain. I realized what exactly gunner used to shoot when I saw his fader interview some random day, and then it hit me that this guy has been taking all these pictures with a FILM CAMERA, which means that he doesn’t even know what the pictures look like until he gets them developed. The moment I realized all these things, so much changed for me, I realized how much of an artiste this guy is, and such an inspiration, that’s why people love his work. So photography as a whole, is mainly just individuality, a person as an individual finding their own style, their own pace, their own value, once you establish that as an artist, it goes a long way.
What’s the cornerstone of your work ?
Kene Esomeju : I would say colours. Mainly, the best feature of my images is just composition, which includes colour, the location of the shoot, the poses, the graphic work all in one. I want to show people that an ordinary picture doesn’t have to look very ordinary, It’s basically the way I view the world. The coolest part is, one can look at an object as it is, but that’s not me, I always want it enhanced.
You work with Baroque Age now, what’s the state with that and your work going forward ?
Kene Esomeju : A lot, before it was just me doing creative stuff and putting them out, now it’s me doing it with my bros. And I’ve always wanted to be an inspiration to the young kids out there that don’t know what style they want to follow or those who are too afraid to show their work. I have projects on the way with BA, really nice ones that I feel would feed the eyes of everyone.
You’re really passionate about leaving a legacy for the kids, why does it mean so much to you ?
Kene Esomeju : Because I used to be that one that was always asking questions to the people that I knew are better than me; I was inspired by my friends and people around me, and I also have my mentors and other people who I always look up to. I want to be that kind of person to the younger generation of artistes because one thing I believe is that everyone is talented, some just don’t know their full potential, I’m gonna change that.
I want my shoots to not only look colourful, but fun and free, like seeing a person you know and getting them to be in their element. A feel that feels relatable, even if you don’t know anyone in the pictures, when you look at it, it would always give you a feel good moment.
What limits do visual creative in Nigeria face while dreaming you’d fixed for the growth of the culture ?
Kene Esomeju : I feel like most visual creatives now are having a hard time being confident, I’m not saying everyone, but it’s harder to be confident nowadays because of critique from the outside world. With people either saying you are too deep or “it’s not really you” and all that. Nigeria as a country is full of art, and loves art too, so it’s this thing where if you have something dope, Nigerians would always appreciate it, so most creatives gotta make sure they keep producing dope work.
What’s going on in your mind right now ? Any project or through process you’d like to share ?
Kene Esomeju : Yes! So far most of the projects I have been working on have had colours intertwined with emotions. I always want to give off that vibe, but now I want to do more than that. I want to make series of colours, emotions, objects, writings, in fact I am doing a project with BA, which is something I’ve been planning, more details would be out in a bit.