When you think of photography 15 years back in Lagos, Nigeria you only think of photo studios for families taking portraits to hang in their homes or the photographers that roam around weddings taking pictures of the guest to sell them later. Photography wasn’t a big deal, it was simply an action done to take a certain memory or to capture individuals on memorable days. A few minds like Uche James-Iroha, Andrew Esiebo, Aisha Augie-Kuta, and a few others have set themselves apart in this timeline, breaking out their conceptual ideas against the conformed standard of what they felt photography could mean and help showcase in Nigeria.
With advances in a lot of modern technology, access to more tools and our approach to the creators of the images in the culture, opening another world for us to experience, we got to understand the art of photography and a new generation sprung forth from the last all eager to show how the can use their lens to create their own distinct narrative. Shows like Lagos Photo Festival, an eight-year-old international arts festival of photography in Nigeria and numerous art exhibitions that spotlight photographers as a true artist have helped curate them into the spotlight as top contributors in documenting and pushing the African/Nigerian culture. The vibrancy of the photography scene especially in Lagos can be seen in the images produced by a new generation breaking molds and getting international coverage for the stories they’re telling of their world both conceptually and journalistically. Parents are more open to the idea of having their kids pursue the dream of capturing images as a career, with more companies and perspectives seeing the need for their craft.
We’ve made a list of photographers shaping their respective lanes in different forms of photography giving a more luminous future to the diversity and innovation photography will have in the coming years.
Niyi Okeowo is a multidisciplinary creative passionate about mental health and focused on graphic design and photography. He’s been taking pictures for over 3 years, as a graphic designer he felt the need to own his own process of creating images by shooting them myself as opposed to sourcing images on stock image websites, but also to extend the narrative of creating images, the need to tell stories or document stories is another reason why he started. Occasionally on blogs, magazines, and newspapers. An expert in portraits, Niyi shared with us ‘Portrait, still life and documentary. Portrait because I love shooting expressions and peoples faces, Still life because I love how much visual expression you can get from shooting inanimate objects that can be staged to your liking. Documentary because I love documenting candid emotions and memories and also the need to tell stories that can educate, entertain or inspire the world. From documentary projects about mental health, rape, abuse to street stories, street style and the backstage of fashion shows.’
I think the stories being told, back then the stories were limited to the issues going on now you have a million topics/issues being tackled with photography, from poverty, sexuality, fashion sense, politics, abuse, mental health etc. But don’t get me wrong the legends did it with their heart, especially because the technology back then was really restrictive. Now you can afford to make mistakes and get a good picture, back then you had to really have patience and really understand how the technology and lighting worked.
Niyi’s photography like his art direction borders on documenting and bringing his subject in a world only he sees, the images have a certain soul to them, ranging from his personal projects in capturing the New Age or his commercial work for Guardian Life or LV he doesn’t miss out on telling a unifying theme of hope and freedom.
Babablola Simisola is an eighteen-year-old self-taught photographer, visual storyteller, NTC Award winner 2017 based in Lagos, Nigeria. She is popularly known as “Simzsco” which is an official brand name. She believes “taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second” – Marc Riboud.
Simisola has had exhibitions both locally and internationally, her first international group exhibition was organized by Olaju Art Group in Texas at the Blue star art complex 2017, before and after that she has had various group exhibitions in Lagos, Nigeria also, an exhibition organized by Brilliant Brush Gallery at Renaissance Hotel, Ikeja in celebrating of the Hotel globally May 2017 & some amazing group exhibition titled “TÒKŪNBÓ” with two other creatives (Kamal & Lamiwa) 30th December 2017 which was held at the National Museum in Onikan and warmly declared opened by the an internationally celebrated art collector “Prince Yemisi Shyllon”.
Photography is a magical kind of art that allows me to become my true identity, express my mind without limits, heal without conditions or consequences, go back in time without having death flash through your eyes & really just visualizing the whole as it is.
From her perspective, as a young photographer in the scene, she believes in “EVOLUTION”! ‘Evolution of the mind. Evolution of the culture. Evolution of lifestyle. Evolution of everything!‘. Her work captures a raw state of her environment, evoking emotions ranging from fear to pain, sadness, she highlights the terribleness of things but shines a light of beauty.
Danielle Mbonu is 19-year-old photographer based in UK/Lagos. She started taking pictures in 2011 when she got her first proper camera, so you could say she’s been taking pictures for over 6 years but only started doing it professionally at the beginning of this 2018. Photography has just always been an interest of her she says, ‘It’s something I’m really passionate about‘.
Her work shows a real influence of a young energetic Lagos filled with jive of different fields ranging from music, skateboarding, and fashion which is all captured by her charming aesthetics and use of colors.
Photography is everything to me. I literally have atleast 1 picture from every single day since 2012, to me pictures are like memories being saved, like visually documenting life, events, moments can’t really explain it but I love the whole idea of it all, it’s amazing.
At a young age, she’s gathered quite a buzz this year working with high profile brands like Off-White, The Hundreds, WafflesNCreams, and Alara. Her images stand out for their elemental portrayal of how young Lagos interacts with their constant evolution seen in her work as she uses her friends mostly as muses for her shoots.
I don’t exactly have a style, for me my photography is just an extension of my life, things happening around me, things I’m interested in, my friends, my family, my encounters with people, so I guess it just depends on where I am or what I’m doing at that point in life.
Chukwuka Nwobi is a 20-year-old photographer. He’s been taking pictures for over two years now, he became a photographer because of his love for creating visuals, it always transcended his love for consuming visuals. Chukwuka’s photography holds a delicate place in his heart, ‘photography to me means more than just taking pictures. To me it’s being able to pause time in a single frame hence creating a holy moment, holy to you the artist or photographer and to others who luckily can share in the beautiful silence of a moment.‘
What’s unique about being an African photographer from Nigeria is that there is a never-ending spur and burst of inspiration around you. It’s like your environment around you is alive and its own system of breathing is the events happening around you and it propelled by people engaging in activities around you. There’s so much color in Nigeria and with color comes life and with life comes diversity, to me that’s what’s interesting, being in a place where the next minute is totally different from the last
He’s been featured on multiple Nigerian publications like Radr Online, Guardian Life, ANastyBoy, Konbini, Nataal & VSCO amongst other art and photography publications and also had over 3 exhibitions. His photography studies beauty with most of his images focusing on the purity of the African woman, using tender tones of color, sometimes b/w to narrate multiple stories of love, openness, insecurities, and self-expression.
My photography is very spontaneous, more like telling a story. You don’t think of the story before writing it, it kind of just flows and that’s how my creative process is. It’s a flowing and I try as much as possible to just let my mind fly across the ocean of idea’s and just move with the wind of my consciousness.
Adebakin Fifoluwa is a 23-year portrait and lifestyle photographer based in Lagos Nigeria, Fifoluwa loves photographing people, events and capturing moments in everyday living. He started taking photos 7 years ago and has worked with notable brands such as Coke Studio, ALAT Bank, Infinix Mobility, Payporte, Vaseline, Nairabox and more.
If you say dabble, honestly, I think I dabble in a lot of types of photography, journalism, fashion, lifestyle, weddings. If there’s a story tell you would find me there if there are people you would typically find me there. However what comes naturally to me is portraits. I love people. I love how people can evoke such strong emotions. I love how just from someone’s eyes you can tell if the person is present or absent, and it excites me to be able to capture that with my camera, so I would say portraits are my comfort zone.
Fifo’s work focuses mainly on capturing rare emotions when his subjects let go, portraits that show a humane side without losing artistic integrity.
I think the Creative photography scene is doing great. We have climbed a higher pedestal than we had about 5 years ago. A very considerable growth, there’s a lot more to come but I’m even more excited that Nigerians are slowly catching onto the importance of photography most especially for documentation which isn’t something we particularly take that serious in this part of the world.
Amarachi Nwosu is a Nigerian-American self-taught photographer, filmmaker, writer, and speaker. She is also the founder of Melanin Unscripted, a platform aimed to dismantle stereotypes and blur the racial lines by exposing complex identities and cultures around the world. Under her platform, she has produced and directed films like “Black In Tokyo”, a groundbreaking short documentary that exposed the black experience of living in Tokyo, Japan and curated events in Lagos, Nigeria and New York at spaces like the ICP Museum under the International Center of Photography. She’s being featured both internationally and locally for her work in Photography and filmmaking on multiple publications like Huffington Post, Vogue Arabia, Vogue Turkey, Black Enterprise, The Fader, Complex Magazine, CNN Africa, I-D Magazine, Highsnobiety Magazine- Author page.
Being Nigerian-American has allowed me to see life through dual lenses and connect with different cultures because of my own upbringing. I take a lot of inspiration from the hustle and culture of Nigeria and it pushed me in many ways to do things at the highest level and with creativity. I see so many kids in Nigeria make something out of nothing and create amazing content.
Amarachi’s work has put a major spotlight on Africa as she uses her understanding of her people to help portray different layers of an emerging generation, each picture is made with a taste level distinct enough to make the subject stand out in the eye of the viewer, placing her subjects in stylish African garbs and exotic values.
She has also produced and shot social campaigns for brands like Adidas Tokyo, which featured the first woman of African descent on their Instagram page. Her passion for giving back has also allowed her to work on projects with London based women’s rights group Equality Now and also be a Program ambassador for D&AD “New Blood Shift”.
Were living very different experiences and are plagued by different problems which need different resolutions. So it’s very different but similar because we’re all trying to capture human emotions in an image. Having digital cameras has also opened doors for more people to document vs. film which is expensive to develop and hard to find cameras which limited who could shoot back in the days. Digital has allowed people of all economic backgrounds have the ability to be apart of the narrative.
Baingor Joiner is a 24-year-old multidisciplinary creative and self-taught photographer, best known for his eclectic interests and whimsical sensibilities. His foray into photography would start on the streets of London in 2011, documenting street style in one of the world’s most stylish cities. His photography style is up close and candid for the most part, building on his beginnings as a street photographer. He cites this when describing his images, “it’s hard to create an organic scene that tells a story. Because of this, I actually prefer if subjects are unaware of my presence”. This leads to his unique documentarian style of photography.
We need it for the world to see what’s happening over here. Taking the narrative into our own hands. It’s cool to see all the imagery coming out of here, I’m hoping people can come together to push themselves and the arts over here forward. Sure it’s booming, but there’s always room for improvement, we need support from all people who use images of/from here locally and globally. Makes no sense putting resources towards importing talent you can find here, always pains me to see African creatives undervalued. It’s wack, it’s worse than being a culture vulture, people have all sorts of justifications but I think it’s just down to laziness. creatives need to unionize so we all have a stake in what’s about to happen here because there’s a lot of potentials and things are moving in the right direction, if we don’t come together (all fields) & start realizing our power as a whole there will always be a warped dynamic.
He’s worked with, ArtXLagos – Art Fair/Exhibition, Arthouse Contemporary, Iamisigo – Fashion Brand, Nonso Amadi, His style of photography caught the eye of Wafflesncream – a skateboarding lifestyle brand based in Lagos, Nigeria. In 2017, he was commissioned to do a series of editorials documenting the local skate scene.
Photography is the most important means of communication in today’s world imo, it’s one of the best ways to connect, Inform & Inspire.
Kene Nwatu is a journalistic photographer and filmmaker curating a catalog of mostly black and white images which captures the horrors, soul, and activeness of life in fast-paced Lagos. He’s worked with numerous brands like BBC, Nike, and has showcased his work at WhiteSpace, AAF. He’s also known for documenting places in Africa with a creative company he helped start called ‘Invincible Boarders‘. His work is dedicated to studying the different stories behind Africa’s new age transformation, especially in the creative, business and tech scenes.
Chidi “Lex Ash” Ashimole
Chidi “Lex Ash” Ashimole is a 26-year-old multi-disciplinary artist, he’s an Estate Management graduate of Covenant University, Nigeria. Lex Ash is a self-taught visual artist who is passionate about People, his work is inspired by how he feels and the people he meets. He’s particular about visual storytelling, art directing, poetry and natural aesthetics. Over his four years of photography so far, his work has been featured on CNN, USA Today, Financial Times, Vogue Italia among others. At the time of this article, his art is currently on display at The Wheatbaker Hotel, Lagos. He hopes to be a major driving force in the recognition of art in
Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
Photography to him is a tool, “I consider Art in itself pure self-expression and Photography is just one of the ways to express. With photography, you can say what you want to say, or tell what others are saying. You can create ideas or document them. It can create ideas, preserve memories, influence decisions, compel actions and affect emotions. It has the power to bring the past to the present, to preserve the present for the future and to predict the future in the present.”
His works are aesthetic statements to the beauty he sees in the Africans around him, through imagery he’s been able to forge a visual mood board of blackness.
Opportunity, technological advancement and access. This generation has more access to knowledge, to resources and to the rest of the world. Social media has created a system where the work we do goes beyond the boundaries of our location and spaces. We also have more opportunities to create and advance our work.
I like to think that I’m a people photographer. What this means is I love the opportunity to tell stories using people, whether I’m creating one, or sharing theirs. So I dabble in Editorial (Portraits & Fashion) and Events. I guess I prefer these to the other kinds personally because it gives me the privilege of human connections.
The list won’t be complete if I didn’t add an extra individual I’ve had my eye on recently to give things a little spice.
Sammy Erhobaga-Agofure is a 20-year-old creative artiste and photographer. He’s been shooting professionally for three and a half years now. His work has been featured on TheNgMag, Bella Naija, Genevieve Mag.
He defines his photography style as ‘a unique feel, like when you see a certain artistic picture around my field there’s a distinctive feel you’ll just have.‘
Being an African photographer, the most unique thing is being able to experience certain situations or cultures only Africans can exhibit.
The list wasn’t created in any order, it’s simply a highlight of the majestic nature photography has become in the heart of young Lagos photographers.