Photography, an invention that started around the 19th century, has been used over the years as a tool for documenting and telling stories. In West Africa, photography dates back to 1850s and 60s. It was used in postcards during the colonial era which became an important commercial enterprise for local photography studios and businesses in the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Early postcards from Nigeria showcased local cultures, personalities, industries, and hand-colored views of Lagos and surrounding areas.
Mid 20th Century photography in Nigeria was done in and out of the studio by the likes of Chief S.O Alonge, Malick Sidibe, and J.D Ojeikere. Photography during this epoch started with portraits of the elites and traditional rulers, workers and labourers, nightlife photography of the city (disco houses/night clubs), self-portraits of the photographers, fashion style and documenting the way of life of the people.
In more recent times, photography has grown to become a solid and embraced form of art in Africa. It is now a craft that goes beyond the focusing of lens and shooting. It has become engrained in the daily ritual of many millennials – the Selfie Generation.
In this article, I highlight photographers who are redefining the fine art of photography, who through their process, are exploring much more than the essence of a camera.
Lakin Ogunbanwo is a Nigeria photographer with a degree in Law. His work has been featured in Vogue, Times New York, British GQ and also exhibited in a couple of exhibitions in Nigeria and outside Nigeria, including the just concluded Art X Lagos, LagosPhoto Festival and 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, London.
Lakin applies a minimalist approach to his photography, making use of neutral, subtle and monochromatic colours. Lakin also makes use of light, shadow play, and silhouette to place emphasis on his subjects.
His photography includes fashion look-books, portraiture, and fine art photography.
Lakin Ogunbanwo has been recognized by the British Journal of Photography as one of the Top 25 Photographers of 2015 in their annual Ones to Watch edition.
Kadara Enyeasi is a breath of fresh air among his contemporaries. A recent graduate of architecture from the University of Lagos, Enyeasi started off photography with thought provoking nude self-portraits, and later transcended to using models as his subjects.
Enyeasi is a self-taught photographer, exploring issues of sexuality, identity, and human psychology. A major influence in his work is the late Rotimi Fanni-Kayode.
Fati Abubakar is a photojournalist, reshaping the ideology of Borno state, Nigeria – the heart of Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria. Abubakar is a window into a different side of life in the northern region of Nigeria. She documents the aftermath of the book haram crisis, alongside the beauty and way of life in the region.
She currently runs a photography project called ‘Bits of Borno’.
Chukwuka Nwobi is a budding young photographer and a Computer Science student at Covenant University.
Chukwuka is 7a fine art photographer with in-depth narrative and also with an interest in issues of self-identity and identity generally. His recent series YOUNG bridges the gap between western cultures and traditional culture of Nigeria.
Chukwuka also approaches photography with a bit of abstraction, turning an ordinary shot to a masterpiece of colours, patterns, and textures.
Agyepong is a London-based Ghanaian visual artist and performer. Through her photography, she challenges black female narratives and the vulnerabilities of a black woman.
She was recently commissioned by Autograph ABP’s The Missing Chapter project with her work ‘Too Many Blackamoors’ which was shortlisted for the RPS International Print Exhibition 159 and has been nominated for the Prix Pictet award this year.
Exploring and questioning issues of identity and origin, ‘Too Many Blackamoors’, attempts to stage the agony of black women in Victorian times, inspired by the 19th-century story of Lady Sarah Forbes Bonetta.
With a Nigerian background, Juliana Kasumu’s photography focuses on cultural black identity as a way for her to connect with and discover her Nigerian heritage. Kasumu belongs to the school of individuals trying to rewrite the black narrative with their lens.
Working mostly in black & white portraiture and defining true black beauty in photo series like ‘Irun Kiko’, which explores identity and traditional African hairstyles within the contemporary society; and ‘From Moussor to Tignon’, a project on the evolution of African head-tie which is connected to one’s identity and status.
Kasumu works mainly with themes in the context of race, femininity, identity and the effect of colonization on Africa.
Obayomi Anthony is a documentary photographer and a student of visual arts at the University of Lagos. Through his Instagram feed, he shows us the daily living of an average Lagos citizen; from people in public transportation to roadside food & fruit sellers, street signs, architecture and other happenings on the streets of Lagos. Obayomi describes himself as a storyteller with a keen eye for details.
Obayomi was selected as part of LagosPhoto 2016 Summer School Canon Storytelling exhibition for his project ‘Bonafide Squatters’, which highlighted the way of living in his school’s hostel.
LUBABETU ‘LUBEE’ ABUBAKAR
A law student turned photographer, Lubee Abubakar is one of my recent favourite photographers. Working mostly in portraiture, fashion & conceptual photography, the faded tones in her photographs captivate the soul.
Lubee has been featured in Vogue Italia and has shot lookbooks for major fashion brands including Orange Culture.
Top feature image by Lubee Abubakar.