Leading Photographers Based in Nigeria (Part one)
In this first part of our continuing series of contemporary photography in Africa, we focus on some of the most established names, living and working in Nigeria while drawing influences first hand from their local environment. Jonathan Adagogo Green(1873-1905) author of the iconic image of the deposed Oba Ovonramwen of Benin on his journey to exile in Calabar, is recognised as the first professional Nigerian photographer. Since then, other photographers like J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere (1930-2014) and Peter Obe (1932-2013) have emerged on the scene. Ojeikere is arguably, the most internationally acclaimed, and is best known for his series on Nigerian hairstyles and head ties. A contemporary of his, Obe, is also known as one of Nigeria’s most celebrated photojournalists. Others would emerge on the Lagos art circuit, inserting themselves into the global dialogue of post-modern art. Some of these photographers include Sunmi Smart-Cole (b.1941), Tam Fiofori (b.1942), Jide Adeniyi-Jones (b.1952) and Don Barber (b.1956) and all of whom have inspired those working today. In this first instalment and in no particular order, we present a list of some of the most recognisable names, several of whom have defined their practices on the successes of this latter generation.
Uche James-Iroha (b.1972)
Uche James-Iroha’s background as a sculptor is evident in his emphasis on form. He has been described as “a leading light of a new generation of Nigerian photographers”, for his documentation of everyday reality. His work addresses economic imperialism and gender issues. James-Iroha is a founding member of photography collective, Depth of Field. He was awarded the Élan Prize at the African Photography Encounters and the Prince Claus Award from The Netherlands in 2005 and 2008 respectively.
Uche Okpa-Iroha (b.1972)
Uche Okpa-Iroha is one of the founders of Invisible Borders: Trans-African Project. His work confronts and probes societal norms and vices, which in turn instigates or effects, desirable changes. He also reports through his lens, the essence of human conditions in pictures that inform and clarify. He is well-known for his series ‘Plantation Boy’, a digital enactment of the popular gangster series The Godfather. He has exhibited his works in Nigeria, New York, London, Berlin and Paris.
George Osodi (b.1974)
George Osodi is an internationally acclaimed photojournalist whose daring and honest images have impacted heavily on photography in Nigeria. Osodi has won several major international awards, including the Fuji Africa Photojournalist of the Year (2004). His work was also exhibited at Documenta 12 in Germany (2007), and his photo book Delta Nigeria: The Rape of Paradise was published by Trolley Books (2008). Osodi has covered many assignments for both local and international media, with his photographs published in many international and local media such as the New York Times, Time Magazine, the Guardian of London, The Telegraph, USA Today, the International Herald Tribune, the BBC Focus on Africa Magazine and CNN.
Kelechi Amadi-Obi (b.1969)
Kelechi Amadi-Obi is a founding member of the Depth of Field, a photography collective based in Nigeria. Over the years, he has gained recognition locally and internationally for his work. According to him, he consistently fights to break free of what many consider to be his style. Also a proficient painter, a mastery of aesthetics and creative lighting in his paintings has been reinvented in his photography. Amadi-Obi has participated in several exhibitions within and outside Nigeria including Snap Judgements – New Positions in Contemporary African Photography (New York), Depth of Field (UK), Lagos (Germany) and Transferts Africalia (Belgium).
Ade Adekola (b.1966)
Architect turned photographer, Ade Adekola is one of the well-established names on the local scene. His photography experience spans two decades of experimentation, capturing images with an emphasis on looking beyond what the eye would normally see. Adekola uses a blend of post processing tools and techniques, treating pixels as paint and coaxing the computer to create images manipulate colours. His recent work produced in series, were shown at a solo salon exhibition at the Art X Lagos fair in 2016. His photographs have been documented in several publications and can be found in important institutional, corporate and private collections all over the world.
Amaize Ojeikere (b.1966)
Amaize Ojeikere is the son of celebrated Nigerian Photographer J.D ‘Okhai Ojeikere. After graduating, he began his photography career in the early 90’s under his father’s tutelage. Since then, he has managed to carve an identity, as one of Nigeria’s leading photographers. A founding member of both the Depth of Field and Invisible Borders, in which he serves as secretary. Ojeikere has participated in various workshops and exhibited at several festivals and exhibitions, such as the Unhomely (Seville); Snap Judgments: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography (International Center for Photography, New York); Depth of Field (South London Gallery), Transferts (Brussels), Ports de Afrique, and The Idea of Africa (re-invented) (Bern).
Chriss Aghana Nwobu (b.1971)
Chriss Aghana Nwobu is an award-winning Nigerian visual artist and photographer. Largely experimental, Nwobu explores extensively, the use of different objects within his environment as props or installations. He is a founding member of the Invisible Borders Trans-African Photography Project and his work has been exhibited extensively across Europe, the United States and Africa. Chriss Aghana Nwobu won the Best Photo Story Award category at the 2012 Intimate Lens’ Ethnographic Film and Photography Festival in Caserta, Italy and he was a nominee for the prestigious Prix-Pictet Award in Switzerland.
Charles Okereke (b.1966)
Charles Okereke was born in Kano, northern Nigeria. He studied visual arts with a specialisation in sculpture at the University of Port Harcourt, following an apprenticeship with a commercial art publishing company. Through a direct documentary approach, Charles Okereke’s work focuses on humanity and the environment. Okereke is a member of photography collective, Black Box, as well as a founding member of the Invisible Borders: Trans-African Photography project. His work has been included in several significant exhibitions including Go-Slow: Diaries of Personal and Collective Stagnation in Lagos (New York), Earth Matters: Land as Material and Metaphor in the Arts of Africa (Washington), Cities in Transition (Dubai), BOZAR EXPO (Tour & Taxi) (Brussels), We Face Forward (Manchester) and For a Sustainable World (Bamako).
Mudi Yahaya (b.1968)
Mudi Yahaya is a cultural activist whose works have since evolved from social documentary essays to critical conceptual photography and experimental film. Yahaya explores interpretations of African hybrid identities and their varied visual dialects, currencies and vocabularies, while investigating, the aesthetic imagery that connects postcolonial African identities in spaces mediated by still photography and cinema, linked with violence, intolerance, gender and issues of race. His body of work also interjects semiotic symbolisms that gesture to religious iconography, indigenous cultural signifiers and socio-cultural manipulation.
Akintunde Akinleye (b.1971)
Akintunde Akinleye is one of Nigeria’s well-established photojournalists. He came into limelight when a picture he took in the aftermath of a petrol pipeline explosion won him the World Press Photo in 2007, a first to be won by a Nigerian. Since then, his works have been exhibited in Washington, Los Angeles, New Mexico, Lagos, Amsterdam, Graz, Bamako, Madrid, Munich, UK, and Italy. He has been commissioned for important assignments in Mauritania, Niger, and Nigeria. His most recent solo exhibition Delta Refineries and Other Stories was held in December, 2016, at Omenka Gallery in Lagos, Nigeria.
Yetunde Ayeni-Babaeko (b.1978)
Born in Enugu and raised in Germany, Yetunde Ayeni-Babaeko, has been a key figure on the photography scene for over a decade. Her photography career began in 2000 with an apprenticeship programme, in which she majored in advertising photography in Germany. Babaeko returned to Nigerian in 2005 to pursue a career in photography. Upon her return, she was able to establish herself in the photography scene in Nigeria, which led to her opening her own professional studio- CAMARA Studios in 2007. Her work focuses on traditional Yoruba culture, reflecting the mythology and storytelling tradition of the Yoruba people. Besides commercial photography, she has presented her work in various exhibitions including Itan, Battle Scars, Collector Series and Eko Moves.