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African Photography: Studio Portraiture, Part 10

Posted in Photography  |  July 27, 2019

African Photography: Studio Portraiture, Part 10
Today, a new generation of visual artists is using multiple platforms to push their ideas. Often working at the confluence of fashion, portraiture, and documentary photography, they are using their skills as a means of self-exploration and communication. They capture the aesthetics of diversity in relation to prevailing conventional ideas of beauty and power. The images are reflective of the photographer’s own desire to better know and understand a condition that exists in the periphery of our world.

Justin Dingwall

Justin Dingwall was born in 1983 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He studied Photography at the Tshwane University of Technology, graduating in 2004. He creates images that resonate with emotion and challenges traditional notions of beauty. His work leans towards the unusual, and covers unexplored or least discussed topics with cultural undertones. In Albus (2015), Dingwall represents albinism in a striking manner, contrasting with conventional notions of beauty. He uses specific symbols such as water, flowers, and animals, to reveal the inner strength of his models and push the viewers to change their perception of beauty. In Fly by Night (2017), he continues to investigate different aspects of beauty, whilst focusing on xenophobia, diaspora, and migration across Africa and the negative stigmas related to these constructs. In his latest series A Seat at the Table (2018), Dingwall explores the aesthetics of the vitiligo, with the intention for his images to become a celebration of beauty in difference.

Albus by Justin Dingwall

Albus by Justin Dingwall

Lakin Ogunbanwo

Lakin Ogunbanwo was born in 1987 in Lagos, Nigeria. He studied Law at Babcock University, Nigeria and Buckingham University, England before starting his career as a fashion photographer in 2012. Bridging both fashion and portraiture, Ogunbanwo uses vibrant flat colour and bold compositions in his portraits. His subjects exist defiantly in the frame often masked by shadow, drapery, and foliage. In his last series ‘e wá wo mi’ (which means ‘come look at me’), Ogunbanwo explores and reinterprets the visual imagery surrounding the bridal traditions in Nigeria. He captured his subjects in wedding dresses, representing the traditional ceremonial wear of the Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa-Fulani tribes. His images depict weddings as a performative and transformative ritual, which influence the construction of female identity and representation of female sensuality. The series is an offshoot of his ongoing project Are We Good Enough, which documents the hats worn as cultural signifiers by different ethnic groups in Nigeria.

Come look at me by Lakin Ogunbanwo

Come look at me by Lakin Ogunbanwo

William Ukoh

William Ukoh was born in 1989 in Lagos, Nigeria. He grew up watching sculpture and traditional masks that his mother collected. He moved to Toronto, Canada where he completed his studies in Film at Ryerson University in 2016. Inspired by the Renaissance paintings, his early works represent black models mimicking pose from that period. He also explores other themes such as afrofuturism, spiritualism, and traditions, with an emphasis on fashion. The Okobo series (2018) is a tribute to his grandparents’ culture, drawing on their traditional garments characterised by wrappers for the men and big dresses for the women. Okobo features a couple draped in multi-coloured silks against a pastel backdrop. Ukoh tenderly captures the couple’s subtle dynamics, their intricacies and nuances by combining intimate portraits with overview shots. In Sistehs (2018), he reflects on the symbolism of religious woman wears, reinventing the religious habits, veils, and headpieces of various religious orders.

Okobo by William Ukoh

Okobo by William Ukoh

Émilie Régnier

Émilie Régnier was born in 1984 in Montreal, Canada. She spent most of her childhood in Africa, mainly in Gabon. Upon completing her photographic studies in Montreal, she moved to Senegal, where she has been working for seven years before settling in Paris. Having travelled around the world for her projects and residencies, her work attempts to build bridges within cultures and countries. Régnier uses her portraits to document each subject in their intimate details, eschewing common stereotypes and showing African identity in all its diversity. Her series Hair (2014) digs at sociological questions behind identity and hair in African women, and emerges with an ode to Beyoncé and Rihanna. In searching to embody American pop stars, these women try to forge their own inherently personal interpretation. Portraying beauty, diversity, and power, Hair elucidates cultural beauty standards versus chosen identity, as filtered from Africa through North America and back.

Hair by Emilie Regnier

Hair by Emilie Regnier