In a cosy space with the lights dimmed, a photo reel is accompanied by soothing background music. The pictures on display are colourful, captivating, and calming.
The photographer clicks on the pause button to explain the setting and inspiration behind an image. He is Lakin Ogunbanwo, a young artist who has travelled with his camera across the world, but is now based in Lagos.
Each person in the small audience engages personally with the pictures on display. There are portraits, fashion shots, and models spotting bold accessories. Someone asks about Lakin’s use of hats as an accessory.
The Hat Series, a chronicle on identity and gender bias is fresh off exhibiting galleries in Brooklyn and Johannesburg. “My intended title for the series was, ‘You Are Not Good Enough’, but my gallery managers toned it down to, ‘Are You Good Enough?’
Although Lakin laughs at this allusion to how strongly he feels about the issues his body of work occasionally addresses, one can tell that this is an important story he wants to tell. There is an attraction to the contrast of colourful hats towering high above black masculine figures. For Lakin, he thinks fashion first; aesthetics before the photography that morphs into art.
Working with visuals came years before Lakin attended a photography school, which he admits an aspiring photographer can do without.
On his journey to being discovered, Lakin takes us back to his pre-photography school days where he would take pictures of everyone around him in all kinds of spaces and upload them on Tumblr. CNN reached out to him, followed by a contract with his first gallery.
Several exhibitions and collaborations later, the brand Lakin Ogunbanwo now resonates around the world. From such modest beginnings, Lakin gives advice similar to what he received when he first started out. “Your camera should know your immediate family. Just keep on shooting and creating.”
Lakin recognizes that as a young artist who sells to an equally young audience within the age bracket of 30s and 40s, it is imperative to groom his collectors so they can grow with him. The opportunities to showcase his work around the world have created an enabling environment for Lakin to explore fully his creative side.
On why he is back to Lagos, Lakin responds. “It is sad to come back and see roads and buildings you missed out on. I grew up here and I want to be part of the growth going on here.”
When asked why his pictures are not African enough by some consumers of his work, Lakin is clearly irritated. He argues that we live in a small word that enables us to consume each other. “There should be no boxing in. His upcoming exhibition on the idea of being coloured through the eyes of a child is birthed from his experience while living in South Africa.
It features models with heads completely covered in cloth masks that border on a circus look. Just as the rest of his work, the message is poignant and the presentation, flawless.
Get a feel of Lakin Ogunbanwo’s photography at the Lagos Photo Festival that runs from 22 October to 23 November, 2016.