“I feel immense gratitude and a stronger belief in making work that’s true to one’s self,” says Nigerian photographer Adeolu Osibodu. If you take a look at each of his images, you find there’s a deeper meaning behind them. That’s not by accident; he takes his time to create images from thoughts that arise during his daily life. Emotions turn into ideas that are transformed into his visually appealing and somewhat surreal portraits. And he hopes his work can eventually lead to a positive portrayal of his people and his country.
Light rays play a significant role in much of Adeolu’s photographs. There’s often a single, but not stray, beam of light, almost like an outpouring of a blessing from above. It’s eye-catching, to say the least. When I scrolled through his Tumblr profile, I often found myself stopping and closely observing each image, trying to understand the subtext behind Adeolu’s striking work. And as a photographer these days, if you can get people to stop as they are scrolling through your images, you’re doing something right.
The Essential Photo Gear Used by Adeolu Osibodu
Adeolu told us:
The Phoblographer: Please tell us about yourself and how you got into photography.
Adeolu Osibodu: I’m Adeolu Osibodu. A Photographer/Photo-Artist from Lagos, Nigeria. Sometime in 2015, at the age of 18, I felt the need to put my thoughts into a craft, one that felt explanatory but without the use of words. I felt the need to save moments and document them. To preserve time in a way that it could always be felt and accessed. To frame moods. Photography felt therapeutic as I started taking pictures of clouds, plants, and scenes that looked peculiar. As time went on, I began to explore ideas of surrealism and dreams. It became my escape and visual journal.
The Phoblographer: How do you achieve your creative vision through photography?
Adeolu Osibodu: I mostly shoot a blend of outdoor and indoor images. Indoor images can be really interesting because you could wake up at 2 am and get straight to set in your room. I’ve always been fascinated by the movement of light and shadows. I like to work with the edge of both, and a lot of people seem to be intrigued by how it goes. Depending on the mood of the photograph, I can choose to control lighting with a minimal approach that embraces the dark. I like to use a grid with my modifiers. I can either choose to photograph myself or people around me who are willing to take part. I can sometimes emphasize the same person in a photograph by having more of them. It feels interesting. My work also comes to life thanks to incredible friends and people who give me support. I feel a profound sense of gratitude for all the effort and assistance I receive.
The Phoblographer: The human head is the main focus in a lot of your portraits. What’s the story behind this?
Adeolu Osibodu: The human head and hands are very expressive in almost any state. It feels like it’s trying to say something even without any words. These effortless expressions are timeless.
The Phoblographer: There are many moments of solitude portrayed, but also a lot of crowding of subjects in a small space. Tell us about the inspiration behind such crowded shots.
Adeolu Osibodu: There are points where I feel a range of emotions leading into creating crowded images. I explore the sense of self and past selves all coming together. The thought of you meeting yourself from another time feels interesting. This idea is what forms the series. How different versions of a person can interact.
The Phoblographer: Taking a cue from an Instagram post of yours – is photography about meaning or feeling? Or both? Please elaborate on this.
Adeolu Osibodu: “Meaning and feeling” is a conversion series I was privileged to host for the Adobe Max Visual Conversation 2021. We received a lot of feedback from photographers and creators around the world on how they approach their work and what plays more of a role in their direction. I felt that it worked with balance. I don’t see a way I could create without a sense of sentiment with the work. I believe feelings have a profound place in photography as it further gives it a sense of timelessness and new life. A photograph would also always mean something.
The Phoblographer: Where do you draw inspiration from for some of your more creative work?
Adeolu Osibodu: Images I create tend to reflect my thoughts at different points in my life or ideas, which I find fascinating. My work is like a visual journal to me, I like it to emphasize truth even in its surreal state. Inspiration could also come from the very random things like that flick of someone’s wrist. Nothing is uninspirational.
The Phoblographer: I notice there’s often just a single visible light in your photos. What’s the deeper meaning here?
Adeolu Osibodu: I suppose I like to explore oneness and solitude, a sense of bliss and something divine. Light is fascinating in photography. Most times, I shape it to depict a dreamy state.
The Phoblographer: There’s a lot of reality being portrayed but also a disassociation with it in some frames. Are these images created from personal experiences?
Adeolu Osibodu: Inspiration for most images comes from a blend of reality and dreams. I suppose merging both ideas even results in more surrealism. Sometimes, the work actually has to be real to make its dreamy idea tangible or compelling. Since most times, the images start from a thought of something I’ve seen or want to see.
The Phoblographer: Your work appears to be aiming to break the stereotypes associated with Africa. Are you finding yourself successful in this?
Adeolu Osibodu: I like to work sincerely along with my ideas and dreams of the things I hope to achieve. This is also partly a result of being an African and being inspired by my environment. I’m always glad when people mention that they see my work in a new light. I feel immense gratitude and a stronger belief in making work that’s true to oneself.
The Phoblographer: What stories of your countrymen and its people do you hope to tell?
Adeolu Osibodu: I plan to keep being expressive and resonate truth and passion through my work. I hope to explore new ideas that not only show things in a new light but immensely celebrate where I’m from and the stories my origin holds.
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