I started off my photography journey as a documentary photographer.
The images, though they leaned towards portraiture, were always very ‘strong’ and ‘gritty’. Stronger images always seemed to have more depth and the images were successful too. I got to have them hung in prestigious galleries and biennales around the world, from the Palais des Beaux-arts to the National centre for photography in New York.
My work was finding its place in the art world. There was always something missing though and I knew it. I was secretly in love with beauty of a different kind. It was missing in the work I put out on a pedestal.
It became clearer when I had a long conversation with Cameroonian photographer Angele Essamba. In the past, I would shy away from showing any one I respected in contemporary photography my portaits of beauty- they were not ‘strong’. I was right, they were not.
It wasn’t the beauty in the images that weakened them. I just needed to grow. To understand beauty and to find my own approach. I’ve been on this journey for ten years, always questioning the work and holding back, then pushing again.
But every once in a while I photograph someone who helps me have those real conversations with beauty. Conversations that go somewhere.
Genevieve Nnaji is one of those subjects. Maybe she has her own versions of those conversations within her self. Or maybe it’s because she’s a strong beautiful woman with a clear sense of who she is.
When I photograph her, I see someone not caught up in but truly understands the power of beauty. That its sometimes enough. It can have a voice in the image that doesn’t have to be vain and empty.
God makes Beautiful. And it will always have our attention. How much sky do we really need? And must the sun set so uniquely today?
There’s power in making a beautiful portrait. It’s power that I’m still learning to understand. Letting every attribute and feature tell its own story as written by the Maker.
Director of Photography – TY Bello
Styling – Veronica Odeka
Makeup – Bimpe Onakoya