As Nataal’s New African Photography exhibition at Red Hook Labs opens, we introduce the six artists who make up the group show

Meet Lakin Ogunbanwo. He is building an international reputation for his enigmatic images that often exude an erotic and subversive undertone while bridging both fashion and portraiture. Born in Lagos, he studied Law in Nigeria and the UK before moving into photography in 2012. His has featured in such publications as the New York Times, i-D, GQ and Riposte and been recognised by the British Journal of Photography as one of 25 Ones to Watch.

A regular Nataal contributor, we did a story on Ogunbanwo’s series Are We Good Enough when he exhibited the first instalment at What If The World gallery in Cape Town earlier this year (see the story here). Now he debuts the second instalment with us at Red Hook Labs. Here he discusses the project and his practice.

How did you discover your love of photography originally?
I’ve always been interested in the arts and everything that I have done has come very naturally and organically. I’m a visual person. I remember watching Fashion TV and Madonna videos growing up and innocently shooting my sisters and their friends. It was a hobby. Then after studying international law and diplomacy I got real and decided that photography was what I wanted to do.

How has Are We Good Enough been evolving?
I began shooting traditional men’s headwear as a way to preserve my culture and to observe how it has trickled down to my generation in the way we mix them up with contemporary fashion. There are so many different hats and each one is associated with a certain Nigerian tribe.

This series is also a way of realising a silent message about patriarchy in Nigerian society. Who are the men who wear these hats and how do they see themselves? What hat you wear, the way you wear and where you wear it says a lot about you your age and position in life. A hat is a silent badge of grandeur, in a way.

The first instalment were mainly Yoruba hats so for the second I’ve incorporated many more tribes and found hats with lots of different shapes, textures and fabrics. It’s a series I’m going to keep on doing. I’m excited to be showing the work at Red Hook Labs and hope that the audience engages with it beyond the fact that these are nice African hats.

How is your practice developing today?
When I started out I shot from a very honest place – I just did whatever I wanted to. Now I’m more consciousness of the world at large, of being both an artist and a commercial photographer. I’ve grown up and it’s only going to get better! My next project is inspired by how the term ‘coloured’ is used in South Africa to describe mixed race people. I’m playing with the idea of turning whole bodies into different colours. I also have a residency coming up Berlin.


"This series is a way of realising a silent message about patriarchy in Nigerian society"



Nataal: New African Photography at Red Hook Labs,
133-135 Imlay St, Brooklyn, New York 11231
On view: 7-15 May, 2016


Words Helen Jennings

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