21 Nov Featured: Photographs by Lakin Ogunbanwo | Where Classical Portraiture and Fashion Converge
Classical portraiture and high fashion co-exist with ease in the gloriously off kilter work of Lagos-born photographer, Lakin Ogunbanwo. His curious gaze presents glamour in the same breath as intimacy; finding it’s focus on, say, a pair of bright pink lips which hold just as much weight as do the unusual scars on the cheeks beside them. Since his first solo exhibition, The Mask, Lakin has been interested in ambiguity and exploring the notion of disguise. In many of his portraits, the subject’s face is turned away or concealed – either by a physical object, or within a shadow. “I’ve always been interested in form, shapes, silhouettes and body language. And while the face can say a lot, I think the body can convey just as much,” he explains.
Lakin grew up in what he describes as a “very regular environment”; a place where education was important, respect was utmost and peacefully co-habiting with everyone was key. While attending law school at Babcock University in Nigeria in 2008, he began his transition into the world of art and photography. “I had always been interested in photography,” says Lakin, “but when studying law it became apparent – more to my friends than me, to begin with – that ‘something’ was there. I explored it by photographing a lot of my friends, and by the time I was done with my degree (at Buckingham University in England) in 2012, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
Being completely self-taught in the discipline allowed Lakin to find his voice quickly, as he wasn’t exposed to many outside influences. “I was pretty much set on a certain kind of subject matter, and I had a clear vision of how I wanted to represent it. The challenge to this,” he counters,” is that it does limit versatility because it’s easy to become very set in your ways.” Though he spends a considerable amount of time preparing or conceptualising for a shoot, his approach still makes way for spontaneity. He enjoys working in a way that is more of an immediate response to what he sees or feels in the moment, and this has resulted in most of his own favourite images.
From 7 October – 21 November, a selection of Lakin’s new work was exhibited at Whatiftheworld gallery in Cape Town. The collection of photographs celebrate the sculptural nature of the body, as the texture of skin, hair or clothing are used as agents to draw our awareness to the body as a form. An extract from the exhibition text reads: “For Lakin, fashion is a game of desire based on creative identity. He embraces fashion photography’s traits of concealing and revealing the human form to accentuate style…and seems to recognise that even in a portrait, the face emerges as a space of constructing and concealing and revealing – of playing a role of desire. Working in the overcrowded and dynamic city of Lagos, Lakin’s work belies the youthfulness of a new era marked by façade, play acting, imitation and innovation.”
Currently Lakin is working towards a new solo exhibition next year, which will be a continued exploration of the different visual style practices that he has incorporated into his work in the past. Perhaps moreso than anything, he’s on a quest to simply “share the things I see the way I see them” – ample assurance that there is much more of his fascinating and beautiful imagery to come.