Lagos-based artist and photographer Noma Osula’s images focus on “contradictions, complexities, dark humour, forms, awkward gestures”. He speaks about his admiration for photography and how it is inspired by Nigerian culture and traditions.
Did you study photography or art at university? Who or what was the first subject in front of your lens?
I have always been interested in fine art and my dream was to be a comic book artist. When I started my degree I became distracted and strayed away from drawing or anything art-related for quite some time. I became fascinated by graphic design mid-way through university and that brought the art craving back. I studied for a Mass Communication degree at University. There was a particular photojournalism course, which was almost entirely theory-based with little to no practical assignments. It was more read, cram and write and simply did not spark my interest. It led me to believe that as a subject it was just not for me. During my university internship I met a young event photographer and he showed me his pictures. I liked what I saw and my interest grew. I got myself a digital camera and started photographing friends, family members, flowers, objects, locations and the usual ‘just got a camera stuff’. It was mostly trial and error but I learnt a lot this way. After a few years of playing around I decided to take it seriously.
Are you working as a full-time photographer now? Do you shoot commercially and, if so, please describe and name some of the campaigns you have worked on.
What started as a passion on the side has grown into a full-time career. I shoot across the range from editorial to commercials. I have worked on a number of Nigerian and international fashion brands such as Shekudo, JZO, Grey and a few others.
Of your work so far, what are you most proud of?
I am always super delighted with most pictures I take but the “Bambi” and “The Portraiture” series are my favourites at the moment. From the models, to building the characters as well as creating the sets were all fantastic. It all came together so well and I am really pleased with the visual outcomes.
2018 has been quite exciting for me as an emerging photographer. I was included in the British Journal of Photography’s “Ones to Watch 2018”-list, which feels like quite an accomplishment. I was also featured in Vice magazine and American Chordata, and I was invited to participate in a group exhibition. Those were mind blowing! As far as achievements go, I count these all as blessings.
You are currently based in Nigeria. Do you have any plans to explore and work in different countries and, if so, whereto next?
I definitely want to explore and work in other countries. I know this will provide me with a completely new view of things and fresh perspectives. I intend to expand on my personal experiences and the environments I am exposed to as to date my work has been built mostly on what I observe in and around Nigeria. These are my dreams and goals but at the moment I am still working on making a concrete plan that will see me heading off on extensive traveling. Given the choice, I would be most interested in starting out by exploring other African countries and from there perhaps more distant shores.
Do you have any upcoming work we should look out for?
I am currently working on a couple of series and studies. At times I find it a bit chaotic trying to decide what and where to put my focus on or prioritise. These new works involve a lot of experimentation and a variety of characters. The majority of them are still in the foundation phase – all a work in progress.