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5 minutes with Uchechukwu Ibemere

We FaceTime‘d Nigerian photographer Uchechukwu Ibemere, which sparked our interest in his story and practise. Born in Lagos in 1995, he is completely self-taught and only recently bought his first “proper” camera. Here we discover his journey and discuss his process for creating such captivating images.

Uchechukwu Ibemere

[READ TIME 4 MINS]
Interviewed by Sarah Williams

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN SHOOTING FOR?

I’ve been shooting since 2018. But I went into photography fully in 2019 whilst working for a fashion brand here in Lagos. One of the roles I occupied was product photography and sometimes I had to take brand images for them, should photographers refuse to show up on shoot days. Usually I did these things with my [then] boss’s iPhone or other times the business’s DSLR. I think the time I spent there really did shape me into the artist that I am today.

‘Veiled iii’ – Lagos 2021
Consistency is essential for growth. Consistency is essential for growth.

HAVING NOT STUDIED PHOTOGRAPHY FORMALLY, WHAT WAS YOUR LEARNING PROCESS?

I honestly just enjoy having people pose for me and directing their body and movement. So I made sure no day passed by without me taking a photograph. I took photos while out on the streets, traveling from one city to the next and just got better over time. 

Getting the hang of shooting is a lot easier than the post-production process, so I had to settle for a couple of YouTube videos on how to edit with LightRoom and retouching with SnapSeed since everything was done on mobile.

My learning process over the past few years has been shooting at least a couple of times a week. Consistency is essential for growth.

“Photography has never been about the device or gadget, but really the eyes.”

I KNOW YOU RECENTLY BOUGHT YOUR FIRST CAMERA. WHAT WERE YOU SHOOTING ON BEFORE?

Yeah!!! I just bought my very first DSLR in February this year, but before then I shot all my work on my iPhone. Over the past few years, I’ve shot images on several phones, all of which served me so well and have brought me this far in my journey. 

While having a nice DSLR is pretty amazing, photography has never been about the device or gadget, but really the eyes for me. This is no way near a shade, but there are people who own cameras worth thousands of dollars and still can’t get the shot!

WHO OR WHAT ARE YOUR INFLUENCES?

My work is very self-expressive and that makes my personal life experiences and relationships together with my environment two of the greatest influences on my work.

Although I’ve never really mentioned this to anyone before, my work is greatly influenced by mother. Sadly, I never got the chance to photograph her, even though she was the very first believer in my work. I feel connected to her every day, more-than-ever through my artistic practice and that alone is enough to serve as a consistent influence and drive towards my work.

TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE PEOPLE BEHIND YOUR IMAGES.

I’m very emotional, so the subjects in my work are my siblings and family friends who are very close to me. I go to great lengths thinking before creating most of my work, so you could say I am very particular and choosy about my subjects. There’s a pending body of work I’ve held back from making since last December because I’m still contemplating who would serve as the right subject for that piece.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR PROJECT ‘BLACKNESS.’

Blackness is a very intimate project which I embarked on creating in celebration of Black hair and how it plays a huge role in my colour and heritage as a Black man.

Although I’m still finding new meanings and purpose from this series with every passing day, it serves as a significant inspiration to people who look like me and share the very same heritage as myself to wear their hair with pride and zero shame.

‘Blackness’ – Lagos 2021

WHAT WAS LOCKDOWN LIKE FOR YOU IN NIGERIA?

Lockdown was a totally scary experience for me here in Nigeria at the break of Covid-19. One of the reasons being that I suffer from bronchitis, which means I was at a high risk of getting infected. Countries like the US came evacuating their citizens and it began to seem like an apocalypse, with zero chance of us in a country like mine surviving it.

But as crazy as it sounds, some great photos of mine were created during the lockdown. I also used the isolation to do a great deal of thinking on where I was headed as an artist.

‘Peep through dem pages’ – Lagos 2020

WHAT MUSIC ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? 

Drake – The Remorse. It’s been on repeat for the past four days.

END.

You can find more of Uche’s work on his Instagram @byakinyele¨

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