They say a picture speaks a thousand words. But for London-based Nigerian visual artist, Ade Okelarin (aka Àsìkò), that’s just not enough. He’s been a fashion and portrait photographer for nine years, exploring ideas through his lens. While the artist is renowned for his highly conceptualized and stirring editorials that imprint themselves in the audiences’ memory, it’s his captions that that reeled us in even more to have a closer look.
If you follow him on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll notice that there’s always an accompanying narrative to his work. While some artists prefer that you derive your own thought or perspectives from the art they present, Àsìkò shares his thoughts frankly and passionately. It may have something to do with the way he describes himself on his website, “I am a concept driven photographer who creates emotionally resonate images that are akin to me. I explore my ideas using portraiture, fabric, adornment and jewellery, as I am interested in ethnography and how cultures express themselves visually…. Photography for me is about a conversation on how I see the world, how I interpret my African heritage, how I unravel a dream and how I fabricate a fantasy.”
His work ranges from themed narratives to high profile portraits, with his favourite being ‘The Adorned’ series that explored womanhood, identity and culture. In fact, he has quite a few projects that focus on womanhood and identity such as ‘The Layers’, ‘Fear’, or ‘Skin Story’ series and his editorial spread with Model Nwando Ebeledike for Blanck Lite Magazine. Through his work, Àsìkò aims to show the strength and beauty of the African woman within the contemporary world, as well as, in the cultural framework. He was moved to do this because he disagreed with how culture, especially in Nigeria where he is from, viewed women as inferior. A concept which his exploration of African culture and heritage attests to be quite ‘un-African’. In an interview with BeFront Magazine, he elaborates, “The surprising thing is when I dug deeper in African culture women had prominent and important roles in society before colonialism. They had more of a voice and equal footing in culture. Somewhere along the way these ideals were lost, and women lost their voice and relegated to baby makers and kitchen constants.”
This self-taught photographer is actually a master’s degree holder in Bioinformatics and has worked as a research scientist at GlaxoSmithKline. He hadn’t planned on shifting into the world of photography, but rather stumbled into it whilst in-between jobs. But that’s where the influences of fate or chance cease. His personal project work, from that point, has been highly deliberate. It’s imperative that all his projects are well thought out and preconceived. Even when the shoot takes on an easy and loose-flow style he comes armed with a concept or plan that builds into a story. The result of his nine year journey in photography is a body of work that reflects his strong influences and advances his chosen agendas.
Àsìkò means ‘the moment’, so we’ve shared a few of his pieces below and encourage you to the take the time to read each of their captions and sharer your thoughts with us. Should photographers share their personal thoughts with their work? Does that lend to building a stronger foundation or core of the work? Or is the bare minimum caption the best way forward to allow the audience to derive meaning for themselves?
You are not for everyone — Years back when I first started creating images for clients, I thought I needed to subscribe to the idea of what commercial photography looked like. I thought I had to copy other commercial photographers so I could get hired. How wrong was I? You have to do you and nobody else. I had to take myself out of the equation so I didn’t become completely frustrated by my photography (which was really happening. What that meant was I needed to find a way to focus on developing my style and craft to my own vision. Clients respect you more when you have a distinct style and voice even if they are not hiring you. At this point in my career I am hired 95% of the time to do what I do in my own style. The rest of the 5% you will never see on my portfolio (that’s a story for another day). My style is not for everyone and not everyone is supposed to like it and I am happy with that. Imagine a world with all these amazing styles and different perceptions in photography. A world not filled with carbon copy cookie cutter photography but unique points of view. These are the makings of a new revolution in our craft. — New work for fashion brand @dna_byiconicinvanity for their current lookbook. Team Styling @trendy_rail Model @liiissha Makeup @keishadesvignes Assistant @senrabj Head piece @islacampbellmillinery #photography #asiko #art #lookbook #portraiture #portrait #neoplasticism #african #africanheritage #artist #fashion
My work is inspired by culture. As a child western culture narrated that my culture was backward but I have been rediscovering the beauty of it and how it has shaped who I am. No man made construct is perfect but it is definitely beautiful and worth an exploration into identity. A throwback image inspired by the African myth mami water with @paulaokunzuwa modelling and @pepper_zie styling. #love #art #photography #portrait #asiko #photooftheday #potd #portraiture #instagram #womanofcolour #tbt #instagramhub #culture #mamiwater
# Lessons from Daenerys Targaryen Yes I love GOT. Daenerys Targaryen is no stranger to loss, it's her defining characteristic, she lost her mad daddy, her whole blood family, her home, her freedom and her husband and child. That's a lot to lose before you are 30 (pretty sure she's younger than that). So here's the thing, she falls and rises up again, stronger than before. The thing about the Unburnt Queen is that she kept her eyes on her vision, to find her way back home and reclaim what is rightfully hers. Every move she has makes, every council she has taken, every person she has liberated or put in the ground (let's be honest she has racked up quite the body count), every insult, punishment and beating she has received – has been in service of reaching her goal. An image about a queen Model: Nwando Ebeledike @thenwando Stylist: Mpona Lebajoa @_mpona Stylist assistant: Misha Khanbabaee-Fard @mishafard Makeup: Christina Lomas @chrissie_b_makeup Hair: Neusa Gonclaves @awesomehaircreations ——————————————————– #love #art #photography #portrait #asiko #photooftheday #potd #portraiture #instagram #instagramhub #instahub #igdaily #africa #instagramhub #archetypes #editorial #queen
Why your story is important. Black Panther made about $200 million over the 4 day weekend, Justice League made that same amount of money in 90 days. Black Panther was a layered story that people identified with and people embraced it. The themes tackled in the film are based on an emotional truth. Justice League was a mess with no emotional core. It was just a let’s see what happens when we through these heroes together and it will make money. How wrong were they. The essence of your story is key, people see through special effects and all that razzmatazz. Tricks and all those showy lights last for a day, without them what is the work. Your story is core, it’s what keeps people emotionally invested. — Some client work for fashion brand @dna_byiconicinvanity for their current lookbook. Teams (I am fortunate to work with beautiful creative minds) Styling @trendy_rail Model @liiissha Makeup @keishadesvignes Head piece @islacampbellmillinery #photography #asiko #art #lookbook #portraiture #portrait #neoplasticism #african #africanheritage #artist #fashion #conceptual #lookbook #blackqueen
Sometimes …… Sometimes I’m unsure Sometimes I have doubts Sometimes I think they will find out I am fraud Sometimes the shoot doesn’t go well Sometimes I hate the work Sometimes I’m anxious Sometimes I fear I will have no ideas or that they are not any good. — Thank God it’s not every time — And thank God I love doing this so much and thank God it feels me with joy. You are not alone, we all walk the path of self doubt. #selfcarematters — Some work work for fashion brand @dna_byiconicinvanity for their current lookbook. Teams (I am fortunate to work with beautiful creative minds) Styling @trendy_rail Model @liiissha Makeup @keishadesvignes Head piece @islacampbellmillinery #photography #asiko #art #lookbook #portraiture #portrait #neoplasticism #african #africanheritage #artist #fashion #conceptual #womanhood #womensmonth #queen #selfcare
If you wait until everything in your life is perfect before you begin something challenging and new, you'll be waiting forever. The best time is NOW. ~ Bill Phillips. — The time is now my friends, seize the day and make it count. It’s not going to be perfect so you might as well get on with it. Mad last week with the images I created for lookslikeuk going viral. Very thankful. — Model Jo Elias Hair by Gracia Coleman Makeup by Halima Bepo Jewellery by Anita Quanash ——————————————————– #love #art #photography #portrait #asiko #photooftheday #potd #portraiture #africaninspired #culture #womanhood #africa #archetypes #editorial #jewellery
What would you tell your teenage self? This is a question to my instagram fam, what would tell your teenage self if you could time travel backwards? Throwback work I did for talented creative director @vinecreatives Model the mocha melanin covered @dennisokwera , styling by @minnaattala #love #art #photography #style #culture #asiko #photooftheday #potd #picoftheday #bestoftheday #instagram #instagramhub #instahub #igdaily #instadaily #igers #tribal #model #creative
Nothin changes if we keep playing it safe. I heard this other day from somewhere and I thought it was quite apt with where I am in my career. We owe it to ourselves to push the boundaries of ourselves and venture into new creative horizons. If you have been doing the same thing that works for years, it’s time to push it and evolve in 2018. It’s time for new ways of thinking. ‘Change’ Model amazing painter Brooklin (yea sometimes I actually shoot guys) with Crystal Deroche on styling. #love #asiko #photography #style #portrait #portraiture #african #flowerwall #conceptual #instahub #africaninspired #creative
Your need for acceptance will make you invisible ~ Jim Carey . Stop living by everybody’s else rules and structures, it will only cage you and make you sheep. You were created to be an individual with a different way of thinking and living. It might seem peculiar and you feel you don’t fit it, here’s the thing you are not meant to, the greats never did. Ali, Jobs, Gandhi they never fit it. They allowed the light within them to shine and walked in the truth of who they were. Our differences make us a stronger and a better people, we need to celebrate these and foster different thinking. Stop wasting your energy trying to fit in, you will never leave a legacy that way. Our societies have tried to cultivate us into drones without free thinking but you are not a drone, humans were never built to be drones or sheep. We are supposed to question everything, our governments, our societies, our cultures , our religions, question it all. Don’t be anxious about how others perceive you, you are never going to please everyone so might as well stop trying. Just be and live as you are created to be. Risk being seen in your glory. Model Jo Elias, makeup Halima Bepo, Hair Gracia Coleman, Jewellery AnitaQuansahLondon. #love #art #photography #portrait #asiko #photooftheday #style #contemporaryart #artphotography #potd #picoftheday #portraiture #instagram #instagramhub #instahub #igdaily #model #girl #portraitphotographer #culture #jewellery #african #tbt
You’ve got to be so good they can’t ignore you. ~ Steve Martin We all want to be noticed, whether it’s for the work we create or for how beautiful we look (yes that’s what the selfies are for). If you believe in your work, it makes sense that you would want to connect with an audience. The trouble is the desire to get noticed can harm our efforts. Instagram is great place to get your work noticed but sometimes I find too many photographers are looking to get know making great work before they really start making great work. Getting known is a by-product. Forget being known and cranking up the likeometer, focus on the craft, it’s the most fundamental core of any creator. The greatest creators are not focused on getting known, they are all about creating the work. So as Steve Martin said, be amazing at what you do and the world cannot ignore you. Image: Created with dancer Dapo Coker #love #art #asiko #photography #portrait #photooftheday #potd #portraiture #instagram #instagramhub #instahub #igdaily #dancer #colour