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?