Omoregie Osakpolor is an alumnus of the Nlele Institute/ African Centre for Photography, Lagos. He holds a degree in English and Literature from the University of Benin. His works have been published by Expound Magazine, an international online art magazine.
He believes photography is a powerful tool that can bring societal change. His works focus on socioeconomic issues, religion, culture and public space.
Interview carried out by email with Jack Little in July 2016.
Published in The Ofi Press issue 49.
1. What first inspired you towards a career art, photography and documentary making?
I’ve loved aesthetics ever since I was a child. I love the freedom of expression that comes with being an artist. It’s this love of beauty and the freedom to express your thoughts, your views about life that made me considered a career in the art. And it’s not just beauty for the sake of it, but its art’s ability to bring about societal change in a subtle way. I chose photography (documentary photography) because it’s a powerful language that is understood by all, irrespective of race. When you see an image, you could tell the emotional state of the subject irrespective of where the image was taken.
2. For you, what is the purpose of art and photography?
Art, like I earlier said is not just about aesthetics. It is a powerful tool to for social engineering. Photography as a medium of art has the power to call the society to sanity. As a language, it informs and educates us on human conditions in the society, with the intention of making the ‘it’ better. Photography makes the society sees itself in its true form. It helps us reflect on our history, culture, politics, economy etc.
3. Do you have any rituals when taking photographs?
If I’m going to be shooting in the streets of Lagos, yes, I PRAY TO GOD BEFORE LEAVING HOME (laughs). Before going out to shoot, I research about the place I’m going to (it helps me to negotiate space), and I try to draw mental pictures of the kind of images I want to photograph. But sometimes, the location talks to me. So, I photograph as the ‘it’ directs.
4. Where does your work fit in with the work of other artists in Nigeria today?
African photographers presently are making images to break the stereotypes of Africa being a dark continent, torn by war, political crises and poverty. The single story is changing. Through the lenses of these photographers (commercial and art photographers), the world is seeing the other side of the continent. While commercial photographers are busy showing the world how fashionable we are, the documentary photographers through their everyday images of Africans, are showing the world that Africans are a happy and hardworking people. Not forgetting to also show the shortcomings in the society (politically and economically), for photography is a dissent that helps to sustain the democratic process.
My works therefore focus on socioeconomic issues, culture and religion.
5. Do you believe that creative work can ‘make a difference’?
Yes, I do believe that. That’s the ultimate goal of every art work. The Danish-American journalist and documentary photographer was able to use his photography and writings to draw the attention of the people to the lives of the impoverished in New York City. I’ve read books that have challenged me to take action.
6. Where do you see yourself in ten years from now?
Ten years from now, I would have fully developed my style. But most importantly, my works would have gained a worldwide audience, and made more impact in my society. For that is my purpose for becoming an artist. It is the duty of every artist-to live an impactful life, not just exist.