Tayo is prone to digressing – to going off on tangents, to never answering anything or anyone concisely, to elaborating every point - nothing is straightforward for him and it is precisely this straying nature that makes his work so beautiful, so raw, so impromptu.
Tayo’s self-confessed talent is that he is ‘clueless’ to life - a rambler, a wanderer by nature; yet always a multitasker. He is 23 years old and has just recently finished studying Philosophy at the University of Lagos; and it was on his way to University that he started documenting his city, the ordinary people around him. Tayo has had no formal education in photography, he has the gift of initiative. He tells me that his favourite word is possibility – and for him they are most definitely endless. He bribes his subjects with cans of coca cola, his greatest fear is washing dishes, and he manages to ‘borrow’ my Gucci sunglasses - Tayo is the true finesser, the finesser of life.
He is a being out to get what he wants – and will take as much joy from his sphere as he palpably can. He sees the greatness in the perceivably mundane. Tayo is, like his photographs, testament to the existence of unfiltered joy - regardless of any circumstance or hindrance.
You are a Lagos boy, I saw you in the pouring rain still looking for the next motive, phone always in hand. What does Lagos and being Nigerian mean to you?
Ayy sis, Lagos and Nigeria is home for me. There's so much vibe tapped from my everyday Lagos experiences and other parts of Nigeria like Ekiti state, my hometown where I actually formed the thought of my movement – Everyday Africa and also my gele series. I feel like it's important to celebrate where survival is present for one. Lagos is mine at the moment. It's tasking, I'm surviving. Also looking forward to what life has to offer.
What sparked your interest in photography?
My interest in photography came as an awareness first. I was trying to document what we are and what's happening in general here in Lagos and in every part of Nigeria. And I feel like all of these photographs aren’t for now, it's an archive for the future I believe.
So what exactly is #EverydayAfrica?
The initiative behind my EverydayAfrica series is capturing places I explore mostly around Lagos and some other parts of Nigeria. From street style, market scenes and interesting faces on the street. EverydayAfrica to me is what it looks like living, working and surviving from and within Africa, because it captures the authentic African family, the individual and their lifestyle.
Do you have an aim for #EverydayAfrica - are you trying to inspire or reflect something?
My aim is to represent and show the simplicity of the way of life out here in Lagos, out here in Nigeria. And trying to connect the world to having a feel of the vibe here - one that is genuine and straightforward.
You have shot most of your series on your Iphone – why is that?
I'm pretty keen on using an iPhone most times because it doesn't scare people away and secondly because it's a really convenient way of documenting places and people here in Lagos on-the-go.
Do you feel that the traditional camera is now redundant – does the Iphone change the quality of your work?
I feel like the most important thing is perception not the tool. Traditional cameras are definitely key but I don’t put myself in that box. I started photographing on my iPhone5 and now I use an iPhone6 - it gives me the same quality I wanted because I’m not keen on photo-shopping.
Your photographs are candid, taken in the spur of the moment, yet so harmonious. I am especially fascinated by your group shots - they burst with character, a family unity even among strangers. How do you manage to capture that particular moment of unfiltered joy?
Really, I just capture people randomly - by going around places here in Lagos and most importantly by capturing what seems fascinating to me. I choose people from the street because there’s something about shooting people unaware, and I enjoy shooting on the street because it feels so natural – fluid.
So looking at your more conceptual work - you’ve now created two Gele series - what was your initial aim with the project?
The Gele series is an experiment based on what I experience or what I'm looking to create as a young photographer. What prompted the idea of the series, is questioning the use of gele – for the tradition to not be stagnant or used by the female communities alone. Why don't we have men tying gele? I know it's against what the belief system stands for in Africa, and especially in Nigeria, but then we could experiment. It's more like a futuristic idea. I mean we never can tell what the future holds really.
Nigeria does seem like it is ready to accept what you are offering with the Gele series – what does it mean personally to you?
Honestly, I'd say the Gele series is special to my heart because it's my first ever photo series. And whilst there's a lot of cultural representation involved, it touches personal identities. Questioning 'menswear' and 'womenswear' as a concept and also open to the blurred lines between gender identity.
The way Africa is being represented in popular media, especially in the sphere of fashion, is definitely evolving in terms of gender fluidity – there are many more creatives – designers like @Mowalola , stylists, photographers like yourself willing to ‘experiment’ as you say. For example, you recently styled Stella McCartney alongside Ib Kamara - what was that experience like?
It was such a wonderful moment in my life. Ib Kamara is a darling - he believed so much in my ability to deliver. I did learn so much from the whole team; Nadine Ijewere, Kez, Jade and Dafe Oboro, all super amazing guys. It was tasking. But Hey it's Stellamccartney B.
You know it b. Do you think Nigerians and your fellow Lagosians liked the sudden attention by luxury brands like Stella McCartney and Kenzo?
Honestly, they called it Trash because it's totally different from what they perceive as fashion here. I mean, I loved it! The Kenzo campaign was so beautiful I wish I was a part of it. The details gave me so much life. Apparently a lot of Nigerian creatives were involved in it which is great! Kenzo liked it - that's what matters. With Stella Mccartney I'm not really sure as to how they reacted to it. It's a natural thing to judge and criticize people's work either positively or negatively. The fact that is been talked about makes it relevant.
Yes, any publicity is good publicity. How do you feel about the creative scene at the moment in Nigeria and Africa in general?
It's beautiful to see how culturally inclined we all are and also making sure it flourishes – the creative scene in Nigeria I think is doing great. Everyone is getting things moving and learning from each other. It can only get better. In Africa generally, I might not be able to answer that accurately but yeah. As far as there's survival it'll get better.
What are your hopes for the future?
There are so many beautiful things mapped. Experimenting around the fashion scene. Travelling more around Africa. I might move to London for a while hopefully. Fingers crossed. It is my greatest fear and greatest hope – not knowing what will happen next.
Where do you think you’ll find good Jollof rice in London?
I’m sure you’ll show me.
Images courtesy of STEPHEN TAYO
words HELENE KLEIH
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