Daniel Obasi, Lagos Artillery – Release

The Nigerian photographer unveils his first book, published by Louis Vuitton in the Fashion Eye collection, where surrealism and freedom blow on a “black” fashion, which for several years has been liberated and invested in international fashion.

“Transcending the wonders and vagaries of the present while envisioning a future based on dreams and activism.” This is what Nigerian Daniel Obasi strives for when he grabs his goal, he says on the phone from Lagos, where he lives. A 27-year-old fashion photographer and stylist, Daniel Obasi is part of the photographic movement that American art critic Antwaun Sargent calls “The New Black Vanguard”. The new black vanguard? A battalion of millennial photographers (aged 25 to 35), who have placed their images in the most prestigious glossy magazines for several years, fashion on Harper’s Bazaar. Their common point: they review and reproduce the image of the black body in fashion, with a focus that is both artistic and militant. Among them the African-American Tyler Mitchell (who photographed Beyoncé for fashion in 2018, aged just 23), Nigerian-British Nadine Ijewere, Swiss-Guinean Namsa Leuba and therefore Daniel Obasi.

Urban hot tub

Louis Vuitton editions encouraged him for a new book (1), Lagos – Beautiful resistance, dedicated to his work in this sprawling Nigerian megalopolis. The book is part of the Fashion Eye collection of travel books, where fashion photographers – veterans as well as young shoots – are invited to give their take on a location. Here we delve into the urban whirlwind of Lagos via Daniel Obasi’s vision of fashion. It is based on fantasy (steaming clothes, aerial movements, pensive or fleeting looks), surrealism (unusual make-up, glittering colored wigs, masks, traditional costumes), science fiction (cosmonaut helmets, futuristic hairstyles) activism and freedom (nude, the Nigerian flags, socio-political emblems, firearms). “Fashion is an opportunity to be able to say who you are and who you want to be without cultural or social restrictions”enthuses the photographer who has already served for US Vogue, Vogue Portugal, Vogue Italy, Natal Where Dazed as a photographer, and for Marie-Claire Brazil as a stylist.

Nigeria is the mecca of West African entertainment, with its film industry (Nollywood), music (the kingdom of Afrobeat), but also with its exuberance on the ready-to-wear side – Lagos Fashion Week is one of the events in the most popular fashion. in Africa south of the Sahara. Lagos, the economic heart of the country, is a pool of talent that nurtures a thriving industry. It was in 2014 that Daniel Obasi, born in Aba, a city in southeastern Nigeria, met designer Funmi Fagbemi by chance on the campus of the University of Lagos, where he was studying French literature. He became his assistant, multiplied meetings – from designers to celebrities – and ended up going it alone as a stylist in 2017, before starting to play photographer and write a few fashion columns for the Fashion Business Africa site.

Continuously bubbling

Five years later, here is his work collected in a first book. “Through the conviction that animates and the poetry that permeates his work, Daniel Obasi seemed to us more than ad hoc to paint a portrait as unique as it is unexpected of this Nigerian city.”we explain to Louis Vuitton editions. “I try to connect my dreams with the realities of Nigerian society, the problems and the promises of Lagos”, continues the young photographer. For him, Lagos is a continuous bubbling, an urban maelstrom – between buildings, marketplaces and neighborhoods that look like ghettos. Lagos is also about violence, music, history, art, “tradi-modernity” and a multitude of faces.

Daniel Obasi’s husband plays as much with kalashes as with make-up, adorning himself with jewelry, schoolgirl skirts, candy pink outfits… “I like to bear witness to the beauty of all sexualities through my stagings and images. For me it is a vector of power, like spirituality”. The woman sometimes seems hermaphrodite, who comes from another galaxy… She has blue or purple skin, her lips are made up with an almost unreal red. In other images, it almost looks like a goddess with golden skin or some kind of supernatural creature with a Christ-like aura. Other times she is the matriarch in the boubou, passive in the face of everyday anguish. The one who last March photographed the star Burna Boy for Rolling Stone UK concludes: “Fashion is becoming a new space that allows us, young black, African or other photographers, to feed this means of expression with other narratives and to capture other experiences.”

(1) Lagos, Daniel Obasi, Louis Vuitton Editions, Fashion Eye Collection, 2022

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