Hairstyles by J.D. Okhai Ojeikere

Born 1930, Ojomu Emai (Near Lagos), Nigeria

J.D. Ojeikere grew up in rural Nigeria. Having an early interest in photography, he purchased a Brownie D camera and after learning the basics began to seek work with the Ministry of Information in Ibadan. In 1954 he was offered the position of darkroom assistant, and in 1961 became a photographer for Television House Ibadan, the first television station in Africa. After a stint at West Africa Publicity, Ojeikere joined the Nigerian Arts Council, where he produced some of his most important works.

These photographs are dedicated to Nigerian culture, and are unique in that they were not commissioned, and produced without any commercial support. The thousands of resulting images have become an important anthropological and ethnographic documentary source. Of these works, most notable are the Hairstyle series. Consisting of around a thousand works, it is Ojeikere’s largest and most thorough body of work. In these works, Ojeikere photographed the sculptural hairstyles of everyday Nigerians – on the street, in offices and at parties. Ojeikere likens hair stylists to artists creating sculpture, and wishes to “record moments of beauty, moments of knowledge” through the ephemeral fashions of the day.


Agaracha © J.D. Okhai Ojeikere and courtesy Fifty One Fine Art Photography

Mkpuk Eba © J.D. Okhai Ojeikere and courtesy Fifty One Fine Art Photography

Modern Suku © J.D. Okhai Ojeikere and courtesy Fifty One Fine Art Photography

Onile Gogoro or Akaba © J.D. Okhai Ojeikere and courtesy Fifty One Fine Art Photography

Star Koroba © J.D. Okhai Ojeikere and courtesy Fifty One Fine Art Photography

Udoji © J.D. Okhai Ojeikere and courtesy Fifty One Fine Art Photography

Ife Bronze © J.D. Okhai Ojeikere and courtesy Fifty One Fine Art Photography

Pineapple © J.D. Okhai Ojeikere and courtesy Fifty One Fine Art Photography


J.D. Okhai Ojeikere (1930-2014): In Memoriam


“With gratitude to God, we announce the passing away of our father, and an icon of photography, Pa J.D. ‘Okhai Ojeikere. He died in the afternoon of 2nd February after a brief illness. He was 83 years old. Burial announcements will be announced later”.
– Ehiz’ Ojeikere, for the family.

Known for his stunning documentation of hair styles and sculptures, J.D. Okhai Ojeikere was a Nigerian photographer who began his career in 1954 as a darkroom assistant at the Ministry of Information, Ibadan. He was born in 1930 and bought his first camera in 1950, a Brownie D.

A year after Nigeria gained independence, he began working at Television House Ibadan as a studio photographer under Steve Rhodes. He joined the Nigerian Arts Council in 1967, and 1968 saw the start of his documentation of Nigerian hairstyles, a project that would become his trademark. However, his first solo exhibition wasn’t till 1995, when his work showed in Nigeria and was also shown outside the country for the first time, as part of an exhibition in Switzerland.

Watching his interview for the ARS 11 exhibition (6:50-9:38), it’s almost impossible not to like the light in his eyes or the sound of his voice. It sounds like home and resilience- his work went unpublished for thirty years until a French curator chanced upon it during a visit to Nigeria. Pa J.D. Ojeikere’s images embody the preservation of an African (in this case, a Nigerian) aesthetic, recording features of society that were so specific to the time and place he found himself in. His work is our history, regal and rich. In an excerpt from the interview, he spoke simply and eloquently about what he did:

“You know, nature gives every human being a role to play in life. It happened to be that by nature, I am created to be a photographer. And being a photographer does not mean that I have to cover all aspects of photography. I am not a war photographer, I am a civil photographer. And I have an urge to document culture, not wars and civil strife.”

R.I.P to a legendary artist and pioneer. His work will continue to inspire generations of artists to come, and in that, he will always be immortal to us.




Culled from: YAGAZIE

George Osodi’s Oil Rich Niger Delta.


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George Osodi, Oil Rich Niger Delta, 2003-2010. All rights George Osodi

On Tuesday evening, George Osodi gave a talk at Foto8 in London then had a public conversation with Julian Stallabrass. I discovered Osodi’s amazing photos at the last edition of Documenta and there was no way i’d miss his presentation.

The Nigerian photographer is one of those rare photo-reporters whose work is shown in newspapers as well as in art galleries around the world (you can check his photos right now in the Oil Show at HMKV in Dortmund). He was in London to discuss the Oil Rich Niger Delta series and his new book Delta Nigeria – The Rape of Paradise on the oil exploitation in the Delta region of his country.

Nigeria is West Africa’s largest producer of crude oil but years of corruption and poor governance has left the southern Niger Delta desperately poor, its environment devastated by oil spills and gas flares and other environmental hazards as a result of activities of the oil companies in the region.

The story of Oil Rich Niger Delta started almost 10 years ago when Osodi decided to leave his well-paid job as a banker to buy a camera and teach himself photography. It didn’t start too well. First of all, no one in Nigeria, he said, takes photography seriously and he received no encouragement from neither his friends nor his family.

To him, the Delta region, where he grew up is an endless source of wonder and stories of pollution, conflicts, greed, danger but also hope. However, no matter how hard he looked, every piece of documentation about it had been made by foreigners. He thought that the fact that he grew up ‘inside’ those issues would give him a perspective no foreigner could have.

The beginnings were hard. He worked with films and all his money was spent on materials, he didn’t have internet at the time and would stay for hours in cafés and do research about photography online. At first, people recoiled in horror when they saw his photos. They were too harsh, too disturbing and raw. But bit by bit, he learnt to “make beautiful the most difficult issues.” He worked on the aesthetics of his photos so that the onlooker would first see the beauty of the images before realizing they were portraying important and uncomfortable issues.

George Osodi, Smoking Pipe, 2007, from the series Oil Rich Niger Delta, 2003-2010. All rights George Osodi

George Osodi, Pipeline, 2006, from the series Oil Rich Niger Delta, 2003-2010. All rights George Osodi

George Osodi, Oil Rich Niger Delta, 2003-2010. All rights George Osodi

Taking these photos is risky. Oil companies and their security forces don’t him to document the impact that oil exploitation has on the environment and on the inhabitants of the region. He’s been arrested several times and has even been kidnapped by Delta militants who thought he might be a spy.

Despite the dramatic situations he encounters, Osodi has hope for the Delta region which he says is one of the most beautiful on the planet and has a lot more than oil to offer. The photographer also expressed his faith in the ordinary people he meets, “they are not passive victims, all they need is a fair ground to realize their potential but right now it’s still difficult.”

Ultimately, he hopes that his photos will make us think about the origin of the oil we consume without even paying much attention.

George Osodi, Oil well off the coast of Sangana, from the series Oil Rich Niger Delta, 2003-2010. All rights George Osodi

George Osodi, Oil Rich Niger Delta, 2003-2010. All rights George Osodi

George Osodi, An environmental billboard asks ‘After Oil What Next?’, from the series Oil Rich Niger Delta, 2003-2010. All rights George Osodi

George Osodi, Oil Rich Niger Delta, 2003-2010. All rights George Osodi

George Osodi, Oil Rich Niger Delta, 2003-2010. All rights George Osodi

George Osodi, Overview of Port Harcourt, Nigeria’s major oil town, from the series Oil Rich Niger Delta, 2003-2010. All rights George Osodi

George Osodi, Oil Rich Niger Delta. All rights George Osodi

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George Osodi, Militants in the southern delta of Nigeria, from the series Oil Rich Niger Delta, 2003-2010. All rights George Osodi

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George Osodi, Oil Rich Niger Delta, 2003-2010. All rights George Osodi

The book Delta Nigeria – The Rape of Paradise by George Osodi is published by Trolley Books. For more than five centuries the fortunes of the Niger Delta have been closely tied to that of the global economy. For its slave ports, then palm oil industry, and most recently, through the discovery of crude oil in the 1950s. Oil multinationals soon came to the fore, working in alliance with a local elite to strip the region of its wealth and despoil it. At the receiving end are the region’s impoverished inhabitants: left with a poisoned environment, faced with a government that never cares and victims of rival armed militant groups laying claim to territories.

Culled from We Make Money Not Art

Interview: Adeyinka Yusuf, founder of Street Shooters NG speaks to PM News.

Q: Can you tell me what the Street Shooters is all about?
A: The Street Shooters NG is a street photography collective in Nigeria. It is made up of mostly emerging photographers in Nigeria who collectively go out on the streets to shoot from time to time.

Q: Why street shooting? What motivates the initiative?
A: I chose street photography because it enables me to understand my reality, and to express my interpretation of the world around me. When I decided to specialise on street photography, I had several projects I wanted to work on. But when I went out on the streets to start working on these projects, I had a lot of challenges. From the hostility of people, to harassment by area boys, to arrest by the police.

Later on, I realized that when several photographers go out on the streets together, the challenges I faced as an individual becomes drastically reduced. That is why I formed the Street Shooters NG. Thus, the Street Shooters NG is my way of dealing with those challenges.

Q: What are the hazards of your genre of photography?
A: The hazards are many, and they are inherent in the society we live in. Although not peculiar to our society, it is much severe here. The state of our security also makes matters worse. When people see you brandishing a big camera on the street and taking photos, a lot goes through their minds. They think you are up to no good. It’s either you are spying on them for the government or the newspapers or some other thing that is will end up bad for them. So they get scared and become hostile. The thing is, most people are afraid of what they don’t understand. The police too are afraid of you because they know they are always doing something improper and if you capture them in such a state, the repercussions for them will be grave. The area boys on the other hand just like to show how aggressive they are every chance they get, so we suffer from them a lot.

Personally, I’ve been arrested by the police; I’ve been threatened a lot of times by people; and I’ve been beaten up by area boys. It’s a miracle I have been able to scale through it all with my camera still intact.

Q: Of what benefit is this to photography?

A: Our primary mission is to ensure street photography gain acceptability in Nigeria. It is our hope that by going on the streets all the time, Nigerians will get used to us and therefore tolerate the individual street photographer more. We also want to be the bearer of our own torch. We want to tell our stories ourselves. The days when outsiders come to tell jaundiced stories about us are over. We want to project the positives in our society to the world. And we want to do it, not through sugarcoated stories, but through the realistic form that is street and documentary photography.

Q: What comes to mind when you aim to take a shot?

A: How to compose the image, the perfect angle to shoot from and the right settings to use. Depending on how significant the shot is, I also think about the risks involved. If it’s of a person that might be offended, I consider asking the person for permission to take the shot.

Q: Do you have any national project in mind?

A: So far, our walks have been holding within Lagos. The pictures taken at the last photowalk in Mile 12 which shows how enterprising the people working there are will be published into a book and presented to the state government. We are also working on giving the Street Shooters NG a proper structure and backing whereby every member can go out on their own to shoot without fear, no matter what part of the country they are. Another plan we have is making sure we document every national event that takes place in the country.

Q: If opportune, who would you wish to photograph on the street?

A: That will be Governor Fashola. I hear he goes out on the streets to inspect on-going projects from time to time.

Q: How Profitable is this genre?

A: A lot of people don’t know this, but street photography is much more profitable and prestigious than other genres of photography. There are a lot of opportunities in this field; you just have to poised to get them. There are workshops and residences and commissions all over the world organized specifically for street photographers. Not to talk of exhibitions where you can sell one of your works for as much as $2,000.

Q: What can you say about Peter Obe?

A: Although I didn’t really know much about him prior to now, I have however been hearing a lot about him, especially after his death a few days ago. I did a little research and discovered all the work he did documenting the Nigerian civil war and pioneering photojournalism. Evidently, he was a great guy.

Q: How can you photographically caption Nigeria’s present situation?

A: I will say we are caught up in a time warp. Like, a lot is going on presently and there’s a potential for a brighter future but at the same time, we are still stuck with our old ways.

Q: Photography is becoming an all comers affair, do you envisage a meltdown?

A: No, I don’t. I think we are growing bigger, actually. After the music/movies and fashion industry, I think photography is the fastest growing industry in Nigeria. A lot of development is going on in the field and the Street Shooters NG is also an agent of that development.

This interview was first published in the PM Newspapers of 29 October 2013.

Dispelling 9 Myths About Professional Photography

Q: Who wants to be a professional photographer?

A: Everyone who owns a camera.

Okay, that answer might be a bit hyperbolic, but sometimes it really does seem that way; there are so many people — photographers and non-photographers alike — who harbor some rather fantastical ideas about how easy it is to become a professional photographer.

You’ve got a nice camera and a business card. You’re all set!

Hardly. Although plenty of pros have started out with not much more than a camera and a few clients, they quickly realized that the greater challenge was to turn it all into a gainful endeavor. There are any number of things that might conspire to contribute to how successful, or unsuccessful, anyone’s photography business becomes. As with anything in life, there are no guarantees.

But if attitude and perception play any kind of role in determining success or failure, it’s time for people to re-think some things; things that would-be professionals think about the business, and things that non-photographers think about professional photographers. Myths and misconceptions abound on both ends. Let’s discuss some of them.

  • Having a DSLR means your work is 99% done already. As if the camera spits out a “good” photo every time, even if the shot is poorly composed and/or exposed. The camera itself is, obviously, an invaluable tool to the photographer, but it’s still just that: a tool. Never discount the talent of the individual behind the camera.
  • Asking a professional what kind of camera they use or how much their camera cost is a compliment. It’s not. You’re basically intimating that the only reason their photos are so nice is because they’ve got a “nice” camera. Admiring the quality of their work or the skill it must take to achieve what they have is actually a compliment. This, in fact, applies to any skilled photographer, professional or not.
  • Getting lots of compliments means it’s time to turn pro. It’s time to turn pro when people start offering to buy your work. Compliments are great, but they’re not the litmus test for whether you can or should enter the world of professional photography. Of course your friends and family compliment your work; it looks better than their snapshots. But clients don’t care if your shots are better than theirs; they want the photos you take of them to look like what they’ve seen in books and magazines.
  • A second camera is optional. When you first picked up photography as a hobby, it was perfectly acceptable to have one camera and maybe a couple of lenses. But part of being a professional means being prepared for anything and maximizing your potential. Which means having at least one backup camera. You never know what might go wrong, and having to walk away from a shoot because your camera stopped working isn’t very professional.
  • A nice website will bring in all the clients a photographer could ever hope for. It doesn’t quite work that way. A nice website will make a client’s visit to it an enjoyable experience, but you have to have a client to begin with. And you don’t get them just because you put up a good collection of shots on a slick-looking site. Your website needs text also; it needs to be optimized for search engines. Who you are, where you are, what you are. It’s the only way people will find you online.
  • Clients have the same creative vision as the photographer. More often than not, they don’t. Clients often purchase more standard fare when it comes time to select their shots: head and shoulders, simple poses, smiling. There’s nothing wrong with that; the client cares more about how he or she looks than how creative the photo is. But part of that is conditioning. Once a client becomes comfortable with you, they’ll be more in tune with and accepting of your creativity.
  • A verbal agreements and handshakes are suitable contracts. Only if you’re trying to ruin your own life. I understand fully that creative types often have little interest in the business/legal side of things, but if you’re in business for yourself you don’t have much of a choice. Put it in writing! A lawsuit — win or lose — is a headache you can do without. Never do paid work without a signed, legally binding document. If you join a professional photography trade association they will likely provide a standard form so you can save yourself the disastrous outcome of trying to pen your own contract.

Contracts by NobMouse, on Flickr
  • Professional photographers only have to work whenever they feel like it. Nope. Not if the plan is to be in any way profitable. You have to have a working understanding of marketing and sales; you have to schedule shoots and fulfill orders; you have to maintain your website. The list goes on. Being a professional photographer is, in many ways, a ‘round the clock effort and for much of that time, you won’t even be behind the camera.
  • Enjoy photography? Then you’ll love being a professional photographer. It’s easy to feel that way when you’re shooting for the fun of it, shooting what you want, when you want, and how you want. But once you start shooting for someone else, shooting to satisfy someone else, working to meet someone else’s demands, your outlook will probably change. Not to mention all that business/legal/marketing/sales stuff you’re going to have to handle — just be very sure that you are prepared for how becoming a professional is going to impact your hobby.

Snap Happy by Damian Gadal, on Flickr

There are enough myths and misconceptions out there to fill several books. The ones listed here aren’t intended to discourage anyone or to point fingers at anyone who may have ever bought into such a mindset — these things aren’t true 100% of the time for 100% of people. But they are common enough to warrant a discussion. Awareness benefits everyone.