What defines Nigerian photographer Adebayo Joloaso‘s work is a sense of calm. His work has elegance and simplicity, making his photographs feel intimate and accessible, inviting us to live in their world.
It is unsurprising, then, that photography has always simply felt right to Adebayo. It came into his life organically: his first camera was a Blackberry phone, and he used it constantly to take images of himself and his friends. Fashion was always around him, and he was always compelled by it. He remembers the pictures in his mother’s magazines: Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Drake on the cover of American GQ.
Throughout his work, Adebayo creates nuanced portraits that celebrate individuality and modes of expression. He is drawn to models outside of the norm in a society that encourages conformity. However, it is not subversiveness that draws Adebayo to these models, but genuineness. Consistent throughout Adebayo’s work is a desire to understand his subjects and celebrate the bravery of being authentic to oneself.
One such muse is Nigerian model Precious Arediamen. She stares at the viewer with a bold gaze, the composition inspired by the model’s fearlessness and freedom of expression in real life. The photograph of her facing away from the viewer, her hands placed on her shaved head, came from an unexpected moment of inspiration when the model turned away from the photographer to answer a phone call during the shoot. “Everybody looks at Precious, and it’s just ‘oh, I want to see your face. She has an amazing face,'” Adebayo recalls. “And I remember when she got to the studio, we were talking, and she turned back to take a call. And I saw her neck from behind. I saw the way her head looked in the light. And I thought, ‘Oh, I’d like to experiment with this and see where it goes.'” A dynamic, unplanned moment is caught with Adebayo’s signature calm, composed eye, giving the image an elegant edge.
Adebayo Joloaso, Untitled, Lagos, Nigeria, 2021.
While fashion images are notorious for being meticulously planned, Adebayo looks to extract his models’ authentic self-expression and allow it to inform the shoot. He lets his models choose their favorite music and move freely, often incorporating props and changing elements of the mise-en-scene on a whim. His photographs emerge from a process of construction and deconstruction, a balance between intentional compositions and moments of serendipity. “Sometimes the environment and the time have a different plan for us that we have no idea about,” he says. “When we surrender, it can be really beautiful.”
This mature, meditative approach to the creative process allows him to make fresh, youthful inspirations into timeless, highly sophisticated images. In Untitled, Adebayo explains that he was going for a “sad girl aesthetic” perfectly exemplified by “a girl in a big dress sitting in her bathtub.” The styling of the photo was inspired by the musical artist Sia, whose music he rediscovered while in his final year of university. Although the references are hyper-digital and resonate in a youthful way, the dramatic play with light and shadow and attention to form and composition show a technical attention and precision characteristic of the best fashion photographers.
Adebayo Joloaso, Untitled.
Adebayo is a rare talent, a photographer who has developed a unique, highly sophisticated style at a young age with ease and grace. His images are a joy to view, not only precise but dynamic, engaging, and fresh. “Photography has taught me how to surrender and be vulnerable in that moment,” Adebayo says. The lesson is passed on to us as well; viewing Adebayo’s images, one is left with a deep breath, a clean slate, and a feeling of peaceful surrender to our own uniqueness.
You can discover more about Adebayo Jolaoso here
Marie Audier D’Alessandris
Marie Audier D’Alessandris is the founder of The Selects Gallery founded in February 2018 in New York as a platform to discover, learn and acquire the fine art photographs of the best fashion photographers in the world.
The Selects Gallery