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Video: Meet the Kenyan Photographer Behind Hip-Hop Grandpas and Female Freedom Fighters

Kenyan photographer Osborne Macharia opens up in this video about the inspiration behind his jaw dropping photo projects.

The first time you see Osborne Macharia's work is a moment you'll never quite forget. We've been following him for years now and every new photo-project he produces stops us mid click. They're surreal images of the highest order—the kind of thing that while obviously fiction, you so badly want to be real that your brain makes them real.

Everything he does now get picked up internationally, inspiring credulous stories in the press about extravagant Kenyan grannies and hip hop grandpas. Our favorite project is probably the images of Kenya's female freedom fighters with opulent hair but everything he does, including his commercial work, has that sense of otherworldliness to it which has brought him wide acclaim. In the video above he talks about how everything he does is about "fiction, culture and identity" and that the key to his work is to keep refining the concept. Watch to see how this Kenyan photography master composes and produces his photo series and all the behind the scenes work from his team of creatives that it takes to make these images.

Some of his projects we've covered in the past are:

This Extravagant League Of Kenyan Grannies Is The Ultimate In #SquadGoals

 

Check Out This Kenyan Collective of Eccentric Hip-Hop Grandpas

Concept & Photography: Osborne Macharia

Osborne Macharia on Honoring Kenya’s Female Freedom Fighters with Opulent Hair

Bobo. Photo by Osborne Macharia.

Perspective is a series produced by East African speaker bureau and talent agency African Speakers + Artists (AS+A) profiling Kenyan photographers. AS+A is committed to illuminating the perspectives and amplifying the voices of dynamic African speakers and artists. The photographers are represented by partner agency ProKraft Africa. Special thanks to Blinky Bill for the music featured on this video.

 

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"The Astral." Photo by Mikael Owunna.

This Photo Series Is a Much-Needed Counter to Violent Images of the Black Body

"Infinite Essence" is Nigerian-American photographer Mikael Owunna's response to the one-dimensional narrative we tend to see of the black body.

This beautiful, thought-provoking photo series affirms what we already know—that the black body is magical, no matter what odds are against us.

Nigerian-American photographer, Mikael Owunna, touched base with OkayAfrica to share his new photo series, Infinite Essence. The series is Owunna's response to America's issue of police brutality, like the murders of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile and Walter Scott, and the viral and violent images of the dead black body we've seen as a result.

"It has become frighteningly routine to turn on the television or log onto Facebook and see a video or image of a black person either dead or dying, like images of Africans dying in the Mediterranean," Owunna says.

"With this series, I work to counter these one-dimensional narratives of the black body as a site of death and destruction with imagery capturing what I see in my friends, family and community—love, joy, and ultimately, magic."

Owunna worked on Infinite Essence for the past year, and says his creative process began with a feeling. As he notes further, it's was a process of trial and error.

"I was beginning to explore my own spirituality and journey and learning about how black, queer and trans people in particular were respected for their magical abilities in many pre-colonial African societies. I was meditating on this idea of magic and how I can capture that in my work, harkening back to the 'Final Fantasy' video games and anime series I grew up on. How could I capture all of this? I did two pretty disastrous test shoots using long exposures and lights, that did nothing for me artistically.

It had none of the feeling I was looking for. So I went back to the drawing board. I pulled up Google image search results of magic in Final Fantasy and kept scrolling and scrolling and staring at images that had that emotional tug, that spiritual capture of magic and transcendence that I so wanted to bring into the work. As I was staring at the works, a voice in my head told me glow in the dark paints, and then from looking at that I found the world of UV photography. As soon as I saw some sample works in that space, I knew that was the direction the project would go and it was all steam ahead."

Shooting this series was the first time Owunna collaborated with makeup artists Karla Grifith-Burns and Davone Goins to bring his vision to life. "It was powerful and inspirational and brought so much structure to my feeling and thought," he says.

Owunna settled on the name of his series after reading about Odinani, the Igbo traditional belief system.

"Seeking to understand the basics of that, I came across brilliant writing by Chinua Achebe wherein he used the phrase 'infinite essence' and that clicked everything around it," he says. "When I can name something, it brings it to life in my head in stunning color."

Click through the slideshow below view Owunna's series, Infinite Essence. Read his artist statement for the project, where he speaks more in depth of Achebe's work on infinite essence here. The series is also on display at Owunna's solo exhibition at Montréal's Never Apart Gallery from today until April 7, 2018.

"The Astral." Photo by Mikael Owunna.

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