Oye Diran's work speaks for itself. The Nigerian photographer's artwork has been featured in Vogue ITALIA and Afropunk. His latest project, "A Ti De" (we have arrived), explores vintage Yoruba fashion from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Seeing that the Yoruba tribe is one of the largest in Nigeria, it was no surprise to see tens of thousands of Nigerians resonating with his artwork when it debuted on Nataal in March.
We’ve followed Diran's work for some time and recently it seems he has made an intentional transition to create more cultural artwork. Inspired by how he uses his photography and unique lens to tell our African stories and to evoke authentic emotion through imagery, we invited him to interview with us at AfroVibes - to get to know the man behind the lens.
How are you feeling now that "A Ti De" is out for the world to see and opine on? What has been your favorite feedback so far?
“The feeling is pretty amazing, I honestly didn’t anticipate the amount of overwhelmingly positive feedback. When the project got published, it took off like wildfire across the internet. It really is fulfilling when you watch how a project that sheds light on and pushes the culture becomes widely received and celebrated.”
To what extent would you say your work - especially as is evident in your latest virtual exhibition - is personal? How do you work?
“Personal work is basically work that I creative direct and produce. They can range from conceptual fashion stories to themed fine art photo series. I try to convey beauty, empowerment, and ideologies pertaining to life, in my images. These sorts of projects mean a lot to me and fuel the passion I have for Visual art because I'm able to freely express my creativity. Unlike commissioned or client work, which usually has a pre-existing direction or requirements from the client for the shoot.
I feel It’s very important for all creatives of any level to work on personal projects from time to time. It promotes a sense of fulfillment and growth. What’s funny is that a good amount of the brands and publications that have commissioned me to shoot for them found me via coming across my personal work.”
When did it first occur to you that you were a creative/artist?
“Before I picked up a camera I was involved in art. I actually grew up in art. My mother was a professional visual artist who created artwork through mixed media, drawing, painting, and photography as well. Growing up, I was well involved in the Fine arts both in school and outside of school - particularly drawing.
I became first drawn to photography about a decade ago. I was involved in a start-up event production company at that time and also picked up the role as the company's photographer. As time went by, I developed an interest and appreciation for capturing people. Things picked up pretty fast and I started having numerous photoshoots and events on a weekly basis. At that time it was pretty lucrative and successful for me but I wanted to become more intentional about what I covered and shot. I later dropped events entirely and focused more on creative and meaningful shoots. With my background in art, I started to fuse both my pre-existing interests in art and photography together.”
What has been the most challenging aspect of this artistry as well as this industry for you? How do you navigate that?
“I feel the most challenging thing I had to get through in this artistry was finding and establishing a niche or style that’s authentic enough and represents me. Most [photographers] have creatives and legends that inspire us when we first start out and while being inspired is a part of the creative process, I believe it’s also very important to strive for authenticity and avoid trends.
Shoot what subjects you feel passionate about, light the way you like, edit the way you like, style the way you like. This is important if you wish to stand out.
At the same time, don’t give in to establishing a premature style/niche, especially creatives who are starting out. This can stunt one’s potential. Be open to learning new techniques, skills, shooting mediums, etc. Progression is tied to evolution so be always open to evolving your niche.”
Now while we can’t wait to see the artwork you'll share in the near future, we’re more interested in what success and fulfillment look like to you?
“To me, success and fulfillment mean being able to create more projects that are timeless, impactful and empowering. Visuals that shed light on the beauty and richness of African or black culture while breaking down misconstrued narratives of the culture.”
How have you been keeping inspired during COVID-19? How, if at all, is the current state of the world impacting your artistry?
“I'm picking up new creative skills via online courses and planning projects I plan to execute once the lockdown is over. One of them being Film Directing, as I plan to direct my first conceptual short film soon.”