Born and bred in Nairobi, Brian Otieno is a young photographer who fights persistent, conservative stereotypes with his abstract nude photography.
Brian stumbled by luck into the world of photography at a young age, when his aunt gave him his first camera. After experimenting with various subjects, he soon found the power his camera gave him. The main theme in his work became the deconstruction of stereotypes that dominate conservative and religious Kenyan society.
Nudity in Kenya is seen as shameful and always sexual. “[…] We’ve been brought up with the idea that the naked woman leads to sex,” but, according to Brian, nudity is native to the African continent. Where it was once celebrated, it is now shamed.
Brian has made a personal study of human anatomy. He endlessly thumbed through anatomy books: each muscle, each twist and turn is carefully studied by the photographer in his photos. By re-framing the naked human body in a less sexual and more aesthetic way, he hopes to change people’s perspective on nudity. Elements of the body are eliminated from the context as a whole; this way he deconstructs the image and reverses its connotations. “If you see my pictures, you don’t see nude at first.”
It’s not only the stereotype that nudity carries that inspires the photographer. There are many taboos holding Kenyans back. Even in the more liberal art and photography world, Brian explains there are many areas other photographers will not venture into. For example, homosexuality is still a largely silenced topic, says Brian, who explains that his models are usually queer, as they are the only ones daring enough to bare all for his camera.
Social media channels are the most fruitful way of putting out his art, as many galleries and art institutions in Nairobi still shy away from Brian Otieno’s all-revealing photos. Follow his Instagram or Tumblr account, as he has new series coming soon.