‘Monochrome Lagos’: A Photographic Study of a Nigerian City

| © Logo Olumuyiwa from ‘Monochrome Lagos’
Jareh Das

In an expansive photo essay titled Monochrome Lagos, Nigerian photographer Logo Olumuyiwa presents a solemn and minimal representation of Lagos, West Africa’s most populous city renowned for its colourful, carnivalesque, loud and bustling nature.

In a series of photographs, a photo book and digital archive, Logo Olumuyiwa strips Lagos of colour – its most recognisable visual trait. He hones in on the lines, patterns and forms, alongside striking monochromatic portraits of the people who inhabit the city.

According to Olumuyiwa, the project “presents an alternative visual vocabulary through which to comprehend the city”. He breaks Lagos down into parts “as an encounter between the individual and the built environment”.

By taking away the colour of the city, he presents it with a new set of characteristics – subtle, contrasting and tranquil – and has removed the noise and captured the details and traits of Lagos and its inhabitants in a sort of stillness. In an interview with Culture Trip, Olumuyiwa discusses the inspiration behind this significant visual documentation of his city.

In his ongoing and extensive photographic survey of Monochrome Lagos, Lagos-based photographer Olumuyiwa renders the city in black and white, shifting the usual visual narrative of bright colours for which Lagos is renowned. Olumuyiwa’s photos of the people, buildings and monuments he sees every day reveal intricate details – form, lines and patterns – that are unique to the city.

The artist’s observational relationship with Lagos began as a young adult. Though he was born in the city, as a child, he lived away from his place of birth. “Lagos was a place I always imagined and romanticised as I always imagined the city as inspiration (or muse) for a potential visual poem or essay.

“Although I was born there, I did not return until after my National Youth Service Corps placement [a compulsory scheme set up by the government to involve Nigerian graduates].”

The city was initially overwhelming as it is so fast-paced, so in a sense, photography was a tool for making sense of Lagos.

Inspired by the reportage-style photography employed by many great artists before him, Olumuyiwa’s black-and-white photographs in Monochrome Lagos document the unexpected during his daily commute.

Because of how linked the project is to his life, he captures the city and its inexhaustible dynamism and sheer size through his lens.

Exploring Lagos in this way has become part of his daily practice – the city is his muse. It is a towering mass of activity, but Monochrome Lagos highlights the beauty of everyday encounters reminding us to stop, look and observe. The project presents an alternative visual vocabulary through which to comprehend the city.

Through his black-and-white lens, Lagos, a city often described as chaotic and complex, can now be viewed as subtle and still.

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