Capturing things and people just as they are, photographer Jolade Olusanya takes a “fly on the wall” approach

He describes his creative approach as a “fly on the wall thing”. By this, he means he “just wants to capture things and people as they are.” Unless he’s directing a video or film, Jolade admits that he’s not great at giving directions to people in front of the camera. Instead, he opts for a more natural style of photography, taking cues from some of the medium’s greats: Dawoud Bey, Roy DeCarava, Malachi Kirby, Ofem Ubi, Holly-Marie Cato and Ejatu Shaw; just to name a few. Using his camera as a vehicle of discovery, Jolade draws inspiration from travel, but “not on a wanderlust vibe, more so a discovery thing.” He goes on: “Every community I go to, I leave with a new awareness that changes how I live and work. And that’s thanks to the people. So I guess I’m inspired by people all they come with.”

In a recent project, preliminarily titled The Illusion of Belonging, Jolade captures the atmosphere of London during the 2021 Euro final. Though he’s not a fan of football, the photographer wanted to find out why it drives people mad. More importantly, he was intrigued by the social context of the game: “as a Black man, I was aware of the racial controversy of the sport and of this country.” Dusting off his camera after almost two years of non-serious use, Jolade directed his lens onto the unfolding situation before his eyes. Fighting his way into the depths of the crown in central London, he climbed up a traffic lamp post and secured himself a vantage point where he stayed for two hours.

In rain, wind and discomfort, Jolade clung to the pole to document the night’s events. He saw friends meet and the police make their interventions and to his surprise, he even got passionate about the match, “purely because I knew what would happen if England didn’t win,” he says. Deciding to edit the series in black and white as he “didn’t want colour to distract from the moment in the photos,” the contemplative series ultimately invites people “who are so proud of screaming ‘IN-GER-LAND’ to actually think about what that means when they see what they look like.”

As for the future, Jolade is working on his first monograph which encapsulates poetry, photography and writing. Reflecting on his work over the past decade or so, he’s found common themes which unite his vast bodies of work and is currently in the process of pulling these together. The photographer also hopes to put on new exhibitions and create his debut short. Other than that, photography-wise, he’s planning a project based on his childhood in Nigeria and has hopes to grow a production company, Rxnin Co. And if that weren’t enough, he also hopes to work with more young people, to make their careers more easily navigable in comparison to his. He finally goes on to say: “I’d like to help in changing that narrative for others.”

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