Onanma Okeke is the Nigerian born, portrait and still-life photographer that has been taking over the modern art world.
Going beyond superficial snapshots, Ona captures the essence and purity within her subjects in just one single click. Although young, the FIT student is light years advanced in the art of photography and storytelling on important social issues such as the conversation around the perspective of manhood within the African community. At such a young age Ona’s work remains powerful and captivating, setting her on course for a career trajectory with some of NYC’s best. I caught up the Ona to find out more about her early beginnings and her philosophy behind creating powerful works of art.
On how she got her start:
“I actually “fell” into photography by casually taking portraits of my friends for fun and also styling and art directing photo shoots. The time I realized that I loved the art of photography was when I took portraits of some of my friends and I realized that that picture truly captured the essence of who they are at that very moment. Just me, them, and the camera. As I practiced, I also played around with still-life. Still-life is so special to me as well as portraiture because, I am in essence giving this object or group of objects a humanistic character, molding it to what I want it to be perceived as.”
“I believe anybody can take a picture but very few can capture the essence of a soul. A photograph is a copy of life altered or unaltered. I am inspired by a lot of amazing photographers such as Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, and Arnold Newman. These photographers showed me, through their works that a photograph can be “felt”. Once I can “feel” a photo, the photograph has done its job.”
Ona’s personal photography style:
“For portraiture, my photography style is very real and almost raw and rough. I want the viewer to see themselves in that person and in that moment. It’s almost an uncomfortably comfortable silence. For still-life, I love to explore the environment an object can be placed in and what the object or objects can be molded into whether it’s an altered stereotypically associated environment or something totally new and absolutely absurd.”
What’s up next for her:
“I am currently working on a photography series called “Manhood”, I am excited about it. “Manhood” is a series exploring toxic masculinity in African communities. The notion of masculinity in Africa is so skewed and it is a rarely talked about issue that has such a huge impact on our community. My goal is to capture African cis-gender, heterosexual and LGBTQ individuals who either identify as male or used to identify as male from all works of life and ages. I am excited about this series, and hopefully, it will in some way bring the notion of toxic masculinity into a broader discussion.”
You can keep up with Ona and follow her on social media below: