Sunday 26 July 2015

Tutor and the Tutored... Art skills in conceptual photography

By Tajudeen Sowole
When artist and lecturer, Nnaemka Egwuibe showed a photography exhibition titled The Tutor and the Tutored, with his former students at National Gallery of Art (NGA), Enugu, few weeks ago, the debate about the strength of art content in photography was expanded. Viewed via soft copies, shortly after the exhibition closed, works of Egwuibe and his co exhibited artists Chinenye Eze, Doris Ukatu, Ifedili Chibuike and Onyinye Ezennia rely on concept, style and technique in appropriating the richness of art in photography.
Otu Nde Olu Ugbo by Ifedili Chibuike.

With Photoshop effect, Egwuibe and Chibuike bring digital effect technique into creative photography, just as Ukatu, Ezenna and Eze add styles to conceptual imaging.
As much as it could be argued that digital photography has widened the scope of creativity, perhaps making conceptual imagery as easy as the touch of a button, the ability of a photographer to make a great art out of the technology makes the difference between snap shot and professional work. This much is seen in The Fire Beneath, a pull out or separation technique implored by Egwuibe, separating burning fire woods from the scenery. Similarly, Otu Nde Olu Ugbo by Chibuike exudes a collage-like texture, stressing the strength of Photoshop technique by separating the female blouses from the wrappers of aso-ebi group photograph. The technique of creating colour spot or space in a black and white image, as seen in the works of Egwuibe and Chibuike, is indeed becoming a growing trend in contemporary photography parlance. Perhaps, the local content application, based on environment of capture, would make the difference.    
For Ezennia's Occupation, a misty capture, in full colour, of a workman with highlights of red as burning spots, create an energy that generates heat of high intensity. 
Perhaps another way to fill atmospheric temperature lies in Depth of Nature, high sun coastal scenery, intensified by silhouette capture of a fisherman. However, in Ukatu's Untapped, the central attention shifts from the medium as a tool in special effects to the subject as performance, perhaps enhanced by props and costumes, strengthening the art contents of photography.
The gathering, according to Egwuibe, is about expanding "the on-going dialogues and debates surrounding photography from the points of view of ’art’, ’skill’, ’creativity’ and ’aesthetics." The exhibited artists, he argued, have taken a shot beyond the depth of traditional rendition of photography. "Our creative strategy has been to appropriate these effects associated with the “good old” traditional darkroom in our manipulation with a more sophisticated digital darkroom," Egwuibe explained.
A contributor to the appropriation of the exhibition, Ayo Adewunmi who is HOD at Department of Graphic Design, Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu argued in favour of a synergy between photographer's instinct and the sophistication of digital photography software. "Technique and equipment must combine with goals, vision, inspiration and concept to produce what we may call art photography."

 Egwuibe tracked the Tutored thus: "Chinenye was the 2012 star prize winner of the Life in My City Art Festival photography contest. She never runs out of ideas, especially with her experiments with ’reflection.’ 

"Ukatu has not allowed family responsibilities deter her from commitment to professional exploits. She has also participated in both the Photo Africa exhibition and Life in My City Art Festival for three consecutive times. She already has her works collected both in Nigeria and abroad.

 "For the past three years, Chibuike has participated in the Life in My City Art Festival exhibition, Photo Africa, and exhibitions organised by the NGA. As an art teacher under the Nigerian National Youth Service programme, Chibuike’s outstanding projects in his place of primary assignment won him the Best Youth Corp award for the 2014/2015 service year. 

 "Ezennia is  ever experimenting with new ideas, which apparently won her the Best in Originality award in the 2014 Life in My City Art Festival. She has also participated in Photo Africa and has had her works included in NGA exhibitions." 
The Tutor stressed what he described as exploits of his ex-students who have proven to be committed professionals. "They have all demonstrated boldness in the exploration of new ideas, tools and techniques."

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