Saturday 6 October 2018

Documentary photography through Taylor's lens of Pushing Boundaries

During the opening of Pushing the Boundaries, at National Museum, Onikan, Lagos.
Walking into a   photography exhibition by Segun Taylor, unprepared with information about the contents, creates suspense, which is perhaps unintended by the photographer. Titled Pushing the Boundaries and on display at National Museum, Onikan, Lagos, it takes quite a walk and seeing as many as ten or more pieces before realising the fact that the works on display are that of a contemporary photographer.

Captures of sceneries that are clearly uncommon with locations not immediately known, and produced in monochrome, coalesces into suggesting that the works belong deep into the last century. And with the name of the photographer thinly inscribed on each of the exhibits, the archival perception of the pieces increases. 

Adding to the perception is lack of provenance information on the photographs. In fact, the curatorial presentation suggests the works were possibly reproduced from emulsion film of pre-digital era. And with an inscription 'Yesteryears', one needs no further convinction that the photographs were dugged out from the archive of a colonial era photographer.

The works include human activities and locations that speak so much about old fashion designs and architecture of, possibly, mid 20th century. However, changing that perception, at the extreme end of the gallery space comes a capture of 'Eyo' masquerade In front of what's clearly contemporary architectural design of a house. From the same photographer? Oh yes, from Taylor, exposing that the photographer belongs in the contemporary time, despite working under a brand name she calls 'Yesteryears'.

Taylor, a photographer with print media background, actually practised as photo-journalist towards the end of the last century and not so deep as the textures of the exhibits suggest. And if she shot the works on display, clearly, they are not of some colonial era age as perceived. Most of the works were actually "shot 15 years ago", Taylor 
clarifies to a guest during the opening.

With monochrome as a signature and working under 'Yesteryears' as brand name, Taylor, actually, has her focus well thought out in the documentary photography genre. Her lens and shutters move like the tools of an archaeologist by excarvating rare sceneries, particularly from the rural areas of Nigeria.

Among such archival imageries are Epe, Lagos  market scene of fish at riverside; a hilly scene on the way to Okene, Kogi State; and a bar beach scene of scavengers who collect debris at the shore. Most of the works, she insists, were shot between 10-15 years ago.

Whatever Taylor's photography exhibition lacks in rich curatorial contents, she makes up for that deficiency in the technique of presentation. In fact, Taylor boasts that her presentation in aluminium gives rise to  theme. "it is Pushing the Boundaries in the sense that I printed on steel plate instead of paper or canvas". Shown as  'Yesteryears', a coinage she describes as "my brand name", the series is in its "season 4".

 Taylor's bio: Grew up partly in Warri, Delta State and Lagos, as a pioneer student and the first head girl of Maryland Comprehensive School,
Taylor proceeded to the United Kingdom, where she qualified as a Television
Producer and Director. She later went to the school of photography where she specialized in still life, portrait and scenery.
Returning to Nigeria, she worked as a photo journalist with the defunct Quality Magazine,
a division of the Newswatch Communication Limited and later with the defunct Classique Magazine.

 Taylor started her Yesteryears Season exhibition in 2012; and has successfully done Season One,
Two, and Three; while season Four just completed its exhibition - August 2018.
 -Tajudeen Sowole.

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