Ade "Asiko" Olekarin

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Illustration by Ayo Arogunmati


Mr. Olekarin, your art stretches the audiences’ imagination; do you do this deliberately?

I don’t make a conscious attempt to stretch anyone’s imagination. The art is an expression of things that have inspired, influenced and that I’ve seen over my lifetime. My photography is a combination of culture, science fiction and fantasy. These aspects sum up who I am. While the photographs may trigger the audiences’ imagination, I’ve never attempted to go out and create a certain aesthetic. I shoot and create only things that are interesting to me – no trends, no fads.

You mentioned science fiction and fantasy, do you dream often about another world?

Dreams of another world don’t play a role in my photography. The work originates from images that stuck with me as a kid and into adulthood. I believe that we experience a huge transformation in adolescence – say from ages 11 to 14. The things we see during this period has a way of affecting how we see the world and make decisions. These experiences act as the catalyst for the visual cues that affect the look, feel and the result of my creations as it relates to my understanding of my culture. 

Many artists shy away from admiring their own art, how you do feel about your art after you give it to the public?

The work is a part of me, so I don’t shy away but I do look critically at the creation. I may come to the conclusion that I am not happy about certain aspects of the work or it could’ve come out better, but these mistakes embody my imperfection as a human. Strangely, there’s beauty in that the creation becomes right over time. I look back years after and see how I’ve improved and it becomes my journey.

Does an artist have to be poor?

I don’t subscribe to that idea. I have responsibilities that I take seriously and it is important that I do what I love but what I love should also take care of me and my family. If the art doesn’t do that, then I struggle to create because I will become stressed and anxious. The idea that an artist should be poor is silly. There are artists that sell their work for millions, they are not poor and I want to get to that point in my career.

From what I’ve read it seems as though you get great fulfilment from photography, were you in a dark place professionally before?

I was never in a dark place in my career. Prior to photography I was in the pharmaceutical industry having graduated with a chemistry and bioinformatics degree. I got into photography out of curiosity, then got the reinforcement through people who saw my work and encouraged me. Photography became an activity I enjoyed that led me to the more technical aspects of fine art. It was very much a natural progression for me.

Is the formulation of your ideas independent or collaborative?

It depends on who I am working with or on. The ideas usually come from me but I am open to listening to the opinions of the subjects. I may come up with an idea and the subject executes perfectly but many times it involves adjustments to obtain the right composition. I enjoy collaborating because the portraiture is an interdependent relationship with me and the subject.

Have you always been comfortable around beautiful women?

Initially, I was not comfortable but this is more so about giving directions and drawing out the best from the model. Now it is not an issue and overtime I discovered that I have a deep interest in learning about women and their space in the world. The cultural focus of some of my photography is to explore this narrative. I hope to make the model comfortable when I am engaged with these women.

How do you define beauty?

There’s beauty in everything and my spirituality and journey feeds into my understanding of the idea. I believe in the beauty of all things and I can compose an image that is beautiful from something people consider not having beauty. In our youth we get comfortable with certain ideas of beauty, which is just a silly notion.

Q&A, PhotographyFemi Adeyinka