Reze Bonna

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Illustration by Ayo Arogunmati


Mr. Bonna, did you always know you wanted to get into photography?

My first camera was a canon 40D. It seemed well suited for the kind of images I wanted to take and it was rugged enough to endure the terrain. I still have it. I started off with graphic design and later moved into motion picture. This was separate from my music production and performance activities. I later settled into photography out of interest and yearning to expand my capabilities.

What makes you want to take a picture? 

I need to have passion for the subject. Mainly for the human body and the millions of ways to form the composition. I let my architectural background guide my composition and presentation of the images. I can photograph anything but I choose what I shoot. It is important to learn without limits and understand all aspects first. I subscribe to the idea of generalize then specialize – much like the field of medicine.

Have you ever turned down a subject? 

I turn down subjects frequently because I'm not meant to shoot everything. I have my style and I think it's best to leave the other aspects to those whose specialty it is. Secondly, I'm very aware of my aesthetic so it won't do me any good to lose my identity in trying to grab all.

What role does a photographer play in the fashion industry? 

My art is meant to provoke thought, invoke emotions and revoke boundaries. Also, I'm meant to inspire a younger generation of not just creatives but also subjects as well (the models). So far I've been able to inspire, train and scout, sign off and relocate several models out of their home countries to other foreign agencies. So, the training is a huge but silent aspect of what I do. Basically, we aim to change lives otherwise there’s no meaning to what we do. For example, we’ve changed the mindset of international agencies and their acceptance of models whom they had concluded were only good for commercial work.

Are there challenges?

Personal interpretations of traditional beliefs and culture driven by fear has been the main challenge. This judgement has been erroneous. 

You’ve done a range of shoots with women as your subjects – how do you make them comfortable enough to trust your judgment?

They make it easy because they judge the previous work before they come to me. Although they're still a bit skeptical of their ability to execute results similar to the work they’ve seen. As per comfort, it's a result of professional treatment of the subjects. Contrary to most beliefs, these subjects are also passionate about their work and have specific goals, hence they exhibit professionalism. They want results, so the moment you derail they know and will object. A lot of the models now are also educated professionals in other fields and are able to compete and achieve strong compositions. 

How do you think your architectural and musical abilities influence your photography?

I apply the principles of graphics and architecture in my compositions. Music, art, architecture, photography, they all require the similar expressions of passion to produce. It's all creative art and they share similar principles. 

How do you balance commerce with your art?

My time is valuable. I'd rather do fewer jobs that pay me well than multiples that require so many man-hours but less remuneration. I have other well-paying businesses and I need to allocate time to them as well, so I’ll rather cut down on the photography clientele and make sure the few I have are quality.

Q&A, PhotographyFemi Adeyinka