In Conversation: Ade Okelarin | Asiko

Asiko is a London based Nigerian photographer who creates compositions straddling fantasy and reality. He has produced a series of exciting conceptual features ranging from themed narratives to high profile portraits.

Hi Ade, give us a little background on yourself and where you are from?
I’m what you would call a child of two cultures. I spent some of my formative years in Nigeria while my adult years were in the UK. I’ve picked aspects of both cultures and incorporated it into who am I and this in turn spills into the work.

Where does the name Asiko come from?
It means ‘the moment’ in my native Nigerian language.

© Asiko

You have a master’s degree, and worked as research scientist for a while; When did you decided to venture in to photography and what inspired it?
I have a science degree and worked in the pharmaceutical industry for a number of years. I always felt something was amiss and stumbled on photography by accident. I used to take photos for fun which I still kind of do but with plans and timelines. I still very much enjoy it. Anyways I decided to change worlds because I am a creator at heart and photography afforded me the opportunity to develop my ideas. Changing my career is an ongoing process as I don’t believe in being a poor artist ……… plus I have a mortgage.

Erica Carvalho © Asiko

What famous photographers in history influenced your approach?
Tim Walker, Sarah Moon and Paolo Roversi.

Your images are quite diverse, how do you build a narrative for each shot?
It’s preconceived and thought out, well the personal project work at least. Even when it’s not I try to have a plan or a concept. I don’t think I could walk into a shoot without having an idea even if it is loose and easy flowing. I usually start with an idea and slowly expand it and build a story and in turn frames of images.

Self Portraits © Asiko

What is your favourite series you have done to date?
The Adorned series: which explores womanhood, culture and identity. Layers; which explores womanhood, ageing and identity.

Adorned. © Asiko

In the photo series, Layers; you showcase images of women between the ages of 19 and 90. What inspired the concept and the floral theme?
Jo Wise (floral artist), Jade Soar (makeup artist) and I brainstormed the project. We all knew we wanted to do something with women and flowers. Flowers for me represent aspects of womanhood and so we came up with the idea of the passing of time with women and the flowers.

Layers © Asiko
Layers. © Asiko
Layers © Asiko

You deal with themes of culture and femininity; tell us about some of these themes and what evoked them?
One of the things I have been exploring lately is my African culture and heritage which has opened me to womanhood in African, especially Nigeria (where I am from). I love my culture, however no culture is perfect and there are things I disagree with. One of those things is how women are treated liked second class citizens. The surprising thing is when I dug deeper in African culture women had prominent and important roles in society before colonialism. They had more of a voice and equal footing in culture. Somewhere along the way these ideals were lost and women lost their voice and relegated to baby makers and kitchen constants. My work aims to highlight the beauty and strength of the African woman within the framework of culture and contemporary world.

Minna Salami. MsAfropolitan © Asiko

Give us a little insight on your celebration of women.
Honestly I am not completely sure why I celebrate women, it seems like an ongoing introspective conversation. I am not sure if its because of my mother who had a great influence on me as a child or trying to understand my wifes place in society. I am also interested in the place of women in current society and their struggles in finding a voice in history.

Tribal Girl © Asiko

This picture resonates with us. Tell us a bit about this shoot…
The picture was inspired by Nigerian cultural heritage and the arrival of a new bride into a new community. The image is a frame of the narrative where she is welcomed by children in the village and ushered into her new environment.

© Asiko

What other forms of art are you passionate about?
I love everything visual arts and I get inspiration from different mediums of expression; sculpture, paintings, avant garde fashion, cinema

Autumn Bird. © Asiko

What are your aspirations going forward?
That my work continues to grow and resonate and into more exhibitions and opportunities to showcase the work.

Thanks Ade!