Daniel Obasi is a Nigerian photographer, stylist and art director currently based in Lagos. His works aim to advance discourse surrounding livelihood in Nigeria, with a particular focus on Lagos’ queer community. Inspired by Afrofuturism and old cinema, Obasi uses colour and narrative to capture the communities of his choosing through an idealised, timeless lens. His work has achieved international acclaim, and he has recently published his debut photo book, Beautiful Resistance.
The project came to fruition amidst the #EndSARS movement of 2020. Supporters called for the disbanding of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a unit of the Police notorious for citizen abuse in Nigeria. A viral video allegedly showing SARS officers killing a young man sparked a series of mass protests. Protesters were met with violence, and unarmed demonstrators were shot at Lekki Toll Bridge.

In this photobook, Obasi pays homage to the power of Nigerian protest, to resilience and resistance. Obasi told Dazed the photo book is “an ode to the Queer minority community in Nigeria and young Nigerians who stood up against police brutality and political corruption.” Collaborating with Louis Vuitton, Obasi aims to provoke us to think deeper about how (or if) art can inspire change within the political landscape globally.

Released a few years after these events, the country's youth and queer community suffer at the hands of the state. Yet as the presidential election approaches, the strength of resistance and community, displayed beautifully by Obasi, could pave the way to fairer futures. We caught up with him to learn more about this project and the communities that inspired it.
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Can you tell us a little about yourself and your practice?
My name is Daniel Obasi, I’m a multidisciplinary artist working between fashion, photography, film and fine art. My practice dwells around notions of masculinity, sexuality, activism, politics and human relationships. My work is often set in a world of surrealism, yet it draws on reality and my personal experiences.
You are a multidisciplinary artist, yet you focus predominantly on photography. What initially sparked your interest in this medium?
Images have a way of speaking so loudly. You can hold so many emotions and ideas in a photo, similar to a realistic painting. My interest in the medium started off as a hobby; a series of photo journaling which over time grew into editorials, campaigns, curated image series and now a photo book. Being self-taught I relied mostly on my eye and perspective.
You’ve said that you’re attracted to both old cinema and Afrofuturism, the influence of which is evident in your work. What do you find so inspiring about these styles?
Old cinema has a rawness and honesty to it that’s really beautiful, I am often in awe of the amount of detail that went into many of these productions. There was a beautiful synergy between the politics, literature and the history of that era that’s always so evident in old cinema.
Afrofuturism holds space for us dreamers who always look to the past (history), and the present, and hope to paint a future that’s uplifting, curious… a future that remembers and helps guide the next generation through imaginative art.
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You have gained notoriety through your work photographing Lagos’ queer scene. What do you hope to express through these portraits?
Truths! Resilience! Strength!
Can you tell us a little bit more about Lagos’ queer community?
It's a beautiful community of friends and chosen families that are tired of living in the shadows but must navigate the perils of a country’s politics and religions that are all stacked up against you. Holding court behind closed doors to enjoy the company of friends – dancing, singing, conversations, tears, memories, love, heartache.
You also frequently work as a fashion photographer, producing editorials for many renowned magazines. What flare do you bring to your fashion work?
I think I bring my stories. There is a dreamlike element to my work I hope to communicate in my editorials.
“Images have a way of speaking so loudly. You can hold so many emotions and ideas in a photo, similar to a realistic painting.”
You initially entered the fashion industry as a writer and stylist. Are these practices you still partake in?
Writing not as much, but yes, I still style all my personal projects. However, I’m very interested in collaborating with others in the near future.
You have art directed three fashion films and have previously coined film your first love. Can you tell us a little bit more about your work as a filmmaker?
With my films, I really just want them to feel like the images, like an extended form of my photography. All mediums can collaborate as long as the vision stays constant. As long as you can feel something when you watch my film or look at my photographs.
You have just released your first photobook, titled Beautiful Resistance – Fashion Eye Lagos. Can you tell us a little more about this project and its concept?
The book takes on an activist lens; you are looking at a surreal city but giving space to characters in scenarios that draw on certain realities. Through metaphors and symbolism, the book draws strength from cultural, political and symbolic references that represent activism and power. Although positioned from Lagos’ perspective, these issues of political unrest are similarly happening all over the world. The book aims to provoke us all to think deeper about how or if art can inspire change within the political landscape globally.
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The publication was released in collaboration with Louis Vuitton. How did this partnership materialise and how did it influence the publication?
We started working on the book from 2019 into 2020, so it took about 3 years for everything to be finished and published. I always wanted to make a photo book… I just wasn’t sure when and how, so when the opportunity came to collaborate with Louis Vuitton on a book inspired by Lagos… I threw myself into it wholeheartedly, and a string of conversations led to Beautiful Resistance. The support of Louis Vuitton was great and really helped with making sure the vision I had for the book came to life. I’m really grateful that this partnership happened.
What’s next for Daniel Obasi?
Currently, I have been resting and spending time with my friends and family… but you will be hearing from me soon.
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