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David Uzochukwu’s Work Captures A Spark To Nigerian Creative Space In ‘Pluton’

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Pluton, a celebration of Nigerian creatives and their resilience and strength whilst making, creating and pushing boundaries through their art.

David Uzochukwu has taken his time to capture and create beautiful pictures from creatives that are shaping the creative space in Nigeria, with a mission to create a fictional Nigerian Pompeii.

There’s an obvious sense of maturity to his photography and at 20, the Austrian image-maker has already gained refreshing wisdom beyond his years and talks about his work with meticulous thoughtfulness.

Uzochukwu has made a positive name for himself for constantly delivering a serial of perfect styles that not only show him as a good photographer and creative but also a professional with a story. He has also taken shots for famous artists like FKA TwigsPharrell Williams and Ibeyi.

In Pluton, David is celebrating Nigerian creatives and their resilience and strength whilst making, creating and pushing boundaries through their art. Featuring performance artists and activists to dancers, models and filmmakers, each image encapsulates something special about its subject, captured in David’s memorable style and story.

I started talking to a few artists who were working and living in Lagos, and all of a sudden this whole new parallel of Nigerian society opened up to me.

David Uzochukwu

Pluton was begotten after an encounter in his hometown that sparked the idea. He had just finished an exhibition in Brussels where he started talking to a few artists working and living in Lagos. 

David was familiar with Nigeria; his father is Nigerian, and he visits every year or two. “It feels like home because I know the culture,” he says. “Even though I grew up in the diaspora, my father was always connected to the Igbo community here (in Nigeria).”

Pluton gets its name from the igneous rock that’s created when hot magma rises to the Earth’s surface and slowly cools, crystallizing. It’s a fitting metaphor for the series which David shot mainly an hour north of Lagos.

Pluton Features Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu, a self-taught experimental artist, Hermes Chibueze Iyele, an illustration dancer, and Tito Aderemi-Ibitola, an award-winning multimedia artist.

Pluton – Yadichinma Ukoha-Kalu By David Uzochukwu

Posing in what seems like the most apocalyptic of these collections of images. She stands firm in an enchanted, motionless and almost nonchalant expression on her soot-encrusted profile. Behind her, blurred trees and pools of smoke give a sense of desolation, like a scene from Pompeii. It’s like Yadichinma knows this destruction well and is unafraid.

I don’t know if it’s destroying me, or bringing something out.This portrait captures that struggle too.

Yadichinma, In an Interview with ‘The Omenka podcast

Pluton – Hermes Chibueze Iyela By David Uzochukwu

Photographed with his head up, eyes shut and surrounded by the night sky–“a shower of sparks emanate from him.” Iyela is a protégé of world-renowned choreographer Onikeku Qudus. Now dancing with the IWAL’EWA collective, Hermes is being captured by David as he shoots him mid-dancing, capturing his “strength as his vulnerability.” Confronted with the power and delicacy of his body as he contorts himself into an almost unnatural backbend, commanding the image.

Pluton – Tito Aderemi-Ibitola By David Uzochukwu

Tito Aderemi-Ibitola’s work focuses on the intersection of race, gender and ethnicity. She is shot standing high by a tree, with smoke billowing from her head.

I previously made an image where a woman’s hair kind of turns to smoke and I really wanted to revisit that in a larger context.

David Uzochukwu

This kind of sensitivity runs throughout the project, his family is Igbo, David is also aware of his European upbringing and how that places him in this context.

I have an Austrian passport; I grew up in Europe; I mean literally, I’m an outsider coming in, I’ve never thought more about the implications, on a social level, than I have working on this project.

David Uzochukwu

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