A chat with Nwaka Okparaeke

Hey Nwaka. Can you tell the readers a bit about yourself?

I’m a Nigerian and English female visual artist based in South East London.

Self portrait of Nwaka

Being of a mixed heritage, how much of a role does that play into your photographs?

I think my mixed heritage plays more on the subconscious side. I’ve noticed that I use a lot of mixed heritage models. I think this could be because, I like to see myself reflected in my photography.

How would you describe your artistic style?

I would say it’s loud and dreamy. A true representation of my mind.

A photograph of Bella Sontez (@bellasontez) taken by Nwaka

What I admire most about your work is the way you use colour and contrast to express emotions, beliefs or perceptions. From being care-free to encouraging others to openly embrace their heritage. What do you want your photographs to bring to the photography scene in the UK? 

I hope my work will bring a bit of vibrancy, to the more subtle and less colourful digital art seen in London these days. Also, I would like to contribute to the progression of bringing a wider range of people from different backgrounds to the scene.

Photograph of Tega Akpod (@tegaakpod) taken by Nwaka.

I love that! It’s nice to see diversity in photography. Being a Nigerian myself, I think my personal favourite is this photograph. I love the way you’ve used Ankara fabric in the background. What was your thought process behind it?

If I’m 100% honest, I can’t remember what motivated me to create this. It feels like I did it such a long time ago. It might have been around the time when I just shot whatever I was attracted to. A time when I didn’t put specific concepts behind my work. Instead, I let the fact that I was letting my mind speak through visuals be the concept. Basically I just freestyled. So yeah, up to now I’m not sure what my mind was telling me, but I’m still very attracted to this photo. So, I think that’s interesting.

Photograph of @kournei taken by Nwaka

When did you realise that you wanted to pursue a career in photography? When did it hit you? 

It hit me when I was in secondary school. I found out that there was a career called fashion photography. Since then, I’ve taken time to try to learn photography. I’m quite a spontaneous person, so I didn’t really have any specific reason for picking it. It just seemed cool, so I was like yeah sure, let’s do this. It was probably about a year and a half ago that I found out about conceptual art and how much art is representation of ones feelings. So, it wasn’t till around a year and half ago that I started seeing my work as art, rather than just photos. From that point onward, my photography just took on this cool colourful style that I would have never predicted to have happened.

Photograph of Alexis McCleave (@thatsjustalexis) taken by Nwaka

That’s a very cool story. The direction your photography is going in really makes you standout amongst the crowd. Are there any photographers that you would like to work with in the future?

I don’t look up to any photographers. I can’t imagine myself doing any personal shoots with other photographers. That would feel very invasive. If it was for something else, not too personal, then anyone that I can create a cool vision with.

From your experience so far, is there any advice would you give to young photographers who are struggling to breakout into the industry?

I don’t really think I’m in the industry properly myself to be honest, but what I’m trying to do is focus more on myself. Keep my mind and body healthy. One way of doing that for me is by creating art. By focusing on doing whatever comes naturally and listening to my mind and body. I’m creating things that people are attracted to. This is sort of leading me into the industry. I think patience is always good and doing what you most enjoy, so that the self motivation to do incredible things comes naturally. If I’m honest I’m still young in this, so I’m probably not the best to go to for this advice. Just do remember to put mental and physical health first.

Photograph of @bisolalola_ and @neauxwal taken by Nwaka. Styled by @vintagedollrisa. Directed by @mercysu_

That’s true. What’s next for you? Can you give us any hints about anything you are working on?

I’m working on a short film. Hopefully that will be out by the end of this year. I’m also working on playing with other mediums like graphics and painting.

‘OUTLOUD’ – check out Nwaka’s short film below:

“We live in a society that moulds us into people that compress any feelings or thoughts that do not fit into general standards. The interesting thing is when we do eventually speak out on what we thought was so “weird” about our self, we realise almost everyone around us has felt or feels the same in some way or another. Even if this isn’t the case, we still shouldn’t feel as if our feeling and thoughts are invalid just because the others directly around us can not relate. Instead we should accept and embrace this difference and allow it to become a strength.”

See Indiegogo for further details regarding Nwaka’s campaign.



Written on: Monday 14th August 2017