The emotional aspects of photographer Deji Osinulu's work outweigh the technical ones. Not by much, he says, but by enough that his creative process is focused on making a connection with his subject rather than achieving technical perfection. "My first concern is emotional, but there's an ebb and flow to it," he tells us. "There are some days when that emotional connection is really there and the technical [skills] are strong enough that you can just them fall into the background and focus on the moment. And sometimes you are having technical problems, so you have to pay attention to that in order to get the shot.
"For me, I want to be able to look at a photo and think, 'Oh, this is what's going on here,' or 'This is what that place felt like.' That's what happened with the series After the Fires."
During the drought a few years ago, there were some fires in George Bush Park. It was a place Osinulu had often photographed. When he visited the park after the fires, the landscape was very different. Gone were the thick, green woods; in their place stood burnt and charred trees. "When I went back to the park, I could still smell the smoke. I was taking those photos and yes, there was a technical aspect to it, how to work with the light and how to show the shadows, but I wanted people to be able to smell the smoke when they looked at the photograph. For me, the emotion of the moment is what's important."
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What he does: "I wouldn't call myself a storyteller, because it's not my story that I'm telling. I would say that my job is to connect to people. I think a lot of [my job] has to do with being able to realize what connection looks like. Some of what you see in my photography is a bit of an appreciation for what is being presented. Hopefully, I'm able to look at something and say, 'Wow, there is something in this moment.' I think one of the things that drives my photography is the ability to connect with people."
Why he likes it: "It's always fantastic when you show the person the final image. You see a big grin on their face and that's always fun. That's really huge for me. Really though, the part I like best is shooting. At some point in the shooting, the person relaxes and starts to let their real self show. At some point you can start to see the story. That's really great."
What inspires him: "People really inspire me; telling stories inspires me. Even if I'm shooting a cup of coffee, there is story to tell. With corporate portraits, sure there's a certain image that the person and the company want to have, but they also want to say, 'Hey, this is the person behind the name plate.' There are constraints to corporate portraits, sure, but there's still an honesty, a realness that I want to show.
"I love weddings, being able to tell people's stories. When I shoot weddings, I keep in mind that the photographs I'm taking are actually not just for the couple or the immediate family but for people who haven't even been born yet. People want to be able to look back and say 'This is my grandfather. And this is how he looked when he laughed and threw his head back. My brother does the same thing. That must be where he got it from.' So I keep in mind that these images will be precious to people I don't know."
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If not this, then what: "I don't know what else I would like to do. I'm happy with photography right now. If I had to do something else, I'm sure it would still have to do with making a connection with people somehow."
If not here, then where: Osinulu is originally from Lagos, Nigeria, but he's been living in Houston for some 15 years now. "I think I'm a certified Houstonian now," he laughs. "Honestly, I can't think of another place I would want to be full-time. I think I would want to always be based in Houston and just travel to different parts of the world for different projects."
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What's next: "I don't have another series planned right now. I will in the next few weeks or months. Right now I'm going to continue to shoot and get ready for whatever comes up."
For information about Deji Osinulu Photography, visit dejiosinuluphotography.com.
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