100 Creatives 2014: Deji Osinulu, Photographer

From Mardi Gras, Vol. 2
From Mardi Gras, Vol. 2
Photo by Deji Osinulu

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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100 Creatives 2014: Deji Osinulu, Photographer
(C) Deji Osinulu

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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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100 Creatives 2014: Deji Osinulu, Photographer
Self-portrait by Diji Osinulu

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."

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.

More Creatives for 2014 (In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).

Mason Sweeney, artist K.J. Russell, sci-fi author and writing teacher Emily Robison, choreographer and filmmaker John Cramer, violinist and concertmaster Shipra Mehrotra, Odissi dancer and choreographer Winston Williams, comics artist Octavio Moreno, opera singer Dylan Godwin, actor, storyteller and teacher McKenna Jordan, independent bookstore owner Steven Trimble, mixed media artist Sandria Hu, visual artist and professor of art Robert Gouner AKA Goon73, photographer Shawna Forney and Erma Tijerina (aka SHER), culture gurus Mark Bradley, photographer James Ferry, comics artist Keith Parsons, author and philosophy professor Alonzo Williams Jr., photographer Rudy Zanzibar Campos, painter Paige Kiliany, director Betirri Bengtson, visual artist Melissa Maygrove, romance novelist Natalie Harris, bridal gown designer Larry McKee, cinematographer Tiffany Heath, filmmaker Jonathan Pidcock, Jewelry Maker Mallory Bechtel, actor, singer, dancer Janine Hughes, visual artist Nyssa Juneau, artist John Merritt, artist Leslie Scates, choreographer and dance educator Denise O'Neal, producer, director, playwright Jason Poland, cartoonist Courtney Sandifer, filmmaker, actor, writer Lloyd Gite, gallery owner Henry Yau, The Children's Museum of Houston's publicity and promotions guru Angeli Pidcock, fantasy writer and mentor Jennifer Mathieu, author Scott Chitwood, writer Anat Ronen, urban artist Amber Galloway Gallego, rockstar and sign language interpreter Michael Weems, playwright Lane Montoya, artist Jordan Simpson, SLAM poet Joey & Jaime, designers Suzi Taylor, photographer Ashton Miyako, dressmaker T. Smith, artistLindsay Finnen, photographer Kaitlyn Stanley, tattoo artist Eleazar Galindo Navarro, video game maker Kate de Para, textile and clothing designer Shawn Swanner, video game painter Andy Gonzales, painter Chris Foreman, comic book sketcher Theresa DiMenno, photographer Jessica E. Jones, opera singer Atseko Factor, actor John Pluecker, writer, poet and language justice worker Ricky Ortiz, painter, tattoo artist Rabēa Ballin, artist David Wald, actor Lisa E. Harris, performing and visual artist Stephanie Todd Wong, executive director of Dance Source Houston Pamela Fagan Hutchins, novelist Heather Gordy, artist Mark Nasso, comic artist Shelbi-Nicole, artist Marian Szczepanski, novelist Jonathan Blake, fashion designer Doni Langlois, interior designer Kat Denson, dancer Blame the Comic, comedian Margaret Menchaca Alvarez, artist Jacquelyne Jay Boe, dancer Rene Fernandez, painter Teresa Chapman, choreographer and dancer


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