Harry Odunze, a photographer and creative director from Benin, Nigeria, started photography because he fell in love with its vocabulary. While he was a student of Human Kinetics and Sports Science at the University of Benin, he was always around the photography team in his fellowship. “It was always fascinating to hear photographers talk about things like apertures and shutters.” He loved hearing them use these words and wanted to use them too. In 2018, his final year, he decided to pick up the camera and started self-learning.
Today, Harry has developed his photography skills, sharpened his creative focus, carved a niche for himself as a fine-art photographer, and constantly explores ways in which he can use photography to express ideas and pass important messages. “As a fine-art photographer, I make images that speak and make people think deeply about the stories behind these images.” His works have been exhibited at Archivo Jalon Angel (Spain) and featured in Smithsonian Magazine and over ten international magazines and communities.
International media have a single story problem about Africa and Black people and the stereotypical stories they tell have refused to go away, so while not on a deadline for commissioned projects, Harry creates personal projects to amplify the voice of his African heritage. “I am using my work to tell the real African story so that, more and more, outsiders can see that their version of the story is faulty.” On the other hand, he wants his work to inform Black people of solidarity. “More than how the other races treat Black people, how Black people (especially Africans) treat each other speaks deeply about how far the Black race will be able to win the fight to be heard and celebrated for all its excellence.”
Harry is a firm believer in the authenticity and significance of Africa’s creative exports. “African content, from music to visual art, has been gold, especially in recent times,” Harry claims. He believes strongly in the brilliance of Black people and wants them to evolve and adopt innovative ways to deepen their reach constantly. “This content just needs a wider distribution, and the creators need a stronger PR so they can begin to get the proper recognition they deserve.”
He often works with creative professionals who handle body painting, hair styling, make-up, and styling. A typical project often begins with the ideation process, followed by the development of a mood board to determine and prepare materials to be used for every aspect of the project. This preparation lets them plan properly for a project before its execution. However, a solidified message doesn’t always come before the project shoot. Sometimes, they come in unusual ways. “During the shoot, I do not usually know what to create,” Harry told The Moveee. “I don’t always know how a project will end before I start editing it.” For example, one of Harry’s recent bodies of work, titled Ancestral Face, came to him in a dream. The work features a human face covered in cowries and seeks to call more attention to celebrating the beauty of black culture.
Harry recently entered the NFT space with his piece. “I believe NFT is the future of galleries,” he said. “I am new to it and am still constantly learning, and I think that more creatives should jump into the moving train while it is still early.” He looks forward to seeing his work exhibited on more international platforms so that more and more people get to experience the real African story.