Adaeze Okaro’s photography aims to thrash stereotypes and showcase the beauty of Black men and women

Commissioned by Adobe for its Artist Development fund programme, the Nigeria-based artist has produced a joyful series that will be available on the Adobe Stock collection.

3 November 2021


Adaeze Okaro is a self-taught photographer born and raised in Enugu State, Nigeria. Through her eye-catching imagery, she centres her practice on portraiture, fine art, documentary and fashion – all of which lends a particular focus on her hometown, the Anambra State of Nigeria. “The first time I ever held a camera was at the age of six at a family friends’ home,” she tells us. “Fast forward some years later, and my late father got me a Canon digital camera whenever he travelled for his medical conferences.” In November 2018, Adaeze began taking pictures professionally and traded in her iPhone.

Today, not only is Adaeze’s photography style colourful and vibrant, but it’s also visually empowering as she aims to trace her cultural origins through the depiction of Black people. She’s also worked with companies such as Dove, Getty Images, Girlgaze, VSCO, Adobe, and others. Recent years have seen her garner recognition for the ways in which she aims to thrash stereotypes through her imagery and showcase the beauty of Black women. Most recently, she has been selected for the Artist Development Fund – an Adobe Stock initiative that aims to tackle the lack of diversity, representation, and authenticity in stock imagery.


Copyright © Adaeze Okaro, 2021

For too long, the creative industry has been lacking in diversity across all of its sectors. This is particularly prevalent in the media, where there’s been an increase in demand for stock imagery that represents personal and authentic narratives – especially those from minority or underrepresented communities. Consumers and stock buyers alike are becoming more conscious of the type of imagery that surrounds them; they’re hungry for, and understand the importance of, content that includes people from all backgrounds and walks of life. With the help of the Adobe Stock Advocates programme, this is all starting to become a reality.

Through several initiatives, like the $500,000 Artist Development Fund, the programme has selected eight artists from Adobe Stock, which includes Adaeze, Gerardo Rojas Juárez, Oriana Korea, Cole Ndelu, Alp Peker, Ejatu Shaw, Amaal Said and Andrea Vollgas. Adobe is commissioning the artists to explore new projects, all the while helping to finance things like models, renting spaces and equipment. The Artist Development Fund, which is in collaboration with the Adobe Creative Residency programme, is giving $12,500 to 40 global artists this year, helping them to undertake new and exciting projects – in turn providing 20,000 inclusive and diverse assets to the Adobe Stock collection.

There are currently millions of royalty-free images, graphics, photos and more on the Adobe Stock collection. So the type of visuals that Adobe puts out are going to have a lasting impact on the world – notably when it comes to building a more authentic creative landscape. Adobe recognises this and aims to promote and support diverse content, and strives to help both Adobe Stock artists and Creative Cloud stock customers to be more culturally sensitive, aware and accurate in how they make and consume stock assets. The Advocates programme, for instance, features content development, promotions and education initiatives, as well as thought leadership blogs and programmes, plus the Artist Development Fund. There’s also the Advocates Voices series and Advocates programme Creatives Briefs – which crowdsources content from a community of artists and those who identify as allies.


Copyright © Adaeze Okaro, 2021

In terms of what Adaeze has achieved through the Artist Development Fund commission, the photographer has produced a series exploring three of the creative briefs presented by Adobe Stock: Celebration of Self, Joyful Rhythm, and Beliefs and Rituals. The other briefs include Identity and Gender; Circles of Activism; Veterans Return; Taste of Heritage; and Family Life – each of the selected artists will centre their work on these topics.

With these creative briefs in mind, Adaeze’s series photographs her subjects in their own personal spaces and homes. “I took a long look at myself and the people around me, where I come from, the people who have grown with me and the people I’ve created amazing work with,” she says. “When I had this moment, I just knew I wanted people to see more and feel more from what I was going to create with my diverse range of beautiful photography subjects.”

Not only is the series inspirational, but it also pinpoints the type of work that’s really needed to create a more diverse and inclusive stock imagery landscape. A true joy to behold, the series sees Adaeze’s models in mid-laugh, happily tossing their arms into the air and giggling towards the lens. Speaking about one of her models, named Alexander Ubochi, Adaeze says that she was “such a diva”. She adds: “She made my experience with her so smooth, playful and very colourful.” Adaeze wanted to capture her in different motions and locations, “so every day was like an entirely different series of radiance and style.”

Adaeze is an advocate for the Artist Development Fund due to its commitment to inclusivity and diversity. She says: “I love how everyone is welcome and everyone has a stage to be represented and shown for everything that they are.” As the series becomes available for Adobe Stock users worldwide, she hopes that people will feel represented and appreciated by looking at (and using) her work. “I hope it stays with them; they don’t have to be anything else but themselves.”

We’re sure you’ll be inspired by Adaeze’s impactful work, and perhaps you’ve also been encouraged to pick up a camera and start documenting your own vision or community. If this sounds like you, then submit your visuals to the Adobe Stock collection and help change the media landscape for the better. But before getting stuck into it, Adaeze suggests that you begin shooting with your friends, your community and your favourite people. “Let them inspire you and vice versa,” she says. “You don’t have to break the bank for outfits or costumes; your props for your first best-selling photo can be right in your wardrobe or garbage.” Otherwise, Adaeze points out that research and communication are key. “Work more with people who love your work, and see the good work you’re trying to do and achieve through them. It makes everything go smoothly.”

GalleryCopyright © Adaeze Okaro, 2021

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Copyright © Adaeze Okaro, 2021

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