Daniel Oyegade’s striking photography is a visual love letter to Manchester’s urban spaces
The photographer tells us why philosophy and architecture play such an important role in informing his considered and sophisticated style.
- Olivia Hingley
- 8 December 2021
Prior to 2019, photographer Daniel Oyegade describes his interest in photography as “quite superficial.” “I was studying law at university,” he explains. “I didn't really have an interest in taking [it] any further until people began reaching out on Instagram, asking if I’d be able to do shoots for their model portfolios or small clothing brands.” With his interest then slowly turning into a “passion”, by late 2019 Daniel decided to do a master’s in photography, and since then his body of work has developed into a powerfully stylised depiction of Manchester and the young people who inhabit it. Now a full-time freelance photographer, Daniel predominately shoots for modelling agencies across Manchester, but, he says his “real passions lie in using my skills to produce high concept projects.”
Daniel’s attraction to shooting inner-city spaces is largely influenced by his interest in philosophy: “I think about questions in moral philosophy and aesthetics which I try to resolve in my creative work […] I feel there is a lot of subtlety in the aesthetics of urban spaces in contrast to more ‘objectively’ aesthetic spaces.” And certainly, Daniel’s use of landscapes and setting evoke this sense of abstract beauty. Placing his subjects – usually clothed in simplistic, clean-cut fashion pieces – against backdrops of concrete pillars, disused brownfield sites, and metal fences, Daniel’s photography raises questions of how local city spaces influence “the self”. Buildings also feature heavily in Daniel’s work and he attests to always having had “an interest in the visual language architects use in infrastructure.” This statement speaks significantly to Daniel’s ongoing collaborative project focussing on an “otherworldly angel-like being.” In the series, the “angel” is placed in recognisable Manchester spaces, such as a deserted Victoria tram station. With her stark white outfit and wings standing out against the dull greys and yellow of the station, the photos evoke a sense of dislocation and disorientation in a space where direction is fundamental.
Whilst Daniel’s subjects and settings err toward the contemporary, his methodology gravitates toward the traditional. Preferring “traditional analogue processes,” Daniel mainly shoots on medium format film, usually leaving him with a maximum of 30 shots per shoot. This sense of limitation, which would likely drive away other photographers, Daniel instead thrives off: “there is much less room for error when shooting with film, so I have full control over other variables.” Making the most of the “slower process” Daniel takes a more considered approach: “I might adjust a model’s pose three or four times before taking rather than taking multiple shots and hoping there are some I like.”
In 2020, however, Daniel deviated away from his focus on film photography and tried his hand at filmmaking. His short film Home is where the heart is – which is accompanied by 12 images – focuses on “why we seem so preoccupied with private land at the cost of community” whilst also asking “if our attachment to the ownership of land, specifically homes, is somewhat irrational.” In the film, a grainy lens shows a glamorous woman becoming increasingly agitated by her decadent yet isolated surroundings, only being released from this agitation by writing, through which she fully realises her discontent. The film was in large a response to the various lockdowns of 2020: “as last year’s lockdowns ha[ve] shown, contentment is not found in maintaining one’s own personal bubble, but rather venturing out and connecting with others.” Daniel intends, therefore, to use “visual storytelling” to “start a conversation about the way in which our current system may be increasing feelings of loneliness and disconnectedness in people.”
As well as being something he enjoys, creative collaboration is an important component for Daniel. He regularly works with up-and-coming stylists, and his photography has benefitted from such a broad range of young creative minds. In October of this year, he also led a film photography workshop at A Festival of Pan-African Events, Activities & Experiences in Manchester. Discussing the workshop, Daniel perceives that “being able to pass on knowledge and help others to get to a point where they feel confident with photography is essential.” With such depth of consideration and thought behind his deeply evocative work, Daniel looks set to continue making a powerful mark on Manchester’s creative scene.
Daniel Oyegade: Portraits, Mya (Copyright © Daniel Oyegade, 2021)
About the Author
Olivia joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in illustration, photography, ceramic design and platforming creativity from the north of England.