It was during university that Nwaka Okparaeke was first introduced to photography and film. “I found it to be the best way for me to express my thoughts and feelings using composition, colour, movement and sound,” the British Nigerian creative recalls. In fact, it’s the combination of these four elements that keeps her so invested in her chosen medium, bringing all of them together to tell a story. In Nwaka’s work, none of these elements exists without the others, resulting in an exciting and energetic portfolio that also has a strong conceptual foundation.
While storytelling is at the heart of all Nwaka’s projects, what that story is varies, and in the past Nwaka has shot covers for gal-dem and Crack, as well as stories for Wonderland and Neu Neu, as well as myriad music videos and personal projects. In one such personal project titled No Face, she depicts spies on a mission to uncover the truth behind the conspiracy. In another, a short film titled Lean Back, she explores how an individual copes with changes in their life, despite living in a society which doesn’t value self-reflection. “I created this film to help me reflect on my own journey of learning to accept who I naturally am and where I am going,” she writes on her website. “A journey I’ve undertaken despite judgement, a lack of self-understanding, conflicting opinions and contradicting characteristics within myself.”
No matter what the project, however, she aims to “tell authentic stories from honest perspectives.” She wants people to feel free when engaging with her work, she elaborates, and when creating a concept she “is naturally drawn to seeing how peace, serenity, love and freedom connect to every experience”.
This influences her visual language which is colourful and surreal. Subjects are often bathed in washes of colour or an ethereal ambience, imbuing her work with a dreamlike quality. She also often includes elements of nature in her work. “I love the sky and sea because they make me feel bring peace and joy,” she says. “Peace and joy, and how they tie into every story or situation is the foundation of my work.”
Recently this culminated in a project shooting the cover art for Touching Bass-signed musician Demae. It bears all the hallmarks of Nwaka’s signature work – there’s a vibrancy and energy to the shoot and Demae is depicted in a warm glow through Nwaka’s lens. In turn, the imagery is joyful and free, though there are hints to something darker, hints that are also present in Demae’s musical style. The album titled Life Works Out…Usually is due to be released on 4 September and is currently available for pre-order via Touching Bass.
“This project was extremely fun as I got to explore ways of capturing the transition between a sad, low mood, to a happy freeing mood,” Nwaka explains. “I loved working with different lighting effects, lens filters and colours to bring these moods to life. Working with Demae was a real pleasure as she has a brilliant energy. She did a great job of reflecting the story by embodying each energy, this made it really easy to get the perfect shots without much retouching.”
As for what’s next, Nwaka has her sights set on several more music videos and wants to complete a film she started making last year.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.