The key formula behind Brad Ogbonna’s photography appears to be adapting to his circumstances and surroundings. Growing up in Midwest America under a strict Nigerian parenthood, gives us the indication that Brad has sought life outside his constraining boundaries, the kind that could so easily threaten one's creative nature. Primarily using film, he feels most at ease when capturing pure moments of age-old friends and locating the unhinged beauty of the places he visits. However, not satisfied with only these aspects, Brad has incorporated the use of digital and video to his style of work, exploring the realms of fashion photography and short concept films. After moving back to NYC and adapting to life as a freelance photographer, we gain a few words with the impressive photographer.
Dazed Digital: Your style of work is very varied, shooting all kinds of subjects - What style of photography feels more natural to you?
Brad Ogbonna: Definitely lifestyle and editorial - photographing subjects in their natural state with little interference on my end is when I am most comfortable. Shooting friends and age-mates has been fun since there is already a rapport and familiarity present that makes capturing unique moments very easy, but the rush and excitement I get from shooting a person for the first time is second to none. I am always careful not to encroach on my subject’s space too much so that the photos will retain the individual’s style as much as possible.
I also enjoy shooting street scenes at night, but pretty much nightlife in general, because I am intrigued by how different everything, and everyone looks at night. The world just comes alive when the sun is down and inhibitions are less of a factor.
DD: What equipment do you enjoy working with?
Brad Ogbonna: I used to shoot primarily with a Yashica T4 until a friend convinced me that I could have more control over things like lighting and focus if I shot with a manual, rangefinder camera. I was a little stubborn at first, but I came across a 35mm Yashica FX-3 Super 2000 at a second hand store in Saint Paul, Minnesota a few years back and I have been shooting with that ever since. I have been shooting a lot more digital in the last year or so and I am finally starting to get the hang of it/enjoy it.
DD: As a freelance photographer how do you 'get by' without sacrificing your own creative direction?
Brad Ogbonna: I feel like most of the people who have hired me thus far have checked out my work prior to getting in contact and know what to expect beforehand. Since I primarily shoot film there is less of an opportunity for them to direct my style on the spot. In that respect, I don’t have to sacrifice much of my own creativity, but as I am finding out, the more someone is willing to pay you, the more control and influence they want on their end (hence the reason why I have been shooting more digital lately).
DD: Can you explain the concept behind your 'conversation with friends' series?
Brad Ogbonna: I enjoy being around people and listening to all kinds of stories, and I feel like a lot of my friends have some great things to say. ‘Conversations with friends’ is my way of getting those stories out there. The series has been on kind of a self-imposed hiatus, but I am planning on bringing it back this month.
DD: What interests you about fashion photography and why have you chosen to also go down this path?
Brad Ogbonna: There’s no easy way for me to answer this question, because I am not necessarily into fashion, but I have been approached to shoot fashion a lot more than I ever imagined. I do adore the history of fashion photography, and my favorite photographer, Gordon Parks, got his start shooting fashion. That has been what has inspired me to shoot more of it, and really take an interest in the field.
DD: What are you currently working on / plans for the future?
Brad Ogbonna: I have recently moved back to New York City from Minnesota/Wisconsin, so I have been adjusting to being back in the city and seeking work as a recent college-graduate/freelancer in a city full of both. In the fall I will begin a series on young-Nigerians in the diaspora. It is interesting to see what paths my peers have taken in the western world having grown up under notoriously strict Nigerian parents. Aside from that, I am going to be assisting an older photographer soon and I hope to continue learning more about the commercial side of photography and have a better understanding of my equipment.