New Photography 2023

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Karl Ohiri. *Untitled* from The Archive of Becoming. 2015–ongoing. Inkjet print. Sheet: 10 × 8" (25.4 × 20.3 cm), frame: 20 × 16" (50.8 × 40.6 cm). Courtesy of the artist. © Karl Ohiri

Karl Ohiri. Untitled from The Archive of Becoming. 2015–ongoing 358

inkjet print on foil, printed on plexi. Sheet: 10 × 8" (25.4 × 20.3 cm), frame: 20 × 16" (50.8 × 40.6 cm). Courtesy of the artist. © Karl Ohiri

Artist, Karl Ohiri: My name is Karl Ohri. I’m a British-Nigerian artist. You’re looking at a series entitled “The Archive of Becoming,” which is part of a larger body of work called “The Lagos Studio Archives.”

From a young age, I’ve always had this fascination with photography and records and how we can use them to make sense of identity and our surrounding world.

Within Lagos, studio photography is really important because Lagos is very much a society which like to celebrate events. You can don your best clothes and go out to the studio and be photographed. The studio was a place where you can perform. So friends would hold hands, there’d be people sitting on each other's laps—these type of poses of affection.

In 2015, I discovered that due to a shift from analog to digital photography, a lot of this visual archival material was being discarded, lost, deteriorating. I put a call out for photographers asking them to work with me, collectively, to see how we can preserve this.

Once sorting through the archive, there were some that were in such bad condition that they had to be put aside. So the project was taking those negatives, scanning them in, and they can be reproduced and printed. Within the images you can see a lot of decay, colors, different processes of light and chemical change that gives them life.

“The Archive of Becoming” emerged from realizing that through this abandonment, there’s something quite historically important and something quite beautiful going on. There’s an image of a man wearing glasses and the portrait is a very intense yellow color. You can really see the decay and how that’s created a new type of image, one that becomes otherworldly. It throws into question this idea of authorship because it’s the decay that’s enabled the image to morph into something completely different.

I think that every archive tells a story, this project reimagines the archive and creates a new frame of reference.