In an industry that often struggles with representation and diversity, Nigerian-born photographer Sammy Oguejiofor is making a name for himself by capturing the beauty of Black skin and using his craft to elevate the work of creatives. With a childhood love for photography, Sammy’s vibrant and detail-oriented approach has propelled him into a full-time career.
Sammy’s passion for photography was ignited during his college years, where he stumbled upon a campus photo studio. “Something just always felt right every time I did it,” he recalls. After earning his first $100 through photography, Oguejiofor set a goal to pursue the profession full-time, giving himself ten years to achieve success. Now, four years into his journey, he is grateful for the progress he’s made while continuing to learn and grow.
Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, Sammy’s perspective on photography and Black skin has been shaped by his experiences. He explains, “I started photographing mostly dark people to not only show the beauty in the darkness but maybe someday someone will look at my work and feel just a little bit more confident all because of how I photographed someone who looks like them.”
For Oguejiofor, photography is a deeply personal and fulfilling pursuit. He views the process as a vacation, from planning and execution to post-processing, and finds immense satisfaction in bringing his creative visions to life. His drive to continually improve pushes him to pick up his camera, eager to see how far his talent can take him.
To delve deeper into Sammy Oguejiofor’s artistic journey and explore his experience photographing Black skin, representation in the photography industry, fashion, and more, be sure to read our full interview below.
For those who are unfamiliar with your work, what moment or experience in your life sparked your love for photography and later, your desire to turn it into a full-time career?
My love for photography started before I considered myself a photographer. I was always fund of carrying a small camera everywhere I went and taking pictures of random things and I felt my first spark for photography when I discovered the photo studio on my campus and even if I did not know what I was doing, something just always felt right every time I did it.
My desire to turn it into a career started also from college when I made my first $100 while doing it as a side hustle and once I graduated I made it a goal to do photography full time. I knew it wouldn’t be easy especially since I did not know my niche and how to market myself but I gave myself 10 years to really try this and if it did not work then I’ll give it up. Now I’m in year four doing it professionally and very much grateful, I still have a lot to learn and more to achieve but I’m definitely not where I was when I decided to embark on this journey.
How has your upbringing in Lagos, Nigeria influenced your unique perspective on photography and the way you capture black skin?
My upbringing in Lagos, Nigeria definitely has a huge role in my love for dark skin and why I capture it the way I do. How the dark skin is viewed over here in the US currently by black people is not the same way it’s viewed back home. Being black is not viewed as beautiful back home, it’s mostly viewed as a sign of being in the lower class so the black kid on the street don’t feel very confident in their skin especially when most of the influential people back home are lighting their skin complexion. I started photographing mostly dark people to not only show the beauty in the darkness but maybe someday someone will look at my work and feel just a little bit more confident all because of how I photographed someone who looks like them.
Out of curiosity, what were the most important realizations or things you learned by moving to the U.S.?
Racism for one, I never experienced anything like that where I came from so it was quite shocking to see how black people were treated here but most importantly freedom; freedom to dream, freedom to achieve anything. It’s amazing to know that I can fully chase my dreams and succeed in it instead of settling because of lack of opportunities.
Whether it be more personal projects or your work in fashion, what compels you to pick up a camera?
Photography makes me feel alive, it’s like a vacation to me, every process of it from planning to executing and post processing. It’s always amazing to see an image that started from just a thought. Another reason I pick up my camera is because I know I’m yet to create my best work and I’m excited to see how far this can really take me.
Going back to fashion, can you speak to what aspects of fashion photography specifically resonate with you, and how do you believe they complement your approach to capturing images?
The aspects of fashion photography that resonate with me are high fashion, editorial fashion and lookbooks. I’m drawn to high fashion outfits especially when they’re vibrant because I love the contrast it creates when paired with a dark model.
How do you feel your work contributes to the larger conversation around representation and inclusivity in the photography industry?
A lot of dark models did not grow up seeing a lot of models and reference images that look like them so to be able to create works that the next generation of dark models will use as reference is nothing short of a blessing.
That being said, what role does collaboration play in your creative process, and how do you choose the various artists or models you work with?
Collaboration plays a huge role for me, I get excited to work with other creatives and get to experience their art and thought process. In terms of choosing artists to create with, I’m very big on vibe and energy so if it feels right I’m up for it and also professionalism is huge for me, I love to respect everyone’s time and craft so I expect the same in return.
Having accomplished so much already, are there any upcoming projects or creative ventures that you are particularly excited about? What can we expect to see from you in the future?
I’m very grateful for all that I’ve been able to accomplish so far it’s been a blessing, and in regards to what’s next, I try not to rush my process so my main focus is on perfecting my craft and systems so I can give my best to the next opportunity that comes my way.