Daniel Obasi: Art as Resistance

With his photobook Beautiful Resistance, the Lagos-based imagemaker and stylist delved deep into protest, power, and freedom in Nigeria. He reflects on the events that “built up a fire” inside him and how he translated them into a potent visual narrative.

“An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times,” goes the famous Nina Simone quote. Those words have become a doctrine of sorts for Daniel Obasi, providing a throughline in his work as a photographer, art director and stylist. Nowhere is this more prominent than in his photobook Beautiful Resistance, published as part of the Louis Vuitton Fashion Eye collection – a series of books documenting locations around the world from the perspective of a fashion photographer.

So far in his career, Obasi has worked with leading fashion magazines, directed a clutch of short films, and undertaken the small matter of styling Beyoncé. When he was invited to take part in the Fashion Eye series, he knew that if he was going to focus his contribution on Lagos – where he is based – he couldn’t gloss over the reality of what is happening there. “I think they were shocked to see the images,” he says, “and see how I was ready to push in that sense.”

All images from the book Beautiful Resistance, courtesy Daniel Obasi

In Nigeria, members of the LGBTQ+ community are criminalised and, even if they evade the brutal legal system, are subjected to discrimination and violence in public life. These conditions, and the maelstrom of corruption, oppression and brutality surrounding them, became the book’s inescapable driving force. “Between 2019 and 2020, there was a lot of conversation around the problems that we’re facing in the country, as young people, as queer people, as people who are just constantly embarrassed by the government, and by greedy politicians, and how things were difficult,” he recalls. “It just built up such a fire inside of me.”