Stephen Tayo on photography and philosophy

The photographer discusses growing up in Lagos, how studying philosophy influenced his imagemaking and why the government in Nigeria needs to start recognising the value of the creative industries

Nigeria is in the midst of a cultural boom that is being spearheaded by a new generation of young creatives. The country is home to everyone from afrobeats star Wizkid, who was the first Nigerian artist to both chart and top the US Billboard Hot 100 with Drake collab One Dance in 2016, through to the Native, a magazine, festival and collective that is championing Nigeria youth culture everywhere from Lagos to London.

One homegrown creative talent worth knowing about is Stephen Tayo, a photographer who fuses documentary and fashion to elevate everyday moments and highlight the beauty of his community. Tayo’s striking portraits of local Lagos street style began to capture international attention in 2018. He has since completed a number of high profile editorial commissions, including a striking photo series of young students at Lagos’ Leap of Dance Academy for the New York Times, as well as shooting Skepta for a Havana Club campaign in Cuba and exhibiting in Amsterdam and Paris.

All images: courtesy Stephen Tayo

Born in Ikere-Ekiti State and raised in Lagos, the possibility of a creative career didn’t feel immediately available to Tayo when he was growing up. “It wasn’t that cool to be a creative,” he tells CR. “The world has become so diverse now that everything literally is possible, so if a child or a teenager is saying I would like to explore filmmaking, I think now there is more support from their parents or guardian. I think it is becoming interesting to see how people are open to the unconventional, not the typical studying medicine or law, or finance anymore.”