A Story Behind A Photograph by Joshua Odulate

Ninth in the series of commissions for Develop at Home - a digital programme of articles, interviews and resources to help us stay connected, inspired and informed at this time - is Develop Participant Joshua Odulate sharing a story behind his photograph Diaspora Girls.

Being a British born Nigerian, I’ve always had the best of both worlds when it came to culture and which country I identify with. However, despite growing up in the UK, there’s always been a sense disconnection with identifying as British because I have no British heritage and I’ve always been surrounded by a Nigerian culture as I am the child of two immigrants. Additionally, growing up in a predominantly white town meant that I was the minority. On the other hand, being part of the diaspora has also limited my knowledge of Nigeria as I didn’t grow up there and I’ve had to rely on learning the culture through my parents. This led to me struggling with which country to identify with more. These thoughts helped to pave the way for my project titled Diaspora Girls.

Last year, I invited my friends of over ten years Tamara, Destiny and Toni to my house to shoot them for this project. Three of them are all of Nigerian descent which made this project more personal as they had an understanding of what I wanted to capture. I instructed them to bring traditional Nigerian headscarves to wear whilst I went through my mum’s clothing to use as a potential background for the shots. The three girls wore white tops in order to match and allow the colour of the headscarves to stand out more. I ended up capturing this photograph by the fence of my garden. Having them faced away from each other helped to display the detail of their headscarves. Initially, I wanted to show their faces in the image, but I felt that just photographing them from behind brought more power and emotion to the shot.

Shooting the girls on 35mm film meant that I had a limited amount of takes so I had to think carefully about each frame being captured. Once my film had been developed, I was amazed by how the photograph came out especially as I had a bit of self-doubt at the back of my mind that the image would be too dark or too grainy. This made the image more special to me as the turnout was unexpected.

Looking back at this photograph a year later, it is one of the most important images I’ve captured. Nigerian culture has played a big role in my life and has shaped who I am today as a person. I had taken this image right after I had finished sixth form and my mind had been filled with confusion and uncertainty about the type of work I wanted to produce but this image paved the way for me, to tell more stories through my lens.

- Joshua Odulate