Stephen Tayo Nigeria, b. 1994
Stephen Tayo is a photographer who captures intimate portraits that reveal the sartorial flair and quiet dignity of his sitters. Focusing on their clothing and accessories, his work explores the multi-layered symbolism of fashion: what clothing says about identity and relations with family and community.
He often trains his lens on everyday, commonplace but yet undocumented subcultures; elevating ordinary moments of his environment: at festivals, family celebrations, friendships, across Nigeria and beyond. His sitters are usually active participants in the act of picture taking; they perform along with the photographer or often times even set the tone. Adopting formal poses that were popular in the studio photography in West Africa in the 1950s and 1960s, his work is influenced by the portraits of Seydou Keita, Malick Sidibe and Samuel Fosso.
Stephan Tayo participated in an artist residency with the Arthouse Foundation in 2020. In his residency project, What If?, Stephen collaborated with a group of self-professed drag artists in Lagos, who are leveraging the visibility of social media to build digital followings and challenging social expectations. Stephen spoke extensively with veteran journalist, academic and film producer Funmi Iyanda, whose studies of Yoruba cosmology, history and evolution have examined the ways gender was expressed in pre-colonial Yoruba culture, and how those negotiations have been warped by contact with the West.
Stephen presented his subjects free of political subtext, photographing in spaces where his subjects felt at ease and with the creative freedom to pose in ways that were best representative of their drag. Stephen Tayo ultimately created a series of collages based on these photo sessions, a new direction in his artistic practice. His collages chop up, fragment, and repeat images from his portraits, which are super-imposed with texts of colloquial expressions.
Stephen Tayo studied philosophy at the University of Lagos. Tayo lives, works in and draws inspiration from Lagos. His work has been featured in Vogue US, British Vogue, New York Times, Indie Magazine, Dazed, Teen Vogue, Okay Africa, Vogue Italia, CNN, ArtNews, OkayAfrica, Highsnobiety, Vogue Australia, Hybe Beast, Vice, and Interview Magazine.
In 2018, he was commissioned by Dutch street wear brand Patta and Nike on the occasion of their collaboration, to shoot a campaign for their launch which was exhibited in London. In the same year, he co-photographed the increasingly ascendant culture of boundary breaking fashion in Nigeria's commercial capital, Lagos, for the New York Times. In 2019, he had a solo collaborative exhibition at Corosia Theatre and Expo and Film Centre in Amsterdam about the Gothics Scene in Lagos. He was also commissioned by the Ngola Art Festival in São Tomé to shoot the campaign image for the Festival. He was also included in the exhibition City Prince/sses at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. He spotlighted the emergence of New Sound in the Nigerian Music Scene for the New York Times in August titled "The New Guard of Nigerian Music". He was also shortlisted amongst 14 other photographers around the world for a book feature by Antwaun Sargent titled The New Black Vanguard with an exhibition at Aperture Gallery in 2019.
In 2020, Stephen Tayo was nominated for the British Fashion Council Awards 2020, in the “New Wave” category. He also developed a project with Apple on stories of the pandemic. He shot a campaign with musician Skepta in Cuba with Havana Club, which is currently being used on billboards across the UK. He also show the campaign photo for the Now Look Here exhibition in Amsterdam, in collaboration with Jan Hoek.
Stephen Tayo’s stunning photos tell captivating stories of communityAdedayo Laketu, DAZED, May 14, 2021
C&: "Joseph Obanubi, Stephen Tayo, and Edozie Anedu Investigate their Hometown Lagos"Sabo Kpade, Contemporary&, January 22, 2021
Vogue: "The New Exhibition Spotlighting Nigeria’s Marginalized Drag Community"Edwin Okolo, Vogue, December 14, 2020
Edozie Anedu | Joseph Obanubi | Stephen Tayo10 Dec 2020 - 9 Jan 2021This exhibition includes new bodies of work that were developed during their residencies. While the global pandemic certainly created obstacles for the artist residencies at the Arthouse Foundation this year, these artists have developed new projects that explore the social and architectural fabric of the city, each experimenting with new...