“We deserve that spotlight”, Bunmi declares.
A spotlight that illuminates the unsung and unbound capabilities and characteristics of our community. Bumni shines this light with his camera. He is a lifestyle photographer, based in Maryland, with an adventurous edge. He embraces spontaneity. With his camera in hand, he thinks with his eyes; passionately and instinctually. His dual role, being in front and behind the camera allows him to translate his vision with raw expression. He admits, most of the images you see on his page are not planned out. His latest project, City of Mirrors, was birthed from days & nights of dreaming, grabbing bits & pieces of what he saw here and there. Leaving us, a new dream world worth trekking. We talk creative confidence, process, and how we learn our beauty from those around us.
How did the aesthetic for City of Mirrors come about?
The glitter was paying homage to Frank Ocean’s ‘Nikes” video. The all-white clothes, that was something I actually wore at my church during my childhood. It’s a West African, Yoruba type of attire. I gave this project a piece of my personal life in that way. I had friends comment like “ Wow, you’re actually realizing your life through your work.”
Where did you shoot and what was it like shooting in that space?
I really planned the location. It’s on the eastern side of Maryland close to the coast. It’s a private beach, very clean. It fell in line with the concept because I needed it to be very angelic. There are wild horses on the beach. We were the only black people and we were over there trying to be art and shit. People were staring but in the way that was like “Wow, this is beautiful”. Me and my friends went ghost and got up at 5am for this.
Describe your creative process and how platforms such as Instagram, Tumblr, etc. interact with it?
I feel like sometimes social media can mess up the creative process because it throws you off from the fact of why you’re doing something. We get so lost in the hype sometimes that we forget what we really like. It’s good to disconnect yourself from it so you can find your creative space and sharpen your skills. That’s why I don’t try to get too many influences from social media. It throws my taste buds off, throws my creative process off. I try to look at books, magazines, or just try things. That’s more of what I’m doing now. I’m looking less and trying more. I kind of wanna bring that new taste to the art game. I feel like even within our own black communities, we’re sort of thrown in this box. I’m trying to create my own world of ideas.
In terms of your creative confidence and sense of finality, how do you know an idea has come full circle for you and you’re confident to let it be as it is?
When I get that “This is it” feeling, I just let it flow. I’m confident because I’m not afraid of failure. I don’t have trouble walking away from an idea because I have this attitude that it’s okay to save it for later. I don’t throw it in the trash because I know it can be used somewhere else. You shouldn’t compromise your own likings with art. With City of Mirrors, I wondered what people were gonna say, but in the back of my head I was like who cares, I know someone’s gonna like this, this is different.
What is City of Mirrors and what do you want people to take from it?
The title is supposed to be mind-provoking, make people wonder what it’s about. That it’s not just the mirror that gives you a reflection of how you look. It can be the person who’s holding the “mirror”. People who give you confirmation that you are this or you are that. It’s not like you need another person to make you feel beautiful, but the role that others have in you learning your own beauty is there. Another person has the power to bring out the inner and outer beauty in you. A person can really uplift you. They can give you that glow.
For City of Mirrors, I didn’t want to subscribe to any standard of beauty. This is not that high fashion, glamorous look that’s commercialized. I didn’t want it to be part of that genre like “Okay yeah, this is what’s hot right now”. There shouldn’t be a criteria or look for the art game; telling people how to look to be part of an art that we can all contribute to.
What are some memorable responses you’ve had from your work?
People kept saying they were breath taken. They told me they were using my images as their wallpaper. They told me they were not expecting it and that we were really on to something this summer.
Bunmi Abari, Gami-Lou Beli, Toluwalase Kolawole Ojo, Gbemiga MacFoy