The Art Of Modern Renaissance Man: David Uzochukwu
There is a sense of surprise one gets after looking at David’s art and learning that he is 19-years-old; the depth of his pictures, emotionally, is beyond his age. Born David Ejikeme Uzochukwu in Innsbruck, Austria to an Austrian mother and a Nigerian father, he is a star in his own rights. He has been featured in Vogue magazine, photographed Pharrell and FKA Twigs, and worked with Nike.
Photography is therapy for David. “When I photograph it is usually to acknowledge or rid myself of a certain state of mind,” he says. This explains the vulnerable emotion which finds its way into almost every one of his images. His models – and him – are often photographed nude, and in a state of despair. He had a chat with Guardian Life about his life and career.
Have you ever been to Nigeria?
Four or five times. I was there for the last time in 2016 for the Christmas holiday to see my family. They are from Anambra State. I miss it: the food I grew up with, people speaking Igbo (which I could too when I was younger, but I ended up forgetting everything I knew when over time it was spoken less and less at home), and obviously a connection by blood. Visually, it is a gorgeous country. I love knowing where my roots are; understanding what beliefs my father grew up with. But the stronghold of organised religion, the remnants of the military regime, the rampant corruption—some things are definitely hard to swallow.
When did you start photography?
I must have been 11 or so when I first started shooting and then 13 when I began making self-portraits. At 15, I won a few prizes; at 16, I signed with my current agency. I never trained professionally, but there are a lot of resources online. I don’t think talent is ever enough; you need to put in work to really get something back. It is not like I was initially good at photography. I had fun and that is what mattered.
Tell us about your creative process
An image builds up inside of me—after a certain experience, a song that hit close to home, some touching words. I try to find the means to translate it into real life, and then I shoot it in up to an hour. I post-produce to bring it as close to how I think it should look as possible. I am in love with it, I fall out of love with it, and I get restless. Things start over.
Do you think finance hinders creativity? Has budget ever affected a project you’ve worked on?
In one way or another, every single one! I have been able to travel quite a lot, I have the equipment I need to make work. So, money definitely affects the possibility to make work. I would have never had to start retouching if I had had the money to build elaborate sets. I have notebooks full of projects postponed until their time is right, things that I have been sitting on for years but have not been able to produce or finance yet. But that makes everything actually created even more special – learning to work within the constraints around you can definitely push your work onto another level.
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
I think it is a pity this is even up for debate. I believe that women are humans, deserving of respect and self-determination and equal pay, so I probably qualify. I stumbled upon a quote by Rebecca West that puts the sentiment in shapely words: “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.”
David advises budding photographers to make a lot of work and reach out to people whose work they admire. Scroll through some of his work below.