Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Danielle Mbonu is a self-taught multi-disciplinary artist championing the amplification of African culture. Her practices include, but aren't limited to photography and directing. Her work is centered around portraiture, fashion, art, and documentary imagery. We spoke with Mbonu about her muses, themes, and advice to aspiring creatives.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, but I moved to the UK for a few years to study law at university. How did Lagos inspire you and your work?
Most of my work is shot here in Lagos and rooted in the culture and music here. There’s so much going on here in Nigeria and Africa right now. I believe that the rest of the world needs to tap into it. There are so many stories to tell! Did you have any childhood creative endeavors that fueled or led to your current career?
I was really into painting and drawing when I was younger, but I kind of stopped that along the way and when I was a teenager, I transitioned into photography. I did photography as a trade subject in year 10 - maybe there’s a link there haha! When did you start your photography career and what are some of the memorable beginning moments?
Professionally, I’d say 2016 or 2017. I remember when I’d take pictures at uni parties. I know now that event photography is definitely not my thing! I didn’t love it and the pay wasn’t great, but at the time it was really fulfilling because it meant I was one step closer to my goals, and I was happy people finally trusted me enough to even shoot anything! What has been your favorite project to work on so far?
My hair series! It’s so important to highlight our culture, and for me hair plays a big part in that. I love creating new fun approaches to traditional hairstyles/looks.
What are some common themes and messages in your work?
Youth culture, portraiture, fashion, music (I shoot a lot of artistes), and documentary story telling.
How do you overcome creative blocks?
It’s really hard for me sometimes. But, I watch documentaries that inspire me, watch movies I love, and sometimes make a list of why I started photography in the first place and what I want to communicate with my art, it gives me a clear vision of what I want to put out and helps me with research on new stories. Pinterest helps a lot too! What advice would you give someone starting off in photography?
Be your most authentic self, and don’t lose sight of why you started. You’ll create your best work, so many people are stuck shooting things that don’t align with them or aren’t passionate about, and when you do that you eventually burn out. (This has been me this past year and I’m honestly just finding my way back) make sure you shoot things YOU want to, that really align with you, you’ll create your best work.
Keep up with Danielle Mbonu on Instagram @thelifeofdanmbo.