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The "Gender Bender”, whose photography defies established gender definitions, Racheal Seidu


Black-girl-plaiting-man’s-hair-Racheal-Seidu

This week on #TheSpotlight, we speak with Racheal Seidu, a young female photographer from Nigeria.


We are always on the lookout for new talent, and one of her viral photographs, a campaign for clothing business Prayers and Plans, piqued our interest. Of course, if you follow us on Instagram, you've probably seen Racheal's visual art featured on our page.


Her visuals have a distinc aesthetic, as she experiments with shadow and light and includes old photography techniques. She communicates stories through her images, which depict what she observes in her immediate surroundings. The most significant message from Racheal's work of art is to make the viewers feel “Present”.


“With my work, I want you to feel like you were present when I took the image. Presence is the important message.“


Racheal, dubbed "Gender Bender" by friends, is one of the ladies who isn't afraid to enter into a male-dominated sector, and we are always delighted to talk with young people like her.


Here’s how our chat went:

Boy-and-a-crown-Racheal-Seidu

We would love to know who Rachel Seidu is and how she found herself making magic with a camera. Tell us a bit about your background, did your background influence this career path in any way?

I was born and brought up in Lagos Nigeria, and as a child, I loved to paint and draw, read and write stories and make things with paper. I once made a camera out of carton and wrote a sci-fi story. I think this has influenced my work. Even though I don’t express myself with those mediums anymore, I can express myself through photography because of that background.

Boy-with-two-puffs-Afro-Racheal-Seidu

What is your definition of Visual Storytelling and why do you refer to yourself as a “Gender Bender?”

I think visual storytelling means involving the use of imagery in an effort to drive the viewers emotions. My friend actually gave me the name gender bender because he said my work challenges the traditional definition of gender.


Boy-holds-a-candle-in-the-dark-Racheal-Seidu

Being a storyteller entails creativity, and every piece of art has an inspiration behind it. What inspires your work?


My work is inspired by many things, it’s inspired by my story, my emotions, music, light, the environment, a lot of things.


Black-hands-holding-a-candle-Racheal-Seidu

What impact does shadow and light make in your work?


I like how dramatic a portrait becomes when the shadows and light are right. The image becomes more powerful and tells the story better.


Small-black-girl-praying-black-and-white-Racheal-Seidu

Most of your visuals are done in black/white or vintage colors, is there a reason behind the use of these colors or your style?


I find that black and white is more passionate, colours influence how we react to anything. But with black and white the emotions are raw. You feel them without influence from colors. Colour can be manipulated to make you feel.


Boy-lies-in-water-creative-Racheal-Seidu

At what point did you realize that photography is an avenue to explore the world of creativity?


2018 when I started mobile photography, it was an avenue for me to express myself and just document the world around me. I got a camera in 2020 and started professional photography and the exploring has never ceased. I find interesting things to photograph everyday.


Two-black-Muslim-sisters-Racheal-Seidu

Has visual storytelling in any way influenced your way of life? What message are you trying to pass across with your visuals?


Hmm, it has, I see the world in stories, In photographs. With my work, I want you to feel like you were present when I took the image. Presence is the important message.


Black-boy-joy-Racheal-Seidu


What do you love most about what you do? When having a bad day, does it help you feel better?


I love that I’m able to capture moments no matter how ordinary and make it something beautiful. Whenever I have a bad day, I just have to pick up my camera and walk around and I always feel better.


Black-confident-boy-Racheal-Seidu

What has been the toughest challenge you have encountered in this field? Any achievements you would love to share?


I’m not sure I’ve encountered any tough challenge yet, I love photography I take every challenge it brings excitedly. My favorite thing right now has to be that my work is the cover of “we need new names” by NoViolet Bulawayo. An image I photographed on my android phone! So grateful!


Racheal-Seidu-for-prayers-and-plans
Campaign for Prayers and Plans

What feeling sparked in you, when you got selected for the exhibition young contemporaries 2021 as part of the Rele Arts Foundation in the Rele Gallery in Lagos?


I was excited! It was a dream I had the previous year and I couldn’t believe it came through. Glad it happened.


Any future projects we should be looking forward to?


I’m working on a new photo series and a film. Excited for it.

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