Andrew Esiebo hasn’t cut his hair since 2012 – the year he started the project “Pride.” Traveling to the urban centers of seven West African countries, the Nigerian photographer visited barber shops, investigating the meaning of hair within the local male communities. The deeper he delved into the subject, the more layers he found, as political, cultural and societal issues merged in these lively yet intimate spaces. And though it made it impossible for him to cut his hair, it gave way to a rich and nuanced portrait of modern Africa. “Pride,” a body of work of more than 100 photos, is broken into four sections: urban aesthetics, barbers, hairstyles and nuances. He spoke to Roads & Kingdoms from Lagos.
Roads & Kingdoms: How did you get started in documentary photography?
Andrew Esiebo: It was organic. Maybe it’s a reflection of what I’m interested in, but for me the key thing was to tell stories. There are a bunch of great photographers in Nigeria. The only difference is that not many of them do documentary work like me. Not many of them tackle the socially engaged issues I like to focus on. But overall, storytelling has been one of the things I enjoy doing the most. I want to be free. I don’t want to be confined to any kind of artistic or photographic practice. I have done editorial, worked on personal projects, worked with institutions, tried stuff on a conceptual level, collaborated with friends and colleagues on all kinds of photographic assignments, worked for NGOs, universities, I’ve done artistic residencies, workshops… But the key, again, is telling stories.