Photographer Bidemi Oloyede’s striking document of a concertgoer is on view now at the AGO
Bidemi Oloyede. Untitled, Toronto, 2018. baryta fine art print, Overall: 71.1 × 71.1 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario. Purchase, with funds from the Friends of Global Africa and the Diaspora, 2021. © Bidemi Oloyede, Courtesy of Nicholas Metivier Gallery. 2021/83
In 2018, Toronto-based Nigerian photographer Bidemi Oloyede attended a free concert in celebration of Toronto Pride at Yonge-Dundas Square. With a Hasselblad medium format camera in hand, ready to photograph whatever interesting imagery presented itself, he funnelled through the crowd approaching the stage as the concert began. At that moment, a young Black woman with her hair in two buns stepped in front of Oloyede. The resulting portrait would later join the AGO Collection in 2021.
Currently on view as part of the exhibition Cities in Flux, Bidemi Oloyede’s Untitled, Toronto (2018) is a captivating document of a concertgoer that directly reflects the artist’s approach to photography. Amid a crowded audience, the subject’s double bun hairstyle is accented by her gold necklace and large spherical stud earrings. She’s donning a leather backpack with a rolled-up umbrella tightly secure in its left side pouch – an indication of the massive rainfall that occurred minutes earlier. During a 2022 public talk celebrating works that recently joined the AGO Collection under the department of Arts of Global Africa and the Diaspora, Oloyede fondly reflected on that chance encounter with the department’s curator, Julie Crooks. He noted that during 2018 he would often attend large events alone, as a documentarian, and would be comforted to encounter people who looked like him. This energy of familiarity and intimacy exudes from the photograph.
Below is a full video of the 2022 talk. Skip ahead to 29:00 for Oloyede’s insights on the creation of Untitled, Toronto (2018).
Bidemi Oloyede is originally from Port Harcourt, Nigeria and is now based in Toronto. He is a documentary and portrait photographer who aims to capture the energy and emotion of people in their natural environment and social landscapes, using mostly black-and-white film. His style of documentary photography reflects the unspoken dialogue between the photographer and the subject. Oloyede is deeply interested in the materiality of film, the historical context of image making, and the extensive process of traditional darkroom development. His work is an exploration of humanity, everyday people, and the social-political context of communities.
Untitled, Toronto (2018) is an example of Bidemi Oloyede’s fresh perspective and approach to his growing photographic archive that examines the multiplicity of Blackness in the diaspora. It is part of his on-going BL|ARCHIVE series, photographing contemporary Black life in Toronto using both documentary street photography and portraiture. The photograph reveals the developing characteristics of Oloyede’s practice: the square format, the self-contained, the singularity of the main subject, and the clarity of the composition. The result, as seen in this photograph, is a quiet study that is as much about form as it is about the subject.
Untitled, Toronto (2018) by Bidemi Oloyede is on view now as part of the AGO photography exhibition Cities in Flux. Drawing on an array of image-based works from the AGO Collection, the exhibition features a selection of 100 photographs depicting urban centres around the world. This visual exploration of the economic, political and cultural realities of city life is curated by Marina Dumont-Gauthier, AGO Curatorial Fellow, Photography, and brings together the work of Bidemi Oloyede, Berenice Abbott, Bhupendra Karia, Paul Kodjo, Diane Liverpool and over 40 other artists.
Cities in Flux is on view until December 3, 2023 on Level 1 of the AGO in the Edmond G. Odette Family and Robert & Cheryl McEwen galleries (128 and 129).