Identity

Photos that Challenge How We Use Clothing as Markers of Identity

Lagos based photographer Noma Osula uses wigs to make his models anonymous and raise questions on whether or not gender and sexuality can ever be perfectly expressed in what we wear.

by Noma Osula
Jun 18 2018, 3:27pm

This essay originally appeared in the Privacy & Perception Issue of Vice Magazine, created in collaboration with Broadly. You can read more stories from the issue here.

Noma Osula, a photographer born and based in Lagos, Nigeria, focuses mostly on contrasts and contradictions. How can a person be seen and not seen, he asks, simultaneously? What do people want to show of themselves, in public, in private, and on the internet? He began his new series in his studio, where he staged and shot portraits of young Nigerian men and women with their faces obscured. The goal of his project was for viewers to question why we consider clothing as markers of identity.

In his work, he says, he wants “models faces [to be] deliberately anonymous.” To achieve this, he uses masks or wigs, or simply by the specific angle of his camera. For instance, he has a man, his face cut off by the frame, sporting a large silver chain; in another, someone sits in a chair, their head hidden by a nest of fake hair. He wants viewers to judge, to be confused—to conclude, as he has, that gender and sexuality is not something we can perfectly express by what we wear, and how we look.