Gabe Oviawe

Chicago based creative director and photographer Gabe Oviawe documents his subjects by capturing the moments between each pose. We caught up with Gabe this week and he gave us some insight into life as a photographer and how he approaches his work.

What is your ideal format to shoot in, if you’re using film instead of digital? In your opinion, does the choice help to shape the narrative and tone of the subject matter?

My ideal format to shoot would either be medium format film or medium format digital. Two years ago now, I purchased a Pentax 67 my first medium format camera making the transition from digital back to film. Without the ability to check each shot, film forces me to focus on the subject and the scene, to pay attention to all the little details in the corner of the frame I might ignore if I was shooting digitally. I want intimacy, authenticity and tension to be felt when looking at my photographs.

We know you focus on people in the work you’ve covered so far, what type of person are you currently passionate about documenting and portraying their story?

Currently there isn’t really one type of person or story that I’m focusing on documenting/sharing at the moment. Now that things are opening up here in Chicago I want to start going out more and getting into the swing of things again. Meeting new people because honestly I have this thing about shooting the same face more than once.

“…to create really involves being present in the moment and an active participant in the process of image making.”

How are you finding it’s been over the last year – has it been very impactful on your usual way of working?

This past year has been a bit draining if im being honest. A lot of my subjects are strangers that I either meet walking through my day or who I reached out to on the internet so with pandemic it was pretty impossible to do that so I haven’t really been able to make personal work. I’ve still been able to do client work though following proper covid guidelines. I started collaging at the begging of the stay at home order which is something that i’ve been interested in for years. I have yet to incorporate my own images in my collages though just magazine clippings.

Have you got any projects or ideas on the horizon that you’re excited about?

Right now i’m working on a number of fashion projects with a few others under the umbrella of Ad+ge a creative agency me and two friends are working to start up. We also have a monthly zine set to release soon. (also will be co-director my first music video for an artist with an actual budget soon) 

We know you’ve moved around a lot over your life, what’s been the most influential city you’ve lived in in terms of shaping the style you’ve developed?

Everywhere I’ve lived has been extremely influential to my current style.

Living in Minneapolis – for school I learned how to see in black and white and how to think (critically) and talk about photographs. During that time I was a bit more of an activist and my work was heavily influenced by more documentarian photographers. Later during my time in Minnesota I started experimenting more with photoshop and digital manipulation although I don’t really do much of that if any now. 

Chicago is where I first got a handle on color photography and where I was introduced to rap photography. 

In Connecticut is where I learned or where it clicked that being a photographer or at least to make the images I want to create really involves being present in the moment and an active participant in the process of image making. Not knowing anyone living in New Haven I was forced to become comfortable with approaching people I saw on the street to ask to take their portrait. Working like this for months I became more conscious of the “dance” that making portraits is, more comfortable with my role as the leader of the dance and better understood how to get my partner into the experience.

“I want intimacy, authenticity and tension to be felt when looking at my photographs.”

As part of our ‘Creative Atlas Conundrums’ – what tool would you bring if you were stuck a desert island for a year?

My Pentax 67, a light meter and enough film for the year.