Photographer Sarah Ejionye - Adigwe brings us 'Life in a Day'

Photographer Sarah Ejionye - Adigwe is pausing time and transporting viewers into a dream-like world. Using her art to document life during the lockdown, whilst continually exploring the representation of women of colour.

Sarah Ejionye - Adigwe is a London based photographer, specialising in fashion and fine art photography. In her work, Ejionye seeks to represent women at their most beautiful - whether that be hyper-stylised or simply themselves, with a particular interest in the expressive nature of fashion images and the “female gaze”.  Ejionye is invested in the lives, culture, and voices of women of colour and draws inspiration from a variety of sources including her own Nigerian culture, seeking to showcase women of colour in a positive and natural light.

Ejionye first caught our attention as a member of the art collective Riot Soup; a group consisting entirely of women of colour that seeks to encourage diversity and representation in the arts (details found in credits). Previously, Ejionye's work has predominantly been made in the studio using film cameras, however, during this time of COVID-19, Ejionye was forced to adapt to her new surroundings and domestic setting. The result is 'Life in a Day; a series that reflects the complex emotions of isolation painted in a patient and poignant light.

We asked Ejionye to talk through her process and inspiration behind this series of photographs.

"This photo-series was created entirely in and around my house during the lockdown, in response to a brief titled ‘Life in a Day’. I live at home with my mother and grandmother who are both at high risk from COVID-19, we were self-isolating and rarely went outside at the peak of the virus.

I consider these photographs documents of the moments of boredom, tiredness, fear, and confusion collectively experienced around the world during quarantine. 

With this in mind, I started to explore my house as a site for documentation, before moving on to consider how life at home could relate to my practice as a fashion photographer. Over the past year, I had been familiarising myself with studio lighting and equipment, medium format photography, and darkroom practices but while in quarantine the only camera I had was an old digital camera. Due to the pandemic, my wish to initially shoot the whole editorial on film became impractical and I had to adapt to using digital instead.

The home can have a lot of beauty and life in it, outside of the stereotypes of the home being associated with mundanity or repetition.

For the first few weeks of lockdown I had not taken any photographs, so I simply began to take images at random, focusing more on lighting and getting used to photographing my home environment. I began researching photographers such as Latoya Ruby Frazier, Santu Mofokeng, and Malick Sidibe, all of whom are black photographers whose practice focuses on the home or tight-knit communities in their respective countries. In addition to photography, I became very interested in looking at paintings of real-life and mundane activities and how these simple scenes were elevated in art. Studying these things helped me understand how the home can not only function in the context of a fashion magazine, but that it can also have a lot of beauty and life in it that should be expressed, outside of the stereotypes of the home being associated with mundanity or repetition. 

Through doing simple test shoots around my house and researching those photographers and painters I became really intrigued with lighting, particularly natural light as I often rely on studio lighting. As well as the concept of a staged version of real-life that kept cropping up as I looked at Vermeer’s paintings and later on in the work of photographers such as Philip Lorca di Corcia.

Having to create my work in an unlikely environment with little resources has challenged me as a photographer and made me remember why I fell in love with it at the same time.

I eventually decided it could be fun to create these staged scenes of real-life around the home, using both self-portraiture and my family members. The aim was to have an editorial that appeared both natural and constructed at the same time as a nice play on the ‘Life In A Day’ theme. I wanted some photographs to appear quite obviously staged, while others look candid or like a snapshot.