Black Photography Commission: Black Lives Matter

Manoel Bolutife Akure’s striking photography series captures the historic Bristol BLM protest in June.

A new generation of Black photographers are sharing their work on Rife. All of them have a distinctive style and way of approaching their work. We’re kicking off with a series of photographs shot by Manoel Bolutife Akure (@man0gram) from the Black Lives Matter Protest in Bristol city centre on June 6th 2020.

Tell us about yourself and your work as a photographer.

I am a 20-year-old creative freelancer and entrepreneur from the Bristol/Bath region. I have been working as a fulltime freelance photographer, cinematographer, editor, graphic designer, and artist for over a year now, and for over three years part-time. I have always been passionate about expression through art and using art as a form of therapy and activism. I want to use art to challenge notions and ideals that might be damaging to individuals. I also often use music to explore my personal battle with mental health issues as a teenager and the ongoing struggle for control and healing of my mind. The latest big project I have been involved in has been supporting the BLM movement and raising money for charity with a photo of me that was taken while I was on the plinth during the Bristol protest on June 7th, raising over £10,000 for SARI (a Bristol-based charity that supports victims of racial injustice).

Tell us more about the photos from the Black Lives Matter protest.

This series is one of my favourites because I felt a duty to document those moments. They will go down in history, and I couldn’t think of a better way to use my gift but to capture and build a visual story of a day that impacted so many around the world. It was extremely emotional. As a black man documenting it, I felt like finally people were standing with me, and emotionally I was moved that the crowds of people there all marched of their own accord to acknowledge the injustice that exists around us and say ‘enough is enough’. I used black and white because sometimes it is important to capture the figures without being distracted by the colour of their jacket or their hat but really be drawn into what is happening in the frame. It was a day that I will never forget, not just because it changed the lives of so many, but it altered the course of my life.

What are you interested in photographing and why? 

I love photographing people in their natural habitat, as naturally as I can, because I love playing the role of a fly on the wall. I want to give insight into people’s lives without affecting them or their reactions or expressions as individuals. I also love shooting portraits and projects covering social, religious, economic, and political spheres.

What is your favourite thing to photograph?

Documenting my friends and families, capturing frames that best represent the moment, and being able to remember some great moments in their fullness. I specifically love grabbing candids, when there is no regard for the camera.

What’s next for you?

I hope to be able to start conversations on the back of photos and enhance positive narratives and messages through my art. I also want to use my work to empower and shed light on individuals who deserve attention, like local artists, and individuals that I interview on my podcasts and work with through my other art forms. I would love to start cultivating those conversations within an exhibition space and start taking on an educational approach for the sake of the generation of artists after me, and make sure I give back to a space that has given so much to me.

Follow Manoel Bolutife Akure on Instagram @man0gram and see more of his work on his website

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