OBV Profile: Thabo Jaiyesimi

For more than 15 years Jaiyesimi has cast his lens over tribes in South Africa, political protests, personal portraits and taken many of the photographs captured for national newspapers in the UK.

Next month he unveils his collection, Social Obligation, a display of social and political movements in the Black community over the past eight years.

"It is a look at contemporary life in London and some of the political issues that people have gone through, and it tells that story through photographs. I'm fusing the two together" says Jaiyesimi.

He believes that through photography he can make positive and negative statements of issues happening visually. He expresses that his intent is not for people to like his work but to talk about what is in them and to bring out some kind of discussion.

One of the main features of the exhibit will be the dramatic images captured of people during the Stephen Lawrence inquiry in 1998. He said that this was not a typical demonstration picture but an image that evoked the feelings people had, "it was a very poignant time for Black people".

Jaiyesimi's work: Nation of Islam makes a Final Call

Explaining how the idea of the collection came about he said: "Someone asked me why I take these kinds of pictures? I said this is something that has to be done. I'm trying to create an archive of where we live. It's like a brick of the pyramid so people can look back at it as a historical document."

Jaiyesimi, 40, has been a Peckham resident for 20 years. Born in London, his mother is South African and father Nigerian.

He first considered a career in film after he was encouraged by his mother to establish a media career, as she herself was a writer. He adds: "But then one day I woke up and decided to be a photographer."

He completed two diplomas in photography and dropped out of a degree course when he decided that "photography is something you can't study, it's something you just do", so instead he began capturing demonstrations and live shows.

Although he could not recall his first major work, one prominent piece he worked on that struck his mind was the demonstration made following the death of Rolan Adams in 1991, stabbed to death by a gang of white youths.

His most poignant memory he says was his assignment on the Million Man March in America, 1995. Describing his experience he said: "You can't describe it. It was just amazing seeing all those people. Days before, the excitement to the build up was a combination of many things, it was a great experience."

Through his work Jaiyesimi credits inspirational photographers like Gordon Parks and Roy Decarva both of whom he says inspires him whenever he looks at their work during the American Civil Rights Movement. He said: "I really like Gordon Parks, his piece American Gothic, when I saw that piece it gave me loads of ideas for showing people of African descent their situation here in the UK."

For 14 years he has captured the work of the Nation of Islam and their movements. He also documented his time in Zimbabwe, a fishing village in Gambia and photographed young boys from a South African tribe as they went through their initiation into manhood.

In between his personal projects he carries out a lot of commission work for national newspapers for example, The Guardian and The Independent.

Jaiyesimi explains that in photography people can separate political issues with what is real life in real situations.

He believes that some people are not aware of what is happening politically in this country: "I think people get caught in the media circle and they do not know what is actually happening around them" he says.

In the near future he plans to publish two books with collections of his work which may include crack heads in London to scenes at Bashment nights. He explained: "I want to publish a book on different stories [photographs] I've done - just things that people need to see. By then I feel I would have accomplished something."

Thabo Jaiyesimi's exhibition runs from October 6 to November 24 at the 198 Gallery, 198 Railton Road, London, SE24 0LU.

For more information visit: www.198gallery.co.uk or contact the gallery on 0207 978 8309.