Reze Bonna

From Nigeria to Ethiopia and Senegal to South Africa, photographers from the continent are in demand from global fashion publications with brands  tapping them for their next ad campaigns.

In times like these its very important to celebrate and reflect on exciting things that are being created by black photographers and there is one photographer we really appreciate right now.

He is  one of the forces to reckon with in the fashion industry in both Nigeria and South Africa and around the globe. His photography portfolio is incredible; he shot one of the world’s first and foremost American supermodels Janice Dickenson. 

He has a gift of finding beauty in everyone, and a persona that easily puts his subjects at ease. A stickler for hard work, he doesn’t believe any picture should be taken the same way twice, and would rather often times, push the boundary, resulting in unique and interestingly different images.

 His current work which as you’ll  see is truly magical, storytelling, and thought-provoking. 

Not only that,  but he captures in a style that is recognisable as his own. We’re excited to see where this photographer is heading and the remarkable aids we see him making to the world of photography.  We were so privileged to get a quick chat from the this formidable force. 

One thing is for sure; we’ll be keeping a close eye on him all the way! 

MY: Who is Reze Bonna?

RB : Reze Bonna is a trained architect, real estate developer, Hospitality Investor, and multi-award winning photographer, recently being awarded Best Fashion Photographer Africa 2017 at the Abryanz Style and Fashion Awards, which were held in Kampala, Uganda and The Fashions Finest Awards Lagos in 2018 amongst many  others.

 My work has featured in several international publications  that includes Vogue Italia, GQ, Architectural Digest, Mens health and featured in CNN, Fashion One, FashionTv, Spice tv, with my images currently being exhibited in the Grammy Museum as a part of the African music section.

 I’ve worked with personalities like Bill Clinton, Goodluck Jonathan, Roberto Cavalli, The late Franca Sozanni (Vogue Italia), Suzie Menkes, Kirk Franklin, Piers Morgan, Janice Dickenson, Naomi Campbell just to mention a few. 

I also run photography outfits in South Africa,USA and Nigeria, servicing a number of the agencies in the countries. I’ve also worked as an official photographer for the AFI (formerly Mercedes Benz) Cape Town and Johannesburg Fashion weeks,

Afrimma Awards Dallas, Menshealth Magazine Fashion show, David Tlale Brand and also for The Intern by David Tlale, and the Arise fashion Week in Nigeria, and has covered Fashion Weeks in

London (LFW), New York, Lagos (LFDW, MMR, AFW, GTFashion weekend), Dubai (Arab FashionWeek) and South Africa. 

We have  recently produced the Style by Zenith Weekend, a two day event featuring Fashion runways, Music Performances, masterclasses and 200 stalls for SMEs and retail brands.

I am also a founding member of the group REZolution which is a collective of creative photographers, and a member of the Camera Club of Johannesburg, and the Professional Photographers of America.

MY: How do you approach a project with an unusual brief from a client (if there is anything like an unusual brief)?

No brief is really unusual as my approach to each client\brief is bespoke. We evaluate the details of the brief and then respond with a tailor-made solution (even though with guidelines and parameters ) which is usually different from the last approach as each situation is different. 

At the same time, we do not accept every single brief that comes in. We have to first evaluate and then decide if it suits our ethos and style before we proceed.

 We are not meant to shoot all, except it suits our style, and passion. It’s best to leave the other aspects to those whose specialty it is. Secondly, we are very aware of our aesthetic and so it won’t do us any good to lose our identity in trying to grab all. 

MY: How would you describe your approach to architecture and fashion ?

I apply the principles of graphics and architecture in my compositions.  

Music, Art, fashion, Architecture, Photography, they all require the similar expressions of passion to produce. It’s all creative art (and science) and the same principles transcend all hence I apply the principles of graphics and architecture in my compositions.  

I let my architectural background guide my compositions and presentations of the images. I can photograph anything but I choose what I shoot. It’s important to learn without limits and understand all aspects first. Generalize then specialize. Much like the medical studies. 

I have a strong passion mainly for the human body and the millions of ways it potentially can be posed.

I take great pleasure in finding beauty in everyone, and putting my subjects at ease. I also do not believe any picture should be taken the same way twice, and would rather often times, push the boundary, resulting in unique and interestingly different images. My inspiration from art and architecture, and the principles of it, like Form and Function, Light and shade, shapes, flexibility, strength of material, and perspective, are expressed strongly in my work.

“My creative energy is derived from the multi-functional, multi-faceted, multi-racial, multicultural and multi-sized characteristics of the human body. Theres no limit to what the human being can achieve once their mind is set to it.  I’m challenged by how many shapes and forms we can create in a shoot and how we can stretch the body into different forms”

My Art is meant to provoke thought, invoke emotions and revoke boundaries.  I’m also meant to inspire a younger generation of not just creatives but also subjects as well (themodels).

 So far I’ve been able to inspire and train and scout, sign off and relocate several models out of their home countries to other foreign agencies.

 So the training is a huge but silent aspect of what I do. Basically it makes no meaning if we can’t change lives. We have also been able to change mindsets which has led to acceptance of both the models to the standards that obtain internationally and also the international agencies themselves to begins to look this way and accept models again who they had written off before as only able to do commercial work. 

MY: Has the African story changed when it comes to the work that you do?

The African story has definitely changed, though a lot of work still needs be done. 

Local creatives are gradually beginning to take pride in their background visuals, stories related to their upbringing and proudly translating that to a a thought provoking narrative with more international appeal and authentic stories told to wider-reach audiences.

 It has evolved (and still evolving) a new African pop culture which is becoming more hip to identify with. However, there are still loads of challenges. 

The talent abound but the limitations of output media and outlets still exist as those are controlled by the western industry gatekeepers. 

At the same time, we need to push up our knowledge base and willingness to take risks (albeit calculated). Also, the availability of equipment, sales, rental and service, and data costs can be hindering, for those who do not have international access. 

Even though, for those who do, there’s a tendency for dependency on the cost and size of equipment than knowledge on the know-how. People still believe the more you spend on your equipment the better the images which is wrong! 

MY: What sets your brand apart from everyone else?

My brand is a reflection of my personal challenges, growth, beliefs, achievements, and experiences. It cannot be reflected by any other brand except they’re not being authentic to themselves and hence will not be able to produce the results we do. No two photographers can see the same way (neither is any one an island).
MY: Your advice to everyone who wants to follow your footsteps.

Study the art you want to be an expert at. Know your craft, understand the terrain, follow the footsteps of those who have excelled in it before you, then in the mist of all that, discover yourself and your personal style, based on your personal circumstances. 

Be inspired by them but do not be a copy cat, because if you try to copy someones present, you will end too late and in their past.

 What you’re presently trying to copy and achieve in the future, has already been done in their past. Your achievements need to be relevant to the future.

Their skill should not be based on big and fancy equipment but the eye and talent and the management of it. Rather than chase new wand expensive products, chase new knowledge and new ways of expression.