Lagos is having a moment. With Skepta repping the Nigerian city, the growing skate and fashion scenes, not to mention the rising influence on Afrobeats in hip-hop, people around the world are waking up to a city dubbed the "Center of Excellence."

The local creative scene is experiencing a renaissance led by its youth, whose pulsating energy and drive for success are propelling this giant city's global image and updating Nigeria's cultural norms. Within that scene are a group of young photographers documenting the city's growing youth culture and rich cultural diversity.

These photographers build on the boundary-breaking work by the likes of Lakin Ogunbanwo and Yagazie Emezi, whose images marked a pivotal change in Lagos' traditionally conservative art scene. Like Ogunbanwo and Emezi, the latest generation captures what it's really like to be young in Lagos today.

We caught up with five up-and-coming Lagos photographers to discover their inspirations, what life is like in the Nigerian art scene, and more.

Danielle Mbonu

Whether working for Nike or shooting the Off-White™ x Skepta collab, 20-year-old Danielle Mbonu’s photographs are inspired by her daily life. "I honestly just shoot what’s happening around me right now," she explains. "Most of the people I shoot are friends, so I’m just telling my own story."

Having spent the bulk of her life in Lagos, Mbonu finds power in the city's growing creative freedom. "The level of tenacity in Lagos is beyond explanation, and it’s extremely inspiring," she says. "Growing up in Lagos automatically gives you this inbred hustle mentality and pushes you to work hard.

"The older people think we are all running mad, but the truth is that a lot of people have been living a lie for years. In this generation, we’re finally taking back our freedom to express ourselves and confidently establish our own identities."

Stephen Tayo

Showcasing Lagos' style and energy is at the heart of Stephen Tayo's work, some of which we have highlighted previously. "Lagos to me signifies energy and color," he says. "Lagos is nonstop. Lagos is special."

The 25-year-old has already had his work featured in Vogue, partnered with brands such as Patta and Nike, and was recently exhibited at prestigious Parisian gallery Palais de Tokyo, but his photography is deeply rooted in his city. "When creating a particular story, I often question what its outcome could hold for the narratives centering Lagos culture. I think this is crucial," he says.

Thompson S. Ekong

Known as the “Eye of the Culture,” Thompson S. Ekong (aka TSE) creates images that look like stills from a psychedelic sci-fi movie, capturing fellow Lagos artists and musicians in carefully stylized shoots.

"Lagos culture exists to disrupt the preconceived notions of what being African or Nigerian is," Ekong explains. "It is important that my images speak and represent where I am from. I draw from the diversity, beauty, and difficult experiences that come from being Nigerian and living in Nigeria."

With inspirations as diverse as Lakin Ogunbawo, Kanye West, Steve Jobs, Santi, and Hayao Miyazaki, Ekong strives for uniqueness in a society based on uniformity. "To the world, it might seem weird, but as long as you understand your reason for creating your stories, just keep going and they’ll understand eventually," he says.

Daniel Obasi

After picking up a camera for the first time in 2016, stylist, filmmaker, and photographer Daniel Obasi ventured into the world of photography with one goal in mind: to create a fantasy. "I wanted to challenge what we see as reality and for my work to be an escape to a place of beauty and dreams,” he says.

"I spent my childhood thinking the only career path for me was either in law or diplomacy. Photography, filmmaking, and fashion styling are great careers. But sadly, a lot of young people in Nigeria are not aware of this. The ones who do [it] end up having to work twice as hard to figure out the technicalities.”

Manny Jefferson

Manny Jefferson is wary of how Lagos is represented, especially with increased international attention. Having documented Lagos Fashion Week for Vogue, the 21-year-old feels there is an onus on artists to document the city thoughtfully and truthfully.

"It’s important to me, capturing Lagos not only in its true light but also in a positive one," he says. "I try to capture Lagos from an insider’s perspective. There’s so much more to Lagos than what mainstream media chooses to focus on, and I refuse to let that define the work that I do.

"We have a responsibility to prevent peddling false narratives. We can’t create carelessly, as the effects of false narratives run deep. It is also important that we do not confine Lagos to a single narrative in our documentation."

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