Photographer James Iroha Uchechukwu and the shape of blank spaces

December 2008 -

The Nigerian photographer James Iroha Uchechukwu(Enugu, 1972)  just completed a stay in Amsterdam at the Thami Mnyele Foundation studio. Within the framework of the Terrain Vague project, he combed the city looking for empty places, images that fit the bill of his concept of the phrase. His chosen directive was the definition applied by architect Professor Ignasi de Solá-Morales: "seemingly blank spaces that are either underused or abandoned, nondescript or just plain boring." Terrain Vague is a residency project in Amsterdam (Thami Mnyele) and Las Palmas (Casa África), with four participating artists. The project is organised by Multipistes, a multi-stage cooperative established by Abdellah Karroum and Eline Van der Vlist, cultural administrators for the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture. The results will be exhibited on Las Palmas and bundled into a publication.


'Soft drink hawkers', photo by James Iroha Uchechukwu

Uchechukwu is one of the eleven winners of the Prince Claus Awards 2008. From the jury report: "James Iroha Uchechukwu is awarded for his striking photographic work, his stimulation of photography as a contemporary Nigerian art form, and his energetic support for young artists."

In the summer of 2008, Uchechukwu’s work was on display in the Netherlands at Snap Judgments, an exhibition compiled by Okwui Enwezor in the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum. On that occasion, Uchechukwu’s work was presented as part of the artists collective that he personally established: Depth of Field (DOF). Like in Terrain Vague, the focus in DOF is determined by the city. Uchechukwu, for example, photographed an abattoir in southern Nigeria and made group portraits of athletes and soda vendors. Regarding his importance as an African photographer from the African continent, Mark Sealy, curator and director of Autograph (Association of Black Photographers): "[…] Uchechukwu’s photographs function like hot molecules across the body politic of photographic institutions that regurgitate the same old canon […]."