Rubee Samuel’s photobook Omo Nigeria explores the Londoner’s emotional ties to West Africa

The book is published under the publishing company that Rubee co-founded last year – Twentyfour Thirtysix. Focusing on platforming the work of visual artists from the subtropics and tropics, the publisher focuses heavily on working closely with the artists to create their book. Currently, the house is working on its second book, working with artists across many mediums, a project which Rubee says has both “pleasantly stretched her” and forced her out of her comfort zone. Alongside this venture, Rubee has recently restarted a unified, pre-pandemic series entitled Ile away from Uno, which aims to curate a “digital family tree”.
Originally, the portrait aspect of the project was never going to be a feature, until a teacher at the school insisted that Rubee photograph some of the children too young to participate in the workshops. Showing the younger children with a clean, close up lens, the portraits emulate a traditional school photo style, a purposeful avenue for Rubee, as a means to represent the personal side of the project: “These are the school portraits that were never taken of me; these are classmates that I never had.”
The project first began with Rubee building a workshop for the children – teaching them how to use cameras, some rules of composition whilst introducing them to some pioneering photographers. Showing the children fabricating scenes, fashioning handmade props and showing off some serious styling skills, the series beautifully demonstrates the boundless potential of children’s imaginations and their utterly carefree approach to selfhood. Looking at the photos now, Rubee tells us that she’s still so amazed “that they concepted them, styled them and photographed them all by themselves.” Highlighting one particularly impressive example, Rubee cites the photo of two boys in “snow white” pyjamas and sunglasses. “It’s my favourite look,” she adds, “it’s the way they mismatched the co-ord with the sunglasses, I would never have thought of that.”

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