How Andrew Dosunmu Makes the Street His Studio

Newly arrived from Lagos, in the early nineties, Andrew Dosunmu, solitary and broke, sometimes slept in the Paris Metro. He had little in his possession beyond his clothes. And it was his manner of dress that first drew the curiosity, and then the care, of a stranger—the nascent fashion designer Lamine Badian Kouyaté. Lamine took Dosunmu into his home, and the two began collaborating on images: Lamine designing the clothes, and Dosunmu capturing them in motion and in life on Super-8 film.

“I didn’t know this brother from nowhere,” Dosunmu recalls to the cinematographer Arthur Jafa, in the introductory conversation to “Andrew Dosunmu: Monograph,” a collagist collection of Dosunmu’s portraiture used across film, music, video, and photography. But knowledge arises from the gravity of a slung belt, the height of a gele wound about the head. Dosunmu is a great chronicler of presentation as a portal to personality. This might explain his lack of faith in fashion per se; lauded as he is among editors and designers, having shot spreads for more than twenty years after those early days in Paris, he has eschewed becoming a fashion aristocrat. Even his commercial images are a rejoinder to the industry’s interest in using the body as a vehicle for platforming clothes. “It was never about what the people were wearing,” Dosunmu has said. In his vision of a contemporary world defined by wardrobe, Dosunmu works human-first—the wearer and her dress are in symbiosis with each other, and meaning flows between them.

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