As we proceed, it is important that we get two things out of the way: one, I’m a huge fan of TY Bello’s. I think she’s one of the finest photographers to ever wield a camera in Nigeria. Secondly, I’m no photography expert- all the talk about DLSR’s and apertures sound like rocket science. However, they say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I have beheld TY Bello’s photography for the better part of a decade.
You see, there is nothing wrong with having a ‘signature style’. As a creative, it’s cool when people can always identify that very unique element that makes your work yours and stands it out from the myriad of other creations out there. But when that unique element becomes very “in-your-faceish”, it becomes monotonous and loses its genius.
Right now, I’m afraid that is where TY is at.
Her photos although undeniably very exquisite, are all beginning to look the same. They’re fast losing that Wow Factor and tilting over to predictable and boring.
These days when you hear TY photographed someone, you can close your eyes and imagine what it looks like and then open them to find that you’re bang on the money.
If it’s not the rusty gold backdrop, it’s the cloudy ethereal one and when there’s a change in the backdrop, you’re sure it’ll definitely be the same filter (I now call it the TY filter). The styling too is mostly always the same – which is surprising because it’s hardly ever the same stylist. Maybe what happens is, once a stylist is contacted for TY Bello shoot, they go hustling for the tulles, feathers, lace and all the other elaborate pieces that now seem to be permanent fixtures in a TY shoot.
In the last couple of months, she has shot Funke Akindele, Linda Ikeji and Chika Ike. A less discerning eye may have thought all three to be part of the SAME shoot! The signature style can be seen dissolving into rigid monotony, devoid of any spark or excitement.
Annie Leibovitz has been a photographer for forty-seven years. Her subjects have ranged from John Lennon, Prince, Angelina Jolie, Queen Elizabeth II and Lupita Nyong’o. She has managed to retain a fresh approach to the art and has not lost her signature style.
Perhaps, as a friend of mine aptly put it, it is time to rest the Elizabethan theme. In simpler terms, it is time for TY Bello to change her style.
Photo credit: TY Bello