Rachel Seidu’s Tender Portraits of Men in Nigeria

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Rachel Seidu at Saint Laurent Rive Droit
Rachel Seidu at Saint Laurent Rive DroitPhotography by Rachel Seidu. Courtesy of Saint Laurent

Returning for its seventh volume, Saint Laurent creative director Anthony Vaccarello has invited Nigerian-born photographer Rachel Seidu to display her works, which confront the perceived masculinity of Black men

Rachel Seidu has spent years sensitively photographing men in Nigeria. Set against the lush, tropical backdrop of her birthplace, Seidu’s delicate portraiture exudes a rare tenderness – her subjects’ souls laid bare to breach the limitations of the perceived male identity. Having caught the attention of Saint Laurent creative director Anthony Vaccarello, the photographer has now been invited to take her work to the global stage for the seventh volume of the French label’s Saint Laurent Rive Droite Fanzine platform, which exhibits in stores in Paris and Los Angeles.

Nodding to the Saint Laurent Rive Gauche line, which helped to democratise fashion and luxury in the 60s by bringing experimental essentials to the masses, the Rive Droit stores, which are open to the public, adopt a similar egalitarian approach that showcases art, music, photography and performances from around the globe. Curated by Anthony Vaccarello, the stores and its occupying expressions act as an expansion of the elegant universe of Saint Laurent.

Seven photographs from a selection of Seidu’s photo series like Self-Sabotage, Boy at the Ikpoba River and Rainbows and Wishes are being displayed, each imbued with a symbolism that tell a story behind each image. Two, inky silhouetted hands hold bright orange flowers to the sky; in another shot, they’re tucked behind the ear. A figure clutches his neck in front of a vast and dry desert expanse as a rainbow arcs overhead, elsewhere two boys bathe in languor in glistening a river – Seidu captures intimate memories of intimacy amongst men, confronting gender boundaries and expressing the beauty of male expressions of emotion in an effort to upend the stereotypes of African culture, gender, race and sexuality.