On the beat: Love through a lens

Olu Famule, student at UW-Eau Claire, showcases culture through photography

Fourth-year+student+Olu+Famule%2C+photographs+fellow+blugold%2C+Paul+Agbashi.

Photo by Submitted by Olu Famule

Fourth-year student Olu Famule, photographs fellow blugold, Paul Agbashi.

Cultivating a relationship with your inner artist and growing in awareness of how art influences society will prove beneficial –– regardless of your area of study –– according to the Department of Art and Design at UW-Eau Claire. 

Visual artist Olu Famule has used photography as a creative outlet and an avenue in which he has begun to explore other forms of art and expression. 

Famule, a fourth-year biology student, said being artistic is in his genes. His father is a professor of art history at UW-Superior and gifted him his first camera. 

“Photography is what led me into art, what got me confident to start creating,” Famule said. 

Famule said he has taken a few introductory art courses but also has taught himself a lot.

Photography plays an important role in connecting people to memories, feelings and stories. Famule has used the art of photography to connect people to culture and push the boundaries of what society associates with diverse representation. 

Famule said photography is an embodiment of what art is. 

“It connects to a narrative, connects to stories — it’s a fusion of different perspectives,” Famule said.

Two UW-Eau Claire students –– Saba Seyoum and Paul Agbashi –– have been subjects of Famule’s work and echoed this same belief. They said photography is a form of self-expression, but it also allows the artist to showcase their skills and incorporate other inspiration.

Seyoum, a second-year marketing student, said when working with Famule, she could tell how much he valued his work. For her and others, she said his style and method of shooting helped them feel more comfortable with their body and in front of a camera. 

“Just like music and poetry, photography can be very soothing and shows a lot about different people from different cultures and backgrounds,” Agbashi, second-year biology student, said.

Famule said he draws inspiration and influence from his home country of Nigeria. His artistic style continues to evolve as he aims to diversify art and what his photography represents, he said. 

Taking inspiration from African music, art and relationships with other Black students on campus, he is currently working on a documentary that showcases what it is like being Black in Eau Claire, Wis.

Famule said he wanted to show a different side of art when it comes to depicting what it means to be Black. 

“Blackness is not something you can really define,” Famule said. “It goes beyond gender and beyond sexuality.”

People have preconceived structures in their minds of what it means to be African and this is a way to showcase how much more there is than what the typical Western lens portrays, Famule said. 

Agbashi said Famule’s appreciation for his culture comes through with his art. Despite living in a predominantly white space, he always highlights the greatness of being Black, Agbashi said.  

“Being a person of color, I have to put a little bit of myself in it. I have to tell a little bit of my story,” Famule said.

Famule also uses photography as a way to feature the beauty of individuals. He said he tends to photograph people that have parts of themselves that should be highlighted.

He wants their stories and importance to the world to be celebrated through his work, Famule said. 

While the meaning of photography is unique to each artist, Famule said the message he wants people to take away is the importance of diversity. 

Often, when it comes to art, the same white artists are showcased, Famule said. Representation of artists of color is a strong first step in aiding people toward a greater appreciation of how beauty is celebrated in cultures aside from their own. 

“Anyone can create,” Famule said. “If you’re inspired and motivated and you’re doing something you really love, you can be an artist too.”

To see more of Famule’s work, head over to his Instagram page, @kehfam.

Gómez can be reached at [email protected].