Lagos Studio Archives is an on-going curatorial and cultural preservation project consisting of thousands of film negatives documenting Lagos studio portraiture and vernacular photography from the 1970s to post millennium.

The project started when the British-Nigerian artist Karl Ohiri discovered that many archives were being destroyed, discarded and stored away in humid conditions by a generation of photographers who were part of a shift from analogue to digital photography, many opting for the speed and convenience of a digital workflow to meet the demands of a fast paced mega-city.

This commercial transition led to many archives being abandoned and left to deteriorate in humid conditions. Working with local photographers Ohiri started acquiring the endangered negatives over a number of years in an attempt to ensure that this precious cultural heritage was not lost over time.

Witnessing parts of history on the verge of being erased through decay and neglect became the starting point for the archives' first series entitled the Archive of Becoming (2015- Ongoing) - a collection of dilapidated orphan negatives that have been resurrected and reproduced to explore notions of beauty, memory and the unpredictable life of images.

Through the manifestation of appropriated works and curated exhibitions Lagos Studio Archives explores the complex relationship between ownership, authorship and intended context by presenting the imagery of a generation of photographers that captured the style, humour and aspirations of everyday Lagosians. The archive has become a source to unearth, reimagine and reconfigure the fragments of a rich visual history that documents Africa's most populous city, whilst further expanding dialogues around West African photography, culture and the legacies of the diaspora.

In 2022 artist, photographer and bookbinder Riikka Kassinen (FIN/UK) joined the project as co-guardian. Together they will curate and strategise the future of the archive, shifting it away from an individual artist project towards an independent entity.


Image: Untitled, from the series the Archive of Becoming, courtesy of Lagos Studio Archives.