Even if you aren’t already familiar with his name, you’ve more than likely been already acquainted with his face. The “him” in question is Joseph (also stylized as Josef) Adamu, a 24-year-old, Nigerian-Canadian creative who is the mind and (often the) subject of various visuals that have gone viral–images that are notable for the strong imagery, matched with great styling and a skillful use of vibrant colors. I’ve admired Joseph’s work for some time, so I took up the chance to learn a little more about him as an individual–check out our interview below.
Where are you from?
I am born and raised in Toronto, Canada. My parents had moved from Nigeria to Canada in 1988, where both my siblings and I were born.
Describe the fashion scene in Toronto?
There really isn’t a fashion scene in Toronto, to be completely honest. The cooler “hip” folks are situated in the downtown core of the city, where you’d come across more daring outfits and a lot of European cuts. Though, the average fashion forward individual would probably be wearing seasonal looks from Zara, H&M, etc. We’ve also got a bit of New York going on, it really depends on what side of town you’re in.
What do you feel are some of the biggest influences on your style?
I do a lot of brainstorming and the inspiration ranges from everything, really. I enjoy Japanese and European cuts, thus, I tend to blend the two and dress up the look based on how I’m feeling that day. I honestly do not put too much effort into my style as of late. As far as human beings that influence my aesthetic on a wider scale, I enjoy the work created by Sean Brown (Toronto), Sam Lambert + Shaka Maidoh (London), just to name a few. The work of these artists helps me push the envelope and think outside the box, which I believe is extremely important for longevity.
You’ve been described as a photographer/model/creative director, can you describe in your own words what you do?
To be honest, I do not shoot photos at all. Well, not yet. A lot of people make the mistake of categorizing me as a photographer. As far as creative direction and modeling, I do those two hand-in-hand when taking on any project. I’ve self-directed almost 100% of my projects and a good portion of my collaborative projects. I find it easier to be the subject in the photographs while directing because I know the vision I aim to capture. More than anything though, I definitely align myself more with creative direction, especially with my more recent projects, such as Sunday School.
What sparked your initial interest in modeling, design, and photography?
Those three categories have always been a part of my life, sort of. In high school, I was a sneaker junkie and that quickly transformed into being a fashion junkie. As far as modeling and my eye for visions through photography, that idea sparked during my first year of university. I had moved to a much more prestigious area and schooled with a very diverse crowd of people. I opened my eyes to cultural variations and different senses of style. I was approached at school once to take a photo for the school newspaper, and it was only up from there!
Being African, what is the typical response that you’ve received from your community regarding your work?
My parents still have a hard time grasping what I do and how important social media marketing/branding is. I’m sure a lot of American-based Africans can relate to this idea. They are pretty supportive because they see the feedback from others and the quality of the work is consistent. I have several uncles and aunts that love what I do, and they think I’m sort of local celebrity. Which is cool, I guess. However, African parents are usually only content when the cheques come in, other than that, they often tell you to face your books.
What’s your favorite shoot/project that you’ve done to date?
It’s a bit old, but honestly, I love, Sartorial Victory so much. It is probably the third project I’ve ever done. Back in 2014, when I was still sort of finding myself and just using the few resources I had to create memories. The shoot produced results that were much better than I expected, and it really fueled my motivation ever since. The combination of green, blue, and cobalt blue really sold a mood in that storyboard.
Can you describe your creative process?
Develop + Do + Distribute
Developing a plan and brainstorming ways to translate it visually.
What things do I need to make it happen? Where will it take place? Who will be a part of it?
Do the project to the best of your ability.
Distribute the results and create a solid plan as to how rollout will be conducted.
Consider the different social media methods and/or magazines that will help popularize the content to the appropriate audience.
How long have you been doing illustrations for? What sparked the collaboration between you and Harun Farah?
Jabir in America was a spontaneous yet amazing idea I developed in November. I started illustrating in July of 2016 and it became an addiction. I have a close friend and former peer named Harun Farah, who is a brilliant narrator. We took the idea and life of a Northern Ghanaian teen and merged that with the lifestyle in the USA. It did really well and the readers loved it. The niche target market was a pretty young audience, and I feel like we did not quite nail the marketing for the book. Thus, I put the idea on pause until I am ready to spend undivided time on it. I really want to nail part 2!
Are you two looking to create more books in the future?
Definitely looking to create more books. Unsure of how soon we will be making new books though.
What projects do you have planned for the future?
I am currently focusing on travel and gathering visual moments from my experiences in different cities. As far as upcoming projects, I am very focused on Sunday School, which is a creative collective I began a few months ago. We’re basically an assembly of creatives that work on visual projects ranging from videography, photography, styling, etc. I see a bright future for the brand!
Do you see yourself bringing your creative talents to the continent (of Africa)? If so, in what way?
Most definitely. That is a dream of mine. I know the talent in Africa is extremely overlooked. I would love to meet like-minded folks and inspire them while they inspire me! Whether it being, Nigeria, South Africa, Namibia, Burundi, Tunisia or any other African nation, I am more than willing to unite my ideas with others. Once I’ve created those relationships in Africa, and I feel like the time is right, the move will be made. No doubt.
Do you have any dream collaborations (brands or individuals)?
Art Comes First, NBA, United Nations, National Geographic, just to name a few.
What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?
I can see myself working as a creative/art director for a dominant brand while overseeing the Sunday School agency as well.
What advice do you have for other young African creatives?
Find your niche and own that market. Never sell out. Keep consistent. Try new things that are still aligned with your personal brand. Increase your willingness to learn.
Learn more about Joseph on his website: http://www.josefadamu.com/books/ and his newest endeavor, Sunday School on: https://www.ssunday.co and of course, follow him on social media platforms, @josefadamu