The Balogun market on Lagos Island is much more than a market: it’s a huge, sprawling, heaving ecosystem. Looming above it is the imposing twenty-seven storey Financial Trust House, once an illustrious base for western conglomerates, corporations and banks—and now unoccupied.
Money Must Be Made is Lorenzo Vitturi’s latest project on Balogun, released as both a sumptuous book and presented as a solo exhibition at Flowers Gallery in London from 11 May. The work presents a rare example of a place where local, independent business is thriving and has forced global organizations out.
Vitturi first travelled to Nigeria to exhibit Dalston Anatomy—his 2014 project documenting the inverse situation of Balogun in east London––with the African Artists’ Foundation, which led to a residency in the city. “I didn’t know Lagos at all, so I started to do some research and, quite randomly, I found this incredible story in Balogun market, which is at the centre of a neighbourhood called Lagos Island, in one of the oldest parts of the city.”
The pictures Vitturi shot vibrate with the energy of the Balogun community and trade: full of colours, shapes, textures, sounds and movement. They are static images, but they punch every sense. In the middle of the publication, as in the middle of the market, there are photographs of the desolate Financial Trust House. With both abstract portraits and still lifes, the idea was to “recreate, as exactly as possible, the geography of the Balogun market and the contrast between the market and the Financial Trust House”.
To compound this, Vitturi also chose different paper stocks for both the publication and exhibition, to reflect the feel of the environments. “In the exhibition at Flowers Gallery, the images that are made within the Financial Trust House are printed on a cotton-based matte paper, with a thick textured surface that reminds you of the sandy textures within the building. The images of the market are on a type of fine art paper, which is glossier.” This material approach to his photography is a distinctive part of Vitturi’s process.
Vitturi lived in east London for seven years, so there is an immediate contrast between the natural genesis of Dalston Anatomy and this new body of work. As a white European photographer and an outsider in Lagos, one of Vitturi’s concerns was to address his own position and eye on the city, to eschew negative stereotypes or the over-exoticization of African culturesand bodies. “When I arrived in Lagos I found something very different from the drama that the western media tends to depict.” Vitturi explains. “The idea behind my collaboration with the African Artists’ Foundation is to try and find other ways of representing life in Africa and Lagos.”