Osaretin Ugiagbe’s photographs of Nigeria, where he lived until he was 16, and the Bronx, where he as lived since, share a sensibility—both include dense compositions, where human faces and urban action fill the frame in surprising ways. Ugiagbe’s photographs (along with a selection of his paintings) are on view in “Unbelonging,” a show up until August 13 at the Bronx Documentary Center, where Ugiagbe took classes and joined their Bronx Photo League. The images also share a mood, named in the show’s title—as an immigrant to the U.S., Ugiagbe says he felt like an outsider; on return trips to Nigeria he felt equally isolated, viewed as an American in his home country.
Shooting with small camera held at waist level, Ugiagbe’s images of the Bronx frame vivid characters against shop windows and busy streets. His images of Nigeria are more open, and feature sky and empty space, sometimes framed by a car window. Together, the images present a double-sided portrait of the life of an immigrant with roots in two places. By taking pictures, “I believe that you are in a sense photographing yourself,” Ugiagbe told a recent interviewer. In his images, he says, “I see the expressions of these people and see myself in them. I know that I am of the Bronx and of Nigeria.”