In her latest series Fathers & Figures, the Nigerian-British photographer and director captures the intimacies of black fatherhood, and undoes the stereotypes that surround contemporary black male Londoners.
Commissioned by the world's most influential photography journal 1854 and Leica as part of its Witness of: The Everyday campaign, Renee Osubu's images depict a range of black men, spanning from new dads to grandfathers.
Described as her most honest series to date, the project holds a special significance for multi-award-winning photographer Renee, who lost her own father while shooting her debut film Dear Philadelphia in 2018. "This is my most vulnerable series because it's specifically about a relationship and a person who I miss," she explains. "It felt like an honour to be able to spend time with all these different dads."
Captured exclusively on her Leica M7 film camera, the poignant black and white photos show the small and tender moments of being a father. One sees a dad blowing bubbles with his little girl, while another is loaded with unspoken meaning as a pair of hands hold a sonogram.
To find her subjects, Renee hits the streets of London and put a call out on social media. "A big part of my work is just meeting people in the moment: walking through Dalston market and meeting a grandad with 11 kids and speaking to him about his experience of being a dad," she reveals. "I really wanted to photograph fathers in my life as well. So putting out that open call was about reaching people that I know who are dads or becoming dads."
As well as the relationships between fathers and their children, another prominent theme in the series is boxing. The sport is one of Renee's interests, and the commission gave her the chance to depict black male Londoners in a way that undoes violent stereotypes created by the media.
"I've always loved watching boxing growing up so it's interesting spending time with these guys," she says. "To see him also in the context of a boxing coach and having the discipline to know when to use strength but not in a violent way. It’s a huge brotherhood, they are all so close."