Mikael Owunna(b. 1990, Pittsburgh, PA. Lives and works in Pittsburgh, PA)
Infinite Essence is photographer-engineer Mikael Owunna’s response to pervasive media images of Black people dead and dying. The trope of the Black body as a site of death is omnipresent, he states. Being gunned down by police officers, drowning and washing up on the shores of the Mediterranean, starving and suffering in award-winning photography.
With Infinite Essence, Owunna transforms the bodies of his Black models into transcendent, ethereal vessels. He hand-paints their bodies with fluorescent colors. He uses a strobe that only transmits ultraviolet light—built using his engineering background and employing a non-visible wavelength. Owunna clicks his shutter in total darkness and, for a fraction of a second, his models’ bodies illuminate as the universe. “Ultraviolet light is not visible to the human eye, and so we can illuminate and find the unseeable therein, the soul, the Igbo spiritual concept of the chi. It is on this plane of existence where, regardless of our experiences of oppression on the physical plane, Black people are infinite.”