Telling A Story With Josef Adamu and His Sunday School

What is it that makes an image speak 1000 words? It may be the subject's expression, their surroundings and the compsition of the photo. As a story teller and visionary Josef Adamu spends his time thinking of how to do this. His own stylistic direction is vibrant, full of saturated colours, minimal lines and shapes that create a contrasting and impactful relationship with the subject. Sunday School is the platform sharing narratives and translating them through photo stories and Josef is the creative director of it all. In our conversation with Josef he told us about his process, inspirations and what he hopes for the future of Sunday School.

How did this creative journey start for you?

J: Personally, I’ve been at it for four or five years now, as far as being more specific and more curated with my art that’s been the last year or two. I’ve been modeling and playing with colour palates for a while now just producing imagery that’s interpreted through my vision, but like I said within the last year or two has really been where I’ve picked it up and taken it more serious, and obviously the results have come from that, awareness has built from that as well.

What do you find uniquely inspiring about Toronto compared to different cities?

J: I was born and raised here, this is home and will always be home. What I like best about Toronto is that we’re deeply the most diverse city in the world, as far as having so much culture from different places. We’re doing a lot that people don’t know about in Canada. I feel like Toronto specifically, we have this base, we have so much culture and so much to speak about, but a lot of people don’t know how to convey it, they don’t know how to put it though creative imagery. What I’m doing with Sunday School specifically is using it to harness the city and put our stories out there, making it creative and clean. I’m not looking for the best model or strongest looking cheekbones, I’m just looking for people that have a story and it’s creative enough to put through my scope.

What has helped you foster your creativity?

J: I’ve travelled a lot more and that’s kind of helped me, London, New York, different cities have really helped me to meet new people. I’ve been moving back and forth from different places to feel different energies and bringing that back to Toronto because I feel like it’s important to have that transition between different places, so I’m not just fixed in Toronto. I’ve just been traveling a lot, experimenting different things and trying out different methods of art.

When did you first pick up a camera and start shooting?

J: I'm not a photographer, I barely shoot, but that’s a good question because I get it a lot. It seems like I shoot because as of recent I’ve been putting myself behind the camera with a lot of the stuff I’ve worked on as a creative director. What really happens with any of these projects to be honest with you is I sit back and really reflect on what story I want to be told and give it a bit of time. I write out my ideas, brainstorm what colours I want to use, characters names, locations, and what kind of outfits are going to fit the mood. It can be the darkest story or the most happy story in the world, the point is to convey my message. Each photographer I work with is good at different things. Maybe one is good at story telling and another is better at outside landscape photography, or portraits or fashion. I pick and choose who I want to use based off the story I want to be told. As far as conveying the story itself and writing out the idea that’s all me. I usually style although I’m not a stylist because I know exactly what I want to put out there. I don’t actually shoot right now unfourtunately. I want to shoot eventually.

Is that how you started Sunday School? Taking all these peoples qualities and putting them together?

J: Exactly. I treat it as an agency. In May I really put my foot down to work with a crew on different projects. We’ve done 10 projects now, so we’ve been moving pretty fast. Our work is all different vibes, it’s the same kind of concept working with colour, but as far as the stories being told they’re all different. I want to get to a point where I can talk about everything, autism, albinism, I want to speak about everything. Collab with Sick Kids Toronto. It’s a lot more than fashion, and at first fashion was the kind of mindset I had, but then I said 'you know let me really just attack life'. There’s a lot of life in Toronto I want to tackle and talk about and eventually move into other places and do the same.

We’re doing a lot that people don’t know about in Canada. I feel like Toronto specifically, we have this base, this culture and so much to speak about, but a lot of people don’t know how to convey it, they don’t know how to put it though creative imagery.

What’s one thing yourself that you’ve learned since starting this collective agency?

J: Time waits for no man. Just because at first, we started kind of slow and then I told myself ‘hey man, if this is gonna go well I gotta be consistent and produced very well’. I tripled up on my work ethic, on how serious I wanted to take it, spent money I didn’t think I wanted to spend. I just put everything on the line for this. Just to make sure things were going smoothly. It looks really good and people like it, but the work is ten times crazier than it looks as far as the work ethic I’ve been putting in.

Where are you looking to take Sunday School? What’s the next step for you? You said you would like to expand on more stories, how would you like to do that?

J: It’s still the beginning stages in the first six months. I’m at a stage where I feel like, let’s get the awareness out. And for me the best way to spread awareness is through imagery and production. Put out really good content and stay consistent. I would like to get to the point of working with brands. Like if NIKE, Adidas, Reebok were to do a Canada campaign, I would like to do something more creative that’s different than the commercial stuff. But that’s more fashion oriented, I want to work with companies like National Geographic too, I’ll work with Instagram, I wanna work with VSCO Cam and all these companies that work with real life story telling.

You use lots of bold complimentary colours in your work, colour blocking, contrast and composition in your images. How do you feel that this style portrays your work better than other styles would?

J: I’m a very vibrant guy like I’ve always been big on colour. I’ve always just loved things popping. Pronunciation is huge to me; the exclamation mark is vital. It reflects me because that’s the person I am. When I want to say something I really want to say it and that translated into the photos. I won’t do the most, I keep it pretty minimal. I don’t have makeup artists or style the hell out of a shoot but that vibrant feeling gives a lot of depth. When you see it you really want to glance at it and take a few seconds to know what it is. From day one I’ve always been  like that and now that its translating into my work with Sunday School and working with other artists I really want to leave a mark.

Why is this platform important to you?

J: I feel you haven’t really accomplished your goal until you’re teaching people what you’ve been taught, there’s always a new set of people that want to learn. Providing this platform for people to learn and feel good through these photos. I want everyone to come together afterwards and say how great the experience was because it was done together. We loved the experience, we loved what we learned. I want to inspire others and get people that want to be involved, involved. I want to teach them as they teach me.

To see Sunday School's full stories visit their website here 

Article by Iain Ailles