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Meet Adobe Creative Resident and Renaissance Man Temi Coker

By Charles Purdy

Why choose just one medium? Photographer, designer, and educator Temiloluwa Coker—better known as Temi—is one of seven young creatives who make up this year’s cohort of Adobe Creative Residents, and he doesn’t see any reason to. Through his work, which combines photography, design, and illustration, he hopes to inspire other young people to explore their creativity.

Coker, who lives in Dallas, Texas, merges design and photography in his surreal and intriguing compositions. He works for clients in the fashion, music, and sports industries; he has a sideline as a wedding photographer; and he’s finishing up a year-long poster-a-day project—oh, and until this year and the start of his Adobe Creative Residency, he taught photography and digital media at a high school. But his first artistic passion was music.

Coker has used his year-long poster-a-day project to explore new techniques and different styles. Fitting them into his busy schedule, he would work on posters during breaks at school and even use them as examples in classes he was teaching. 

CHOOSING HIS OWN PATH

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Coker came to the United States with his family as a child, in 2004; his father, a pastor, was asked to come to the U.S. to start a church. Even as a young boy, he says, he was drawn to creative pursuits—especially music. “I’ve been a musician since I was very young,” he says. “I play the keyboards, and when I was young I had a dream of studying music and then being a touring musician with bands and other music acts.”

However, his parents weren’t exactly thrilled with that idea. He says, “I don’t want to say that I’m the black sheep of the family…but I’m definitely the one who wants to try something new, the one who didn’t want to study the things that traditional African parents want their kids to study.”

As a photographer, Coker works for clients such as Estée Lauder. He took these shots for a recent campaign for a new cosmetics line.

His father disapproved of his studying music, so Coker first enrolled in a biomedical engineering program at university. A year later, unhappy with his studies, he switched his major to digital media. “I’ve always wanted to be someone who can do a lot of different things,” he says. “When I was thinking of being a music producer, I wanted to be able to design my album covers myself, for example. Or I want to be able to go to a company and say, ‘Hey, I can take your pictures, but I can also design as well.’”

Coker was also interested in photography at this time, and he had a knack for photo editing, so friends would ask him to edit pictures for them—and this pursuit soon became a vocation.  

TAKING OFF PROFESSIONALLY

After he graduated from university, Coker worked as a graphic designer for a short time and then decided to go back and teach photography and Photoshop editing at the high school he’d attended, while accepting freelance photography and design commissions (which he would sometimes use as examples in his classroom). He says he wanted to inspire young people and to teach them that creative pursuits could lead to a profession—because when he was a young man, people had not told him that this was possible.  

Coker was commissioned by Bevel to do portrait photography for a recent Father’s Day campaign—the project involved capturing moments of a father and son using a Bevel shaving kit.  

At the same time, he was developing his craft as a photographer: “I think I started taking photography more seriously in 2014,” Coker explains. “I went to Nigeria and shot a wedding—which led to a lot more wedding inquiries. I had gone to Nigeria with the intention of using my photography to show people how beautiful Nigeria is and clear up misconceptions about the country—when I was in high school, people assumed I’d lived in a hut and things like that.”

Coker shared his Nigeria photos on Instagram, and then Instagram featured the work on its blog, exposing his photos to millions of people.

Photographs that Coker took on a trip to Nigeria were feaured on an Instagram blog, which led him to taking his photography more seriously. 

From there, Coker says, things really started taking off for him professionally. And as for his once-doubtful parents? “They’ve come around,” he says. “I don’t think they fully understand that what I’m doing is a real career, and my mother doesn’t know what Adobe is, but she understands that the Residency program is really going to open doors.... And now that I’m getting press and attention for my work, I don’t think they can say anything negative with all that’s happening for me.”  

INSPIRING OTHERS

During the first part of his Creative Residency, Coker has been finishing up his year-long poster-a-day project, a challenge that he set himself as a way to improve his Photoshop skills, learn new techniques, and inspire other people. Then he will be using his residency to explore new avenues in his artwork, document his process, and eventually develop an online hub where creatives can learn how to create amazing work and grow in their craft. Coker’s ultimate career goal is to work as a creative director for multiple brands.

He says, “A goal in life has always been to serve others. I got to where I am with the help of many people, and I think it’s important to stay grounded and to give back.”  

Further into the future, he wants to return to making music, incorporating it into his other creative pursuits. He’s currently saving up for a new piano, and he has a dream of releasing an EP. And when he does, of course he’ll be creating the album art himself.

Follow Temi Coker’s creative journey on Instagram and on his portfolio site, where you can find his full year of poster-a-day projects.