Sony World Photography Award nominated Sebastian Barros presents Boys in the Clouds, an intimate portrait of the men left behind in one of the fastest growing cities in the world.

After 4 years shooting fashion models, gigs and designer homes, London-based photographer Sebastian Barros decided to move his work in a new direction. With a yearning to travel, he headed to Lagos, Nigeria - a chaotic west African metropolis home to 16 million people and growing.

It is a city on the up. Trade is booming, investment is piling in. High-end nightclubs are springing up in the most exclusive neighbourhoods. But in Lagos's underbelly, Barros found the men left out of the boom.

In Jan 2016, on a street corner in the Ikeja neighbourhood, Barros had his first encounter with the gangs known locally as Area boys. In-between extorting cash from local businesses smoking weed passes the time: “Marijuana is like pure water here,” says Six Tigers, local Area Boys leader, as sits under the stairway of a crumbling building puffing a joint with members of his gang. 

Over the following months, as he continued to meet and develop a relationship with the Area Boys, Barros produced a series of images that present the young men as they are - free of the preconceptions and biases that always cling to them in their home city. Shot with the glossy sheen of a fashion shoot but depicting scenes of grinding poverty, Boys in the Clouds gives us a rare glimpse into the Area Boys' downtime, where marijuana is the escape from the harsh realities of gang life.