Transcript of the interview session with renowned Photographer, Dipo Odetoyinbo (Black Child Photography)
When did you KNOW you wanted to become a Photographer?
My journey into photography has been a love affair. I have always been artistically inclined. I’ve been into fashion, I’ve done a bit of drama and I sang for a long time. It was when I went to serve in Kano state, on the way from the orientation camp to the village where we were posted, there was this beautiful scenery. The journey lasted about an hour and was over in the blink of the eye. It was the beauty of the scenery that struck me and I felt I had to capture that beauty. I guess that was where that ‘knowing’ first started because I knew I wanted to share this beauty with the whole world.
Tell us more about your career in photography and the challenges you experienced.
I studied Microbiology in the University of Ibadan, but from my second year I knew it wasn’t it for me. I needed to do more with what came to me naturally. I needed to do a little more self discovery. I had good grades and all that, but I knew art is where I am really very good at. That very point, I decided to make it a career. I started out as a hobbyist taking pictures of landscape and nature and a few portraits. I started posting my pictures and it seemed people liked it and wanted more. A lot of people asked me to come and take their picture and I said no, no.
I was so strong and I had to do something about it because even as an amateur a lot of people felt I could take it professionally. I decided I could, but I didn’t know what the business side of it will take. Although I had been into business before I knew running a business wasn’t simple. I knew I could do whatever it takes and that I could imagine myself still doing this at age seventy.
The challenges I had are the same that faces most of us artists. The case of doing something you love so passionately, but when it comes to the end of the month it’s not like someone is going to pay you. The real challenges were the business side: how do I create this beautiful work of art and get someone to pay me for it? I also came to the point where I knew I had to do something that was relevant to as many people as possible. Art is a medium of self-expression but I found after a bit of research that I had to be more relevant.
Who were your mentors when you were starting out?
It’s funny people can inspire you but you haven’t met them personally. I have largely been self taught. But I read the works of so many great people for inspiration. I read a lot of Bryan Peterson’s books and Scott Kelby. I knew more of what was going on the international scene for a year of so. But since I was to be based here in Nigeria, I needed to know what people around here were doing. I met Mr Leke Adenuga of QF and he showed me quite a bit of how to go about the business side of it. Also through HO9 I met Kelechi Amadi-Obi, I met Barret Akpokabayen, and a few others & they have been very instrumental in helping me out.
Getting into wedding photography, I remember meeting Mr Seun Akisanmi who really showed me the ropes of the business side (before that I had made many blunders!) and it was like a corrective measure. I also had a few assists from Michael Adebiyi, who went with me to some weddings and would help cover some and he was really instrumental.
Which Photographer on earth do you admire the most?
Strictly speaking Work and personality wise, one of the people I admire most is Kelechi Amadi-Obi. Just looking at his works alone has been so inspirational. It’s because of the aesthetics and the fine-art. Meeting him one-on-one has also inspired me and because he makes me feel like I can do it too.
Tell us your worst photography experience so far?
I think I have had so many experiences that have made me re-consider this business. I remember a few years back I was called for a series of jobs by the same client, a party, portrait session, two events and so on. After we spoke he deposited some money into my account, promising that he will pay the balance later. So I focussed on delivery and I did all that I could, including getting a make-up artist for all the coverage. So when I delivered everything and it was time to get my balance, he started dragging.
The mistake I made was that I did not sign a contract with him and delivering all without collecting much. I had invested my own money for a lot of the work and it [must have] seemed like I had a lot of money and I had made my profit and that was why I still had so much balance to collect.
That has been the nastiest experience so far and till date I have not collected that money.
What is that one WOW “client” experience that you wish could be repeated with all your clients?
I won’t site one client in particular. I have several clients who have become big-time marketers for me. That just really excites me; when you work for somebody and they go out of their way to ensure that every one they know hires you, if they can afford it.
How far are you willing to go with this “Photography”?
Like I said , it was a love affair for me initially, and I didn’t stumble into photography just like that, but I made up my mind that whatever it takes I am going to make it work. I believe it’s finding out your own niche and doing what makes you stand out and not doing what everybody else does. So many people are coming into the industry, (that’s good because it gives it a prestigious look) but having so many more graduates who are leaving their degree and coming into the business, shows that it is such a fantastic industry and it requires differentiation and stating in your area of strength for it stand out.
Why should a client hire you amidst the sea of photographers in Nigeria?
For me I like to ask a lot of questions and find out a lot about the client to be able to fashion out what works for them to bring out the best. A lot of people want to look exactly the way some of my works appear and I have to explain to them why I took the pictures they’re looking at in a certain way. I think my attention to detail stands me out. For my pre-wedding shoots, I usually want to go all out.
Are you affordable?
I think I am quite affordable. That is relative, because I have a lot of very good work out there that I am sure of. So I have created different packages for weddings. On the average it starts at $900 (N150k) and goes up depending on the options that go into the package based on what the client needs. It all depends on what the client needs although we have a whole gamut of packages that cover what clients usually expect.
What is your advice for newbies coming into the industry?
I would say spend time learning and training. It’s not every one that holds a camera that is a photographer. Learn how to take pictures, learn the art and very importantly learn the business side of it. The business aspect of it is very important to whatever it is you are doing.
Assume you wake up on Feb 20, 2020 what will your dream day look like?
I have always loved travelling. I guess it would be the day I get a call from South Africa to come do a shoot there. I said South Africa because a lot of photographers are trained there and peoole still come from all over the world to get their training there. By then , I would [want to] have an outfit that has really grown and I would have a lot of people under the same umbrella and I would have branched out into a few other fields I won’t mention now. Photography is the good foundation for the other things that come with it.
Any plans for a training platform for apprentists?
I keep getting phonecalls from people saying they want to come learn photography, but I have learnt that talk is cheap! Then I remember approaching one of my mentors once for that kind of request and I had to do a re-think when I realised I wouldn’t have the kind of time it was going to require. I had to look for another way around it. So as much as I love to create a platform for others, not everyone fits in and even though you have just a few rules, they take it for granted. I love to share knowledge so I have an internship program right now but that can’t accommodate many people, but as time goes on I intend to take on more people.
Black Child Photography is a Visual Communication Outfit geared at providing our esteemed clients with high quality images that speak to the viewer and passes across pre-planned specific messages to targeted audiences.
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