Challenges Of Being A Female Photographer

It was a different kind of Tuesday for me. I didn’t have to wake up extra early, (though my "body alarm clock" somehow woke me up at the usual time), I wasn’t about to get on the road as early as 5.30am. Monday had been hectic with terrible traffic jam on Ikorodu road in the evening. I walked all the way from Ojota to Mile 12 and even beyond before begging two guys driving a private car to give me a ride to Ikorodu.

Before leaving the office that Monday, my boss had given me the assignment of following up with a potential client at Victoria Island, Lagos the next day. I, in turn persuaded him to let me go from home rather than have to report at the office first and he agreed. I was to be accompanied by my female colleague, (Dammy). My decision to go to the Island from home was well thought out. Why go through hellish traffic in the morning to get to the office and then set out on another journey to the Island when I could travel from Ikorodu to VI by water and be at my destination in less than an hour? Who needs more time to waste in traffic?

I left home at 8.55am and headed for the Jetty. On getting there, I bought my ticket and in a few minutes, I was sitted in the boat, looking like a pumpkin in the life jacket I had been given. Hoping for an exciting ride, and fastening my proverbial seat belt, I brought out my Blackberry phone and pulled up the Bible app as the boat took off. For some unknown reason, I found myself reading 1 Corinthians 7 – you know where the bible talks about marriage, fidelity and divorce. From the corner of my eye, I could see the guy next to me, spying and stylishly reading what I was reading. He read for a few seconds and looked at me funny. His gaze almost made me feel like I was staring at porn instead of reading the bible.

In thirty short minutes, we were at Victoria Island. It felt so good. I mean, Ikorodu to VI in 30 minutes! Like one of my pastors would say, "You can’t beat it with a stick!". I got off the boat and took a cab to the client’s office that took about five minutes. Even though I was extra early, I had to wait for my colleague so we could see the client in his office together. Our assignment seemed simple enough; inform him of the packages we had for a day’s coverage of event, what we charge and also show him a sample of our album.

Soon as my colleague arrived, we made our way into the office and after meeting the receptionist and sitting for a few minutes, we were face to face with the man we hoped would hire us to cover his birthday party. In fifteen minutes, it had become apparent to me that he wasn’t really interested in hiring us. He kept stating he didn’t like the design of our sample photobook even though we made it clear that we design an album to each client’s specification and would be glad to know what he appreciates so we can make a custom-design just for him.

When he was done looking at the sample album, the quiz session started. He wanted to know our ages, where we lived and why we chose to be photographers. The questions kept rolling in. Soon, I signaled to Dammy that it was time to leave. On telling our client that, he asked us to wait. As he went to a corner of his office hidden from plain sight, I thought,"Oh great, perhaps he wants to get us some change to spend in transporting ourselves back to the office". Nice right?

After what seemed like eternity to me, he emerged and asked me to come. I followed him to the office corner wondering what the drama was about. Just then, he handed me a few crisp One thousand naira notes and said, "Use that to get a cab to your office". I was slightly surprised at the number of notes he had just given us though I didn’t know exactly how much it was just yet. Then he said, "I’d like to see you privately. Let me know when I can see you alone". At this point, my suspicions were confirmed. He wasn’t looking for photographers but rather for a girlfriend. So after this married man found out that I was married, he still wanted to date me. I was nauseated. This had to be the most annoying challenge of being a female photographer I guess. When someone who is old enough to be your dad disguises as a client while he is in fact trying to date you; it gives occupational hazard a whole new meaning. A camera-carrying lady, in a pair of loose-fitting jeans and hair that fits somewhere between braids and dreadlocks becomes sexier than a lady wearing a mini skirt or some other outrageous outfit.

Back to the office. This past week, I had the task of designing the album of a funeral event we covered. We were hired by the sister of the late man. My Photoshop skills have improved but I do not yet have the skills of Onos – our current Photoshop champion. Designing such an album required some serious thinking. It wasn’t as straight forward as designing a wedding album in my opinion. Would you include pictures of the corpse? If yes, how many was sufficient? Would you include pictures of where your client got very emotional and probably had tears running into his/her open mouth? Eventually, we had to use our discretion, knowing that we could always tweak the design if the client didn’t approve it.

We interns also had to report to the office on Saturday to learn how to use SmugMug – a software made for photographers who need a website that displays their pictures beautifully. I think you should check it out at info’ to get $5 off your $60 yearly fee: …you can thank me later). It’s a photographer’s dream. We also learnt how to be futuristic in our thinking when it comes to choosing business names, website domains and the likes.

Perhaps one of the questions I was faced with and that everyone who calls himself/herself a photographer should ask is, "For how long do I plan to be in the photography business?". Perhaps you have other interests and dreams that are not photography-related, at what point do you intend to work on those? Would you do them side-by-side with photography or what’s the plan?

Planning the next three to five years of your life helps you make the most use of your time and other resources now because you know where you are headed. Don’t just let life happen to you, be deliberate about how you live it.

Ronke Alao
CEO Everywoman’s Heart

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