Earlier this year, I was privileged to have been invited by Yetunde Babaeko to her house for a “small” social gathering. Apparently she didn’t like the way top photographers only saw each other during NiPHEC 2013; she wanted to create a networking atmosphere where we could keep in touch with each other without having to wait for a conference gathering like NiPHEC.
Present at the friday night gathering were photography mentors like Kelechi Amadi-Obi, Leke Adenuga, Seyi Body-Lawson & Uche James Iroha. Looking back, I’m not sure what exactly I had done or achieved to have been invited to such a meeting…..but that’s a thought for another day. It will turn out to be quite an insightful networking experience that I’m glad I was present at.
I listened ardently to the gist every other photographer was bringing to the table. From SEX to cigarettes to clubbing in New York to photographing stingy clients….it was as if I was in a seminar titled “How Great Photographers Think”. As if trying to soak in everyone’s gist, I found out in retrospect that the words of my mouth were few that night. I was there to appreciate and know more about how these photography colleagues of mine THINK. I had no regrets whatsoever.
I particularly enjoyed almost every discussion Kelechi Amadi-Obi brought to the table. Although some of our values were not in total alignment, I found myself praying to God for a mind as crazily creative as Kelechi’s. One of the experiences he shared with us was about his experience with a particular security man about a decade ago.
In what seemed like an attempt to understand how the rich think, Kelechi decided (in the early 2000s) that he would use the services of a creche located inside Shonibare Estate in Maryland. For those of us that might not know, owning a property in Shonibare Estate implies directly or indirectly that your net worth is over N1billion: only the rich live there.
The security men at the entrance of the estate would easily identify someone who doesn’t live in the estate by the type of car the person was driving. In those days, the reputation Kelechi’s car had was nothing to write home about. Nevertheless, he knew what he was looking for by attempting to “enter” the inner circle environs of the rich.
On one particular day, a security man stopped him at the 2nd entrance of the estate and after a quick psychological analysis of Kelechi & his car he blurted out (perhaps without much thought) “Poor People Don’t Live Here….where are you going?” He then told Kelechi that people like him (I.e. Kelechi) are not welcomed in a rich man’s estate like Shonibare Estate. Besides, he continued, that particular entrance was strictly for the use of residents of the estate. After much pleading by Kelechi to enter the estate (because he was going to pick up his child from the creche situated within), the security man insisted that he should turn back and use the main entrance.
Kelechi was offended especially because he felt that the economy status of the security man did not warrant him to make such a statement especially since he (I.e. The security man) was not considered to be in the class of rich men. He would think of what to do to make him realize that “Kelechi isn’t a poor man” (though his car might suggest otherwise).
The next day, Kelechi decided to use the same entrance where he was denied entrance. Upon discovering that the security man in question was not on duty, he gave those on duty N1000 and told them to have a great day. The day after, he did the same thing. On the third day, upon arriving at the same entrance and meeting the security man, Kelechi willingly put his “rich” car in reverse and headed for the next entrance. While reversing he noticed that the other security men were pleading with him to go ahead and enter but Kelechi would not bend to their pleas because according to the “rich” security man, “Kelechi was a poor man”.
Kelechi continued with his plan for about a week until the other security men started getting angry with their colleague for insulting a “rich” man like Kelechi in such a manner. Apparently, even the rich residents of the estate don’t tip them in such a way and here comes someone that treats them “well” but is being denied entrance by one security man because he didn’t have a beautiful car. Eventually the same security man approached Kelechi and apologized for making such a blasphemous statement. Kelechi’s point had settled in.
The moral of the story might not necessarily have anything to do with photography but I got an insight on how to handle situations in a non-conventional (but creative) way. You might take this the wrong way but I thought within myself that what Kelechi did was wisdom. He used wisely his actions to prove wrongly what someone said about him. I learnt that one shouldn’t be quick to reply people’s accusations with words. In most cases, its wiser to “do” than to “say“. If people “say” you’re a fool, prove them wrong by your “actions“. If people say you’re “poor“, let the combination of all your actions ultimately make them regret saying that.
Ofcourse, the ultimate wisdom is to realize that you can’t be stopping at every junction in life to be “proving” yourself to people that might think otherwise. Just focus on doing what you know how to do best and eventually they will see the results of your labour and change their minds about what they “thought” or “said” you were. Some people thought photography as a profession was going to be my worst decision ever. The same people that “thought” that have paid me millions of Naira for my photography services.
Enough of my babbling. Whenever you meet people that think you don’t deserve something, take it as an encouragement “pill” to make you focus on your vision and destiny. Ultimately and in due season, those who thought you don’t deserve it will realize that its actually people like you (Yes, YOU) that really deserve it.
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