Lessons From A BURNING Building

It happened yesterday. After returning to my office from a trip that entailed the purchase of my supper – 8 oranges, 1 titus fish & 1 loaf of bread – I found my colleagues snapping pictures of a building in flames about 100 metres away. The view from the window of my office seemed to be perfect for them to capture compositions that would perhaps be submitted as their weekly reports or even sold to an international art buyer.

Upon discovering what was happening, I found it a little interesting that no one thought of going to the burning house to see what can be done to help. Without thinking (honestly I really didn’t think it through), I put down my supper on the table and told them I was heading to the burning "bush" to see how I could help.

About 5 minutes later, I was at the entrance of the burning 2 storey building that seemed to have gathered a cinematographic-audience of about 150+ people. About a third of them had their camera-phones pointed in the direction of the room that was spewing out flames from the second floor. Perhaps I should have brought my camera. Perhaps the thought didn’t occur to me. Like Superman or Spiderman I felt as though a good friend of mine was trapped inside the fire that seemed to be raging from within the seemingly small room.

Without thinking I was determined (in KANU Nwankwo’s Peak Milk accent) to help. I asked an onlooker stationed at the building’s gate if more hands were still needed to put off the flame and was shown the staircase that led to the room burning on the second floor.

A few young compatriots had already climbed the roof and were pouring soapy water in buckets to try the quench the flames. The fire department had been called upon but it seemed they were either wearing a woman’s 2-hour makeup or they were just stuck in Lagos rush hour 6pm traffic. Either way it was obvious that if we were going to wait for the fire fighters to get there, the house would be a rubble of ashes.

I discovered that I seemed to be the only one to have entered the house through the stairs. It was my first presence in a burning house and I was glad to discover that no friend or enemy of mine was trapped within. I was immediately followed by a team of about 7 men who would later help pass me buckets of soapy water that we used to help reduce the inferno stirring up within the 6 by 10 feet room.

The smoke was intense, the fire unforgiving and the determination of the 10 man-impromptu-firefighters to quench the fire was relentless. At one point I had to retreat because the smoke that was emanating from the burning rooms where choking my eyes and lungs. I felt I was 45 seconds away from collapsing. While retreating back for air, I saw one of my fellow firefighting compatriots using his handkerchief to cover his nose. I asked him to give me the handkerchief because it wasn’t going to do much for him if he’s not ready to go closer to the fire to pour the soapy water. He didn’t argue.

What was I thinking? Come to think of it, I wasn’t thinking at all. It was as if the burning house was my beloved BMW 750i that was in flames and I was not going to let this be an easy defeat. By fire by force, I would do my best to quench…. I handed my other colleague the handkerchief and we discovered it wasn’t long enough to cover his nose with. At the speed of thought, I found myself removing my shirt and singlet (let the Nigerian reader know the meaning) and handed him the 2 year old faded singlet to cover his nose. It worked like magic and we were able to stay longer in the flaming room to quench the fire. Of course I wouldn’t have survived if I hadn’t used my shirt to cover my nose. I would later find out that we had been in the room for over 10 minutes.

After dispensing about 200kgs of soapy water into 2 rooms whose ceiling and rooftop were gone, we seemed to have won the battle. However, this wasn’t a victory to celebrate because of what was lost. I would later return to my office with revelatory thoughts that ran through my mind simultaneously with the headache I had just contacted as a result of the inhaled smoke. I probably should have thought this through before heading in, but then again the house might have been burnt to the ground if I had thought before going in (just a thought).

The following are some of the thoughts that hit me as I passed the team of professional fire fighters that just arrived at the scene.

1) A crowd of over 300 people stood outside to watch and photograph the building burning. Only less than 10 people (not related to the owner of the house) went in to help. In fact, I later discovered that most of the 10-man firefighting team were people considered to be the miscreants of the society: area boys.

2) The crowd were muttering words of commotion that I had to ignore most of the time. Some were shouting out orders to us on how to quench the fire, some were abusing the owner of the house for making it difficult to gain access to his house, some were blaming NEPA for the supposed-surge of electricity that started the flames while others were just smiling (yes, smiling) because they got there in time to capture the "beautiful" potentially-viral scenery on their smartphones.

3. The room where the fire raged the most was as a result of the tons of clothes stored there by the owner. A small room housed what seemed to be about 8 large suitcases of clothes. It was obvious the room belonged to one person that had PLENTY of unused clothes that fueled the anger of the flames. How many clothes does a man really need, I thought.

4. If I were a member of a religious organization that reigned down "fire" brimstones prayer on my enemies, I would repent because I just witnessed firsthand what real fire can do. I would definitely not want this to happen to any of my enemies. Really.

5. The fact that Bible scriptures were written on the building did not stop it from burning. But then again maybe it was the scriptures that prevented it from burning completely.

6. A church service that was holding just a few buildings from the house was uninterrupted. Since it wasn’t their building burning, there wasn’t a need to interrupt a meeting where God was ministering.

7. The owner of the house wasn’t around when the house caught fire. Whether or not he was a good person, the area boys bravely took it upon themselves to help quench the spread of an inferno that would indirectly affect them.

8. The fact that you’re seemingly surrounded by a lot of people and admirers does not mean they’ll be willing to help you quench your house when it is on fire. The fact that I have 35,000+ followers doesn’t mean they’ll be willing to help in my days of affliction. Many times, real lifesaving help will come from unexpected sources. At that point, I prayed to God to help me have friends that will help quench the fires of life when they rage. I figured that 10 of such friends would be enough.

On my way home, I found myself fighting the tears that struggled to leave the domain of my eyes. So much has been witnessed with these same eyes in my 38 years on earth. I could only smile when my wife then mentioned that she felt sad because she forgot her phone in my office earlier in the day. She forgot her phone and that made her sad. I’ve been sad also for similar forgotten items. I handed her the forgotten phone in the darkness of my room and silently prayed for the family that just almost lost their house. So much lessons learnt from a burning building. So much lessons learnt about life. May God help us all.


The week started as usual with worship and prayers to God and with words of exhortation from the Boss Mr. Seun Akisanmi, the brief exhortation led to the Monday morning meeting; I was particularly worried and unsettled about the meeting given what happened in the past week.

The meeting commenced with everyone sharing the experiences, well or bad, they had last week and I’ve noticed overtime that Mr. Seun always has something to say about everybody’s experience, he either amplifies the lessons present or answer a question in the shared experience; then again he’s practicallybeen in this for over ten years, I shouldn’t expect less. From Mr. Seun to Miss. Kike (Red19), Tobi, Tope, Mosope and I, we all shared varying experiences and lessonswe gathered from the past week. My story brought about quite interesting feedbacks from everyone and in summary I just learnt there are more than enough ways to go about a task.

The week was quite lazy for me, not because we didn’t have anything to do, in fact we had lots of things to be done but I was just lazy in my mind despite the fact that I was busy doing one thing or the other and I still can’t explain why and how; perhaps because I was short on funds and needed to meet lot of targets.

We had a 2-year birthday shoot for a little boy during the week; shy baby Keni was interesting and at the same time a lot of work to shoot, he got everybody dancing and singing and jumping and doing all sorts to get his best expressions. During the session with our cute baby I learnt a few things; as much as I encouragereprimanding a child when he or she is wrong, I advise you understand the childand know which technique best suits the child and will not affect his or hertemperament. I noticed our little baby Keni’s reaction when his mum scolded him and forced him to loosen up during the session, He is one child that would not do well with harsh scolding as it willmake him scared and run away from the person scolding which might eventually turn out badly later in life if the person always sounding harsh is either of his parents.

It does a lot a good to understand children, know that they are different personalities and have different behaviors and should be handled differently, it’s super sad when parents compare their children; they can’t all be the same. In a way this also applies to our individual relationships as adults, I know but I also learnt during the week that all humans aren’t the same; one shouldn’t expect the same reaction on a particular issue from two different peopleas they aren’t the same. Of course there are some occasions we would expect that we all see things from the same perspective, even then we’ll see it and perceive it in our different and variant ways. This is what makes each of us unique and special, so don’t take it personal when someone doesn’t see things the way you want them to see it. I appeal that we be mindful of these things because they are of the mind.

Photographically Yours,

Enor Izomor.

The Break of Enthusiasm

The light of the new week was merged in hope and enthusiasm. I finally concluded on a project to pick and work-on . And not only did I make up my mind, I eventually started out. Having something to start out was a complication for me for years. The idea of a project was not just what I gelled into, of course not just for the sake of what to do(as I have had the privilege of getting proposals from mentors and colleagues) but what I could eventually buy and call my own.

The passion and enthusiasm to start and complete something worthwhile could have only been fortified with inner conceptualization and perception. I have had speakers and teachers speak for years on great photography career and I am an ardent follower of those with the idea of photographers going on inner search, on a journey of self-discovery. We see and perceive the world in a different light, and since we as artist make good use of the eye we are bound by forms and shape to communicate our paradigm, feelings and emotions.

Picking the book humans of New York was Insightful, revelatory and brought new light to what it is to engage in documentary photography for me.Brandon Stanton had collected street portraits and interviews on the streets of New York City for his blog andbestselling book. The project started out in November 2010 and has developed a large following through social media. The blog has over 16million followers onfacebook and around 4.7 million followers on instagram as of January2016.

The book had caught me with so much interest, inspiring me into what more can be done with pictures, and eventually saving me boredom of just being a wedding or event photographer.

Tuesday was just a day for another shoot; it was a shoot of a two year old baby of the name Kenani. We had earlier in the day hosted Samuel Obaderu to take on a class on some of thetechnicalities in photography. He started the lesson with his journey so far and how he started out in photography.

Having to listen to others on how they started out, the challenges they facedand how they are where they are has been so much helpful, injecting me with much faith and energy to keep up in the field; Obaderu was not much different, he ended his class with a bit touch on technicalities. The baby shoot had later bomb into the class, there was dividedattention, and the class eventually came to its end.

Thursday was to come; Mr Seun had earlier in the week started his class for the DSAP(Daystar Skill Acquisition Program) for the present session. My first attendance for the program was to assist my boss with video recordings and a bit on the logistics. The event was to satisfy my love for adventures and differences; having to work with the student and watch my coach take the class was an encouragement. Maybe I could one day take a class with quite a number of students, May be I could insight my student with the love and passion, May be I could be just be a teacher and much more than a shooter.

My name is Tobi Idowu; I love life, people and the Art of photography.


As usual I’m seated at home this Saturday evening pondering in my conscious and subconscious what to document about the past week. On the surface of my mind there are a few things I’d like to put down now;  then again I don’t just want to tell a story of how the week sped off, I’d prefer to share what will be most beneficial to my esteemed reader.

Some days are great and perfect while some are not even close to it; some days are interesting and informative while some are not; some days you’ll be hungry while some you’ll have more than enough to eat; some days will be super busy and stressful while some will be boring and less busy; some days are clumsy while some are not; some days you’d have enough to spend while some days you won’t; some days you’d be in the best of moods while some will be moody; some days you’d feel like you’re in the right place while some you’d doubt your sense of judgment; some days you’d be carefree while some you would have cause to worry.

On that fateful Friday, I got to work at exactly 7:59am – the latest I’ve been to work in a while, apparently boss had been waiting for me to run a quick and important errand. It has been proven that those who live close to church come late to church than those who live farther; those were the striking words that greeted me (Yes, my boss has a diplomatic way of scolding someone). More subtle as the words came, it sounded loud in my ears but I had no other choice than to agree.  The words convey a standing fact that even I can prove considering the many incidences I witnessed in my family church somewhere in the east. Thinking about it now, I believe it is a conscious thing because one tends to get a bit relaxed when he/she is closer to the destination.

About an hour after this revelatory period, we were working on our creative frames and in the process of improving the quality of the frames; we got an idea that required the use of very-small-sized nails. Of course, we are not woodworkers to have various sizes of nails so we had to go buy. Tope and I who were assigned to that task had to trek a wonderful distance in search of tack nails as it is called. From one shop to another asking the same question “please, do you sell nails?” and if they don’t the question is changed to “please, do you know where we can get nails”; with each person directing us back and forth, we visited a total of 13 shops ranging from shoemaking shops to electrical and book shops before we got it from a miniature kiosk popularly called “mallam shop” (just in case you’re wondering why we didn’t stop looking, my boss’ name is Seun Akisanmi and I’m learning not to give excuses).

Still that morning, boss told me that I’ll be going with Mr. Segun (a new face in eloPhotos) to get frames at Aroloya on Lagos Island. I didn’t understand the comical “odabo o” (meaning bye bye o) Mosope told me when I was leaving until I got to the place; it is that dirty, smelly, disgusting and horrible looking place Mosope told me about some time ago. I totally forgot; I would have braced myself up for the experience. The sight was even worse because it rained on our way, but it was also an avenue to learn some negotiation skills.

Just when I thought I’ve had enough for one day and was about leaving for my humble abode, a building opposite us started burning all of a sudden. Seeing they didn’t have much help plus the fire service was not forth coming, my boss stormed out to the rescue; in my  mind I was like come back o, you’re no super hero. I realized not long after how timidity and fear can override and cloud one’s sense of judgment and empathy; the main lesson for me was when Mr. Seun told us the extent of the burns, he said a small room stacked full with clothes stimulated the fire and all the clothes got burnt. He said “it’s not as if they can wear all the clothes, they just lie there wasting”; these words got stuck and kept ringing in my head, probably because I’ve been worried and complaining about getting new clothes.

Some days? No, all days are wonderful and beautiful; it all depends on how you perceive it and what you decide the day be like for you. Truly that fateful Friday gave me a lot to think about and I’m grateful for it.

I’m Enor Izomor, improving daily and becoming a better person.