Training @ eloPhotos: The Weird Journey So Far


One of the coolest things about being an intern at eloPhotos is that you learn, not just from Mr Seun Akisanmi, but from other well-established photographers as well. A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting Olamide Bakare of Alore Photography. He came around to teach us Lighting. I had attended classes on the subject before, but Olamide’s class took it to the next level. It was a 2 hour class that was fully packed with a tutorial on relevant concepts and practical sessions, yet concise. I had the best of time.

Later that afternoon, I was about walking out of the office when I was met by a tall, slim and good-looking guy who looked like he was trying to find his way around. “Good afternoon, how may I help you?” I asked with a smile; sounding like a well-trained, professional receptionist. After knowing he was a guest of eloPhotos, I invited him to sit at the reception. Wondering if he had an appointment with Mr Seun, I asked, “What is your name sir?”. “My name is Emeka”, he answered. In response, I told him “I am Ronke”. The moment he heard my name, he said with a smile, “Ronke Alao, right?”. I was a bit shocked that he knew me so well or at least knew my full name. Since I wasn’t some actress on TV and I had not been part of any reality show, I wondered how he knew my name. On further enquiry, I realised he was an avid reader of our blog and had read a few articles I wrote.

Emeka came around to get information on eloPhotos academy and how he could train here. It’s interesting to think I was in his shoes just some four months ago. I remember sending Mr Seun a Blackberry Message on how I could train at the academy – more like a mini, informal application to be an intern. I was beside myself when he scheduled a meeting with me just two days after my initial contact with him.

I had been following (or stalking) the eloPhotos website for several months before that time. What drew me to eloPhotos was the integrity and honesty that I thought it exuded. Funny how people can perceive your spirit just by surfing your website! It wasn’t only honesty and integrity that got me sold on working at eloPhotos; it was also the fact that I “knew” eloPhotos had a culture of timeliness and professionalism as a whole – these are qualities that you would expect to find in every business but sadly, are missing in many Nigerian businesses. I had also been a visitor to the eloPhotosYouTube channel a number of times, so I knew what he (Mr Seun) looked like.

Meeting Mr Seun in person was a different ball game. I was surprised to find the almighty Seun Akisanmi in a pair of knee-length shorts and an old T-shirt. He wore a pair of black and white tennis shoes that I’m sure had stories to tell. His iconic look was complete with mismatched socks. Oh yes, he was wearing socks that made his feet look like they belonged to different people. They say one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, right? I took a cue from that saying, so I decided to focus on my interview.

My first thirty minutes was spent answering questions such as: “Why photography and not make-up artistry?”, “Where do you see yourself in five years” and “Why did you choose eloPhotos?” Afterwards, it was my time to ask questions. I wanted to know why and how he got into photography. I needed to know if I had made the right choice in choosing this training ground. I also asked him questions about the academy and what kind of plans he had for the future. After our discussion, I felt like I knew the man beyond his old T-shirt and sneakers. I thought of him as intelligent – hey, I saw tall stacks of books at his office, both photography and non-photography related. I also came to appreciate his vision and passion for his chosen career, and who would have thought this guy was so romantic to have named his company after his wife?

His charming sense of humor made the time seem like it flew by. He gave me a complimentary copy of Picture This magazine. My mind was made up: I would be coming back in a couple of weeks to start classes.

It’s been four months of learning, running errands, meeting some cool people, amazing myself with pictures I can now take, doing some more learning, running some more errands, learning to keep the books and balance accounts, learning the importance of timeliness, getting a “PhD” in dealing with “interesting ” clients, and having the weird in me rise to the surface.

I am glad I made the choice to train at eloPhotos. Let’s just hope my weirdness doesn’t get over the top…. It could with the kind of weird, fun people I hang out with here every day!

 

WARNING: READ BEFORE YOU TRAIN AT eloPhotos


Believe it or not but God has a tattoo! It’s not of a skull, snake or even a scorpion. No, it’s something more beautiful: MY NAME. This was revealed at Monday’s weekly devotion and who else could have talked about such a radical idea but Mr Seun Akisanmi. He was sharing from Isaiah 49:16 where the Bible states “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me.” I had never seen that verse from that perspective but I am not one of those who think tattoos are a one-way ticket to hell. I would get a ‘Jesus’ tattoo myself if my husband approved and if tattoos weren’t painful.

Back to the Isaiah passage. Can you imagine your name engraved on God’s hand? Every time he stretches his hand, (and it must be a MIGHTY BIG hand to have all of God’s children’s name on it), he sees your name. That means you are always on his mind even when it seems he’s forgotten you. To think I came to eloPhotos to learn photography and I end up discovering there’s so much more to learn.

If you are a fun-loving person like me, you are probably just enjoying this write-up but if you have an analytical mind, chances are you are still trying to connect the title with the content. For your sake, I’ll get straight to the point. If you plan to train as a photographer at eloPhotos, let me warn you of a few things you are probably not aware of. Aren’t you glad you can get inside information from a trusted, outspoken and kind intern like me? Okay, here are 3 hot scoops to start with (you can get the other tips once you hire me for my photography services 1st).

CHORES
If you think you are all grown up and don’t do household chores anymore, don’t even sign up at eloPhotos. Here, it doesn’t matter whether you are the first son of your father and next in line to be crowned king of your village; you will sweep, wash plate(s) and run errands. You will learn patience as you interact with the rude and saucy Mama Laratu (our official restaurant Chef,huh, I mean Mama PUT).

PUBLIC ENEMY
If you are the type of person that would risk paying a little more for an item because you don’t want a vendor to insult you, don’t worry. You will learn some negotiating skills here that will turn you to a lean, mean negotiating machine – in a good way of course. Every kobo counts here, so if you pay a bus fare of N50 from Agidingbi bus-stop to say Testing ground bus-stop, you would probably have to listen to Mr Seun ask you why you didn’t negotiate to pay N30. I am not kidding. What better way to become Public Enemy Number 1 when bus conductors and market sellers lash out at you for daring to price their service/goods.

CAN’T WHAT?
If your favorite thing to say is “I can’t do such and such” or “It is impossible”, you will learn to change your vocabulary here. We don’t use such words here. Now, if you are a die-hard fan of those words and will want to insist something can’t be done, Mr Seun could ask you to go do it and do it you will. There is a zero-tolerance for excuses.

Well, you might wonder, “If eloPhotos is such a tough place to be, why has Ronke stayed this long?” especially when you consider the fact that I am the only female intern currently. Perhaps it’s because of the great people I get to work with or maybe it’s the little ways in which my life has changed. I think spending time with creative photographers brings out the “weird” in you. How would you explain the fact that I now sleep late and wake up early, I started writing again after one year of abandoning the craft, I am more futuristic in my thinking and I think really BIG. Thinking outside the box is something I now do effortlessly. I am beginning to set high standards for the goals I set for myself and recently started thinking of writing my first book.

Another important aspect of photography that I know I may not have been able to learn just anywhere but I learn quite well here is the “Business of Photography”. Yes, training at eloPhotos is no job for a lazy person but it ultimately brings out the best in you.

Photographically Yours,
Ronke Alao

 

The FUN, The WEIRD & The RIDICULOUS


My week officially started on Tuesday. No, I didn’t skip work on Monday but as I stood in line at Silverbird Cinemas for ‘free’ popcorn and drink; the sweet aroma of the corn filtering through my nostrils and enveloping my sinuses, I felt like my week had just started.

The trip to the movies was sponsored by eloPhotos as a treat/field trip of some sorts. There’s something about seeing great movies that sharpens one’s artistic mind.

Not too long after arriving at the movies, I saw about five photography colleagues that had come to see the same movie I came to see, Elysium. I thought that was interesting. Perhaps we photographers should speak to the management of Silverbird Cinemas and see if we can strike a deal, where photographers enjoy a movie discount.

While still waiting to get my free snack, I suddenly heard a voice behind me saying, “…you could go in and see the movie for ten minutes, then come back out and the popcorn line wouldn’t be so long anymore”. I didn’t have to turn to recognize the voice; it was my boss. I couldn’t believe Mr Seun was back at the Cinema to see the same movie for the third time! I had left him and the rest of the team at the office since they all had seen the movie. No one knew Mr Seun had plans to ‘sneak’ out of the office to see the movie again.

I finally got my popcorn and fanta then found the cinema room. The movie ran for a little less than two hours and in one word, I would simply describe it as AWESOME. In case you haven’t seen it, I do not want to spoil the fun for you so I won’t give you the gist. GO SEE IT.

Tuesday ended on an interesting note. My alternate cellphone got lost in a bus and I didn’t realize it till I got home. I tried appealing to the good nature of whoever picked it by sending text messages; since he/ she wouldn’t pick my call. It didn’t work.

The next day came along and I lost an earring. Perhaps I am having my things walk away from me, one at a time. The day’s highlight was having Maximus of Phaneross Photography come and speak to eloPhotos interns on the topic, “Improving Your Photography”. It was an insightful 3-hours lecture.

As if the week had not been strange enough for me, Wednesday afternoon had to have it’s own element of weirdness. I boarded a bus headed for Ikorodu from Ojota. Just before we got to Ikorodu, I found that almost everyone in the bus was talking about some guy, a muslim cleric, who died years ago. They said he recently made an ‘appearance’ on the wall of a mosque at Owode area. His image was said to have appeared on a wall. People were reported to have taken pictures of this wonder and were now selling 5 X 7″ photo prints in traffic. Strange story or biggest scam of the year? You decide.

Lagos being the crazy city it is, I never run out of amazing things to see everyday. Things such as a man holding the cab door open for a lady to enter first. This happened on Thursday. I was taken aback, surprised to see this guy who didn’t know me, open the door for me. This may seem ordinary to you but after a week of seeing even pregnant ladies been pushed off by desperate passengers hoping to get in a bus, seeing a gentleman was very refreshing.

Thursday turned out to be a busy day. We had an event-Dieko and Tunbosun’s engagement- to cover. I headed to the groom’s hotel room to take shots of him while my colleague covered the bride. The groom was quite camera-shy but after chatting with him and doing my best to make him relax, he got comfortable with having his pictures taken.

The event was fun to cover and will stand out in my mind as the first event where I was served food. If I had any doubts in my mind about wedding photography been physically challenging, those doubts got cleared on Friday morning. I woke up wondering what hit me. I became very aware of muscles I never knew I had. My leg felt like it had 50 kg weights strapped to it.

On Friday, we had what you could call a strategy meeting. Mr Seun Akisanmi met with the interns and discussed what we learnt at the previous day’s event and what we could do better subsequently; especially on saturday for the church wedding and reception.

On my way home on Friday, I met a former school colleague at Ojota and we got talking. We both graduated from the same faculty. He asked if I worked close by. I was dressed very casually but looked smart. I proudly told him, “I am now a photographer and work at Ikeja”. I think I impressed myself with the confidence with which I said it. It felt good.

It was a week full of fun, weird happenings and ridiculous stuff but I am glad it is over.

My name is Ronke Alao & I am proud to be a female photographer.