A Day in My Life in 2020: Sotunde Olajide

I think I can remember some of those times in class when our teachers would ask us, ‘What would you like to be when you grow up?’. Our responses were usually like, ‘I would like to be a lawyer, I would like to be a medical doctor, pilot, nurse, engineer, police’ and so on. Very few ones would choose a less attractive profession. In few cases would you hear professions like ‘teacher, civil servant’ etc, and the reason would be that, the parents of those that would choose such professions were actually in the profession. Well, some of us did become what we wished to become and some, a twisted fate, which was either as a result of our actions, or unforeseen circumstances.

I’m sure you are wondering what my own wish then was, or used to be. Well, I used to consider the Law profession, in actual fact that was what I wanted but deep inside me, being an artist was more of it. I was allocated a specific time for personal studies in the evening but while my guardians would think I was studying to become a lawyer, I would actually be making a lot of sketches from comic books, and every other attractive picture I could lay my hands on. With that, I was deriving pleasure and satisfaction in being young and reckless. I never thought I needed to give it a lot more to realize this dream. Well, all that is in the past now, I am a photographer in the present and we are looking at the future which brings us to the main discussion; where I see myself in the year 2020.

Well, its always good when you have these kind of discussions, in the sense that it ‘gingers’ you or wakes you up from your slumber. The first time I saw a documentary on Kelechi Amadi-Obi whom till present is a renown photographer and an artist, I found yet another  reason to rekindle my love for art and a better reason to be whom I have always loved to be; an artist or to be more precise, a ‘photo artist’.

In the nearest future, say in 2014, I see myself having my own photography studio somewhere in Lagos. I would employ people whom together, we would be working to actualize our dreams. Also, I would be striving harder, exploring all there is in the world of photography and art in the pursuit of actualizing my dream of being a renown ‘photo artist.’ In two to four years or so, I should have been well established in business and so, move to the next plan which is having my own gallery.

By 2016 or 2017, I think I would have prepared a good ground for having a world class/standard gallery, especially when I probably would have got all the support I could from my boss Seun Akisanmi, and the bosses I am yet to have, (Kelechi Amadi-Obi and the rest. Don’t get it twisted, I mean support in terms of ‘how to’), I think I wouldn’t have any problem in that area. By then also, I should have had connections with a lot of world class models whom I would have met everywhere in and outside the country. Oh! I forgot to mention that I would have traveled abroad in a quest to gain more knowledge on how to be a good ‘photo artist’ so don’t worry; if you are a model or are planning to be, we might work together soon.

Then by 2018, I would be thinking of how to expand my coast. I would have had photo studios located in Lagos, Abuja, Calabar, Kano and Jos too. By this time I should be in UK or USA trying to see how I can establish businesses in those places also or may be would have. Let me also mention that my investments will also cover sales and rentage of photography equipment such as professional cameras, lenses, lights, photo papers and ribbons etc. By 2020, I should be participating in photo exhibitions alongside the Kelechi Amadi-Obis and Seun Akisanmis, and by then also, you all would be having my piece hanging on the walls of your homes and offices, so help me God.


The Day I Shot Some Soldiers

I have stayed long enough in medical school to understand that almost everything has a technical term by which they are called, especially in the world of phobias. Phobia for almost everything has a name:
Claustrophobiafear of enclosure
Sitiophobia – fear of food
Anemophobia – fear of air
Coprophobia – fear of faecal matter
Anthrophobia – fear of flower
Phobophobia – fear of fear itself.

But fear of soldiers or guns, what do we call that? Or you think such phobias don’t exist? Trust me, they do. It was the worse thing that could happen to a harmless female photographer while behind the camera attempting to shoot some soldiers. Its interesting writing about it now, but at the very time it happened I wasn’t laughing.

The last two working days of the week was fun. Doing a funeral photography for the first, in the ancient city of Ibadan (I had only been there twice) was for me a fantastic experience. With that excitement, I jumped up and down, and from point to point, trying to capture interesting moments of the event. The service of song went well the day before the incidence am about to describe happened. So with that excitement, I went the next day, with my other female photographer colleague (the GREAT Ronke Alao),  to cover the lying in-state at the home of the deceased. Distinguished dignitaries were present at the event, so were their soldier entourages.

Just before the lying in state started, I decided to take photographs of other side events like the food session, the condolence register, a side view of the beautiful house etc. It was while I was doing this I noticed the soldiers standing with their guns and I thought that would also make some nice shots, thinking about it now, I realize how silly that decision was. Well thank God I did, at least, it gave me something to write about.

I didn’t even know what gave me the effrontery to move close to them in an attempt to take the shots. They stood in two groups, three soldiers in each group. I had taken a shot of the first group, and still feeling cool with myself, I started focusing my lens to shoot the second group. As I looked into the camera, I saw to my surprise the soldiers pointing their guns at me!!! Was that a pose or what I asked myself. Just then, one of them ordered me to come close.

At that point, all my excitement turned into cold flushes of fear and it traveled with turbulence through my blood vessels. I wished for rigor mortis (stiffening of my joint and muscles, the type seen in dead bodies; pardon my medical jargon) but my feet moved in the direction of the pointed guns. It all happened in a split of seconds, but that was long enough for my heart to travel down to my mouth. Thank God my boss had taught me about the importance of always having the camera strap on the neck, it saved my camera that day because I would have dropped it on the floor while shivering with fear, had the strapp not been on my neck.

“Why you dey snap us photo? Who you be? Who send you message? You no know say dem no dey snap soldier?”
– the soldiers asked me, All I could say was “Am sorry sir”, with a shivering voice. Another soldier ordered me to show them the picture of them I took. I quickly reached for the camera which was hanging on my neck and showed them the picture. They ordered me to delete it. “Yes sir” I replied and I reached for the delete key at once. “You sure say e no remain there”? one of them asked me wanting to know if I still had any other picture of them on the camera. “e don finish”, I replied, bending my knees with each response as a show of submission, respect and humility. They threatened that they would deal with me if they ever saw me point the camera at them again. Well, they really didn’t have to tell me that, I had learnt my lessons.

Just while I thought the discussion had ended and I turned my back to leave, one of the soldiers ordered me to come back, I obeyed at once. I was surprised when I  looked up & saw a pitiful look on his face, as if pitying me for all I just went through (I wondered what the look was about). “I for deal with you today, but na this your innocent look save you”. Was that supposed to make me happy or trying to put himself in my good books, or was he just trying to sound the last warning, I wondered. Anyway, I said a sober thank you and stylishly moved fast to leave the vicinity of the soldiers, before they changed their mind about the mercy they had had on me.

As I reminisce the scene, I couldn’t stop being baffled at how much fear I had for the soldiers. I guess I was more afraid of the gun than of the soldiers themselves. Well may be its more of phobia for gun then. I have a feeling they did all that because I am a lady, I doubt if they would have done that much ‘shakara’ if it was a guy. Well, sounds like some form of achievement. I can boldly say now that I have been at gun point because of Photography (what a heroic feeling!). I also couldn’t stop wondering why the soldiers would not want their picture taken and at how much of mountain they made out of a molehill. Anyway, you should have seen the way I avoided the soldiers all through the rest of the event. I made sure I kept my distance from them and our paths never crossed again.

Apart from that incidence, the whole event went smoothly, I had maximum fun doing what I love to do. Other than the photography excitement, it was an opportunity for me to think again about life and its essence. As I watched the remains of the deceased lie still in the casket and being committed to mother earth, I asked myself: is this where it all ends? Whether we like it or not, one day, this body we all carry about, and we sometimes tend to give all the attention, all of our runnings about, the troubles and cares and fears of this earth, will end in that lonely chamber called GRAVE. Of course with long life, we’ll be satisfied, but there’s still an inevitable end. This earth is more like a sojourn, there’s a place we all are returning to afterall. We seem to forget that fact sometimes, or do we simply not care about what happens to our souls when the body perishes? (That is if we even believe we have souls in the first place).

” What shall it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and looses his soul, or what shall a man give in Exchange for his own soul? Mark 8:36-37. Ponder about this.

I’m Damilola Opawale & you can call me the Soldier Photographer


A Debtor’s INTEGRITY, A Creditor’s REGRET

I can’t remember ever having to do a writeup with a heart as heavy as what I’m experiencing now. However my silence might only add to the increasing level of decline in character seen in men & women in our society. One thing I’ve learnt in the last 16 years of my short life (especially while running my first internet-based company in America) is the fact that one of the most valuable asset in life you can have is a character of INTEGRITY. Integrity can take 20 years to build and 1 hour to destroy. It is one aspiration I’m still gunning for.

And so it was that while I was relaxing outside a shopping mall near my office & thinking of the next inspirational writeup to put up on my network, I found myself face to face with the last person I ever thought I’ll meet: one of my CREDITORS. As the organizer of the Nigeria Photography Expo & Conference (NiPHEC), I had ended up in a debt so huge that it shook the foundations of my life and marriage. Every vendor that came on board to make it a monumental success agreed to support based on the reputation I was perceived to have. The graphic artist, conference speakers (local & foreign), location provider, event planner, videographer, printer & other vendors had to give me a line of credit for providing their various services with the hope that I’ll pay up before or during the conference.

Unfortunately, we were not able to get enough sponsors on board to cover the entire $87,000 cost of organizing the event. The resulting debt will leave me in a state of embarrassment to the extent that I was atimes reluctant to even pick up my phone when it rang. It was even more painful when people started calling & emailing me shortly after the conference to CONGRATULATE me on the SUCCESS of a conference that left me more broke than when I started. And there I was thinking “it’s easy for you to call it a success when you’re not the one footing the debt”.

The management of the venue we used cut us some slack and accepted the 40% deposit we could raise to secure the venue 2 days before start of NiPHEC. The balance was to be paid during the conference with the hope that we’ll get enough participants to cover the bill; we were not able to come up with the balance. And the biggest character-wrecking mistake I did was NOT to get back to them since the conclusion of the conference.

So you can picture how heart-wrenching it was when you slam into someone you owe money for months and haven’t paid up yet. Telling them that you were recently thinking about getting in touch with them would not be a great excuse. Telling them that you were depressed, terminally ill or heart broken will not change the fact that the perception they had of you has eroded. You then discover that your heart can beat 755 times per minute when they tell you that “they regretted ever working with you and will not be that generous to anyone EVER again”.

I had never been in that kind of monumental debt situation before and I know that I didn’t handle the communication part well. It would have been better if I had called them often to keep them posted regarding the situation of things at my end. It would have been better if I had approached them to explain my situation rather than wait to stumble unto them. At that moment, my heart felt as though I had killed someone….as if I had committed the Judas-Iscariot sin. I felt like the multitude of many Nigerians that had been labeled fraudstars. IF ONLY I HAD KEPT THE COMMUNICATION LINES OPEN.

For the next 40 minutes, I would walk the remorseful distance back to my office like one who had lost his family in an earthquake. Upon getting back to the office I decided to call everyone that I had already contacted prior to now to appeal to them to still give me some time to clear my debt. Interestingly, they empathized with me and told me that they trust me to pay up whenever I had the resources. If only I had made the calls earlier.

As someone who has been in business for while, I still have Pastors, Ministers of God, students, friends and clients who still owe me money for a service I provided. I’ve made it a point not to be someone who gets angry at any debtor for not keeping in touch with me especially since I’ve committed the same offense with my creditors. It’s a character flaw a lot of us need to work on so that at the end of our days we shall be regarded as “blameless before God & man”.

At the end of my days, may my character be like the one whose Master shall gladly say “Well done, good & faithful servant”. May God help me. MAY GOD HELP US ALL.


Pictures from DEFY THE DICTATOR Protest in Lagos

A detachment of policemen led by the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Lagos State Command, Mr. Tunde Sobulo, fired teargas indiscriminately at protesters marching from the state house of assembly towards the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park in Ojota, Lagos.
During the march tagged, “Defy The Dictator,” the protesters converged on the house of assembly to demand the immediate withdrawal of soldiers from the streets of Lagos and the reversal of the pump price of petrol to N65.
The protesters then began to march from the assembly complex at Alausa, Ikeja to the Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park in Ojota, having obtained a permit from the state government to hold a rally there.
The park was the venue of five days of rallies, where various speakers spoke for five days against the removal of fuel subsidy.
However, they were warned by policemen not to go beyond the house of assembly to the park.
Led by a former Minister of Education, Prof. Ben Nwabueze; human rights lawyers, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite and Mr. Festus Keyamo, they defied the police warning and continued towards the park.
Speaking at the assembly, Braithwaite said the deployment of soldiers in Lagos was totally unwarranted while Nwabueze said it was unfortunate.
They were received by some members of the house, who said the deployment of soldiers was unacceptable.
They ran into a barricade mounted by the police and soldiers at 7Up Bottling Company on the Secretariat Road. The police also mounted a separate barricade on Ikosi Road, across the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway as well as the nearby Kudirat Abiola Road.
The situation caused traffic jams in the Alausa and Ojota areas.
To stop the protesters from getting to the park, the policemen fired several canisters of tearsgas, forcing many of the marchers to scamper to safety.
The marchers returned again and sat on the road, refusing to move.
The protesters then turned back towards the Governor’s Office.
ARTICLE by Nigerian Eye
PICTURES: eloPhotos

Day 5 Photos of Fuel Subsidy Removal Protest in Ojota

It was an interesting day: A thief almost beaten to death for stealing a phone, a man who jumped to his death after being dared by his colleagues, a herbalist making portions for the president, and caskets prepared for the burial of Jonathan Goodluck. With each view, most people were surprised that Nigerians could turn out in such large numbers (the largest since the protest started on Monday).

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Day 4 Photos: Fuel Subsidy Protest @ Ojota Continues

The sage continues. The crowd today was the largest ever. People came prepared with mats and lunch packs. It was also a reunion ground for many that were in attendance: old school mates, etc.

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A Crazy Photographer’s 12 Goals for 2012

In no particular order of priority, behold 12 of the goals that I plan to achieve by December 31st, 2012.

1. Wash my plates after eating. It’s a weakness that many husbands and bachelors are guilty of. I plan to express my love more to my wife by washing my plates after eating. It’s the least I can do. Can’t promise to wash any other person’s plate but I’ll start with mine and see how it goes.

2. Spend 2 nights at the 7-star hotel in Dubai. I plan to document photographically my stay at this hotel. It’s one of the projects I wholeheartedly look forward to embarking upon. At $2000 per night, I better start taking my photography business more seriously and begin saving.

3. Photograph an event in Asia. I’ll prefer a wedding coverage to a rioters’ coverage. Either way, covering a joyous moment in an Asian culture will be fun. India will be good for a start

4. Host a photography convention in Nigeria. This is going to be BIG. Planning a 3-6 day convention will be the first of its kind in Nigeria and I’m confident it will be impactful. Watch out

5. Get an invitation to speak at a photography convention/conference in the United States and/or Europe. Don’t have an idea how this will come to pass but I’m preparing my speech/notes so that I’ll be ready once the opportunity comes knocking

6. Co-found a Photography Association in Nigeria. To help address issues such as the rights of a photographer & a standard level of professionalism, an association registered with the government is inevitable. If you’re interested in helping out, holla at me.

7. Write my first photography book. Still thinking of a title. So far I might settle for “Diary of a mad black photographer.” Or what do you think?. I hope everyone that has been encouraging me to write a book will not ask me for complimentary copies; you’ll need to purchase it so I’ll be encouraged to write more books. I’m still open to better title suggestions.

8. Start a clothing line. Don’t know whether to call it eloFashion or Seun Akisanmi but the designs that have been playing around in my head can’t be expressed in photography; a fashion design outfit is inevitable. I know its important to be known for just 1 thing but having multiple streams of income isn’t a bad idea. Anything to make me quickly get my edition of BMW 750i before it is discontinued.

9. Earn $1 million in photography income. Though my bank account balance might be reading $70, I believe this is the year of the manifestation of my millions…..in dollars. Watch out

10. Stop drinking 100-150cl of Pepsi everyday. Just discovered that such a habit is neither good for my health
Nor my bank account. I plan on replacing the Pepsi drinks with a daily dose of 3 litres of water. I just hope the Pepsi seller won’t go bankrupt this year because of my decision.

11. Read at least 10 hours of photography materials every week. This will be necessary if I need to keep tabs with the loads of information that will be added to the database of photography in 2012.

12. Write everyday in 2012 on my journey & experience in photography. This will be interesting. Doing a writeup on photography every single day…..will be challenging and fun. One down 365 to go. 2012, I’m ready for you.

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Outstanding Nigerian Photographers: My Story

I was born in St. Nicholas Hospital on the 31st of October 1978. Apparently my dad had just passed the final stage of his ACCA certification (after attempting it 5 different times), my mum just got promoted to Supervisor level at the bank which made them able to finally afford their first car: a Volkswagen beetle. They were grateful to God, hence the reason they called me OLUWASEUN….
I’m the 1st of 5 children born to Akinola Benjamin Akisanmi (an accountant) & Omolara Florence Akisanmi (a banker).
I finished secondary school at International School Lagos, UNILAG in 1995. And completed my undergraduate degree in Accounting/Business Administration in 2003 from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, Illinois USA. My love for photography began in December 1998 when my mum came to visit me in the university, asked me what I wanted for a Christmas gift & eventually bought me a Samsung film camera. When I eventually came back to Nigeria, I decided I was going to start a career in photography. My professional photography career started when I got my first professional camera in 2006. I was inspired by the teachings of Pastor Sam Adeyemi whose church, Daystar Christian Centre, I started attending. He encouraged us not to wait to be “employed” by an employer in the Labour market, but we should “start with what you have”. I took his advice and decided to start a company & get paid for what I love doing. If I had not gotten into photography, I would have been in the I.T. industry (software & hardware engineering or eCommerce). I enjoy writing poems, teaching sunday school classes (ages 8-9) & eating chocolate (mars, twix & snickers). I’m married to Ofure and we have a daughter, Anuoluwapo. My dream is to establish a world-class photography institute where people can come to learn & appreciate photography as a profession or hubby. I also plan on raising/training 10,000 professional photographers by 2015. One of the major challenges I faced when I started out was that I wasn’t taken seriously by family members. In a way, It was a motivating factor as I was bent on proving them wrong; that I could actually make it in life as a photographer. It made me develop a passion for reading books in order to get the right foundation. The other major challenge was having to defend my charges to clients who would rather pay a musician N1 million than to pay a photographer N100k. It made me determined to be the best that I can be so that I would eventually be worth the N1 million photographer that clients would hire for their weddings. Most of the mentors that helped my photographic foundation were photographers abroad whose books I read (over 20 photographers). Some of the Nigerian mentors that have been of great help to my photography destiny include Kelechi Amadi-Obi, Leke Adenuga, & Ade Plumptre.
I specialize in weddings, portraits & any photography job that requires a high level of innovative creativity. Name of our studio is eloPhotos Studios although most of the job we get are on location outside the studio. My advice to young photographers is that they make sure they get the right foundation especially if they want to build a successful photography business. One of the things they can do to shorten their journey to success is to attach themselves to a photographer they respect (& is successful) for a minimum period of 3 months. They’ll be glad they did. I’m yet to win any photography awards. Nigerian photographers that I recommend include Michael Segun Adebiyi (www.michaeladebiyi.com adebiyimichael1@gmail.com), Dipo Odetoyinbo (of black child photography), Shola Animashaun (www.sholaanimashaun.com). My name is Oluwaseun Akisanmi & this is my story.