Award Winning Documentary Photographer, Humanitarian and Official Photographer to the Deputy Governor of Imo State Oluwafemi Stephens gives an insight into his Photography Journey.
Interviewer: Tell us about yourself, your educational and professional background
OSW: My Name is Oluwafemi Stephen W. I am a graduate of Mathematics and Computer Education from the Federal University of Technology Minna, I was born into a family of Four, Two boys and Two girls. And about my professional background I would say its still unfolding, I didn’t study photography professionally its just a passion.
Interviewer: You are a graduate of Mathematics computer science from the Federal University of Technology Minna, Niger State and your profession is photography, an art field. What inspired you to make that huge shift and how were you able to do that.
OSW: That’s a huge question because I have been a photography enthusiast right from secondary school days, I had my own point and shoot camera, surprisingly I still have the photos and the negatives. photography has been a part of me, I just didn’t recognise it early enough until my NYSC days in my place of primary Assignment. I handled my first DSLR, and towards the End of my Service I took that bold step into photography not knowing where the next money would come from but the fact that I loved what I am doing and it gives me joy.
Interviewer: What does Documentary photography means to you and what’s your motivation to document people you came across with?
Documentary photography is a way of Life, A tool for social Change, Documentary photography is basically a way of documenting our history as a people and my motivation to document people is basically to see life from a different perspective, In every human there’s always a story to tell.
Interviewer: Do you have any influence or mentor in this Career path. how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?
OSW: I have mentors, i wouldn’t want to mention names but we all need mentors, their influence has yielded great results because as it stands once I am shooting I think from their point of view with combinations of my own thought.
Interviewer: What do you look for in a great picture and could you show us the favorite pictures you’ve taken
OSW: A photo with something Extra, there’s no new ideas in photography its just that something extra you add to your image that makes it wow, it might be the Shadow, the way the Light fall on your subject
Interviewer: What will be the future of documentary photography in next 20 years? We have seen an extreme shift in the photographic tech and styles in the last couple of decades. Where will it be in future?
OSW: The future of documentary photography Is all in our hands, its enough to talk about the future but people don’t want to work to bring the future into reality. Why I said its in our hands is that we need to make people value our craft because Art is not free. Don’t give out photos for free.
Interviewer: You are an award winning photographer, 3rd runner up canon celebrate Africa, Finalist Skylum photo contest among others. Your work has been featured in journals and magazines such as The Guardian UK newspaper etc. You have freelance for various notable companies and also you are the official photographer for the Deputy Governor, Imo State. This a huge and amazing milestone every young and aspiring photographer would dream of. What does it feels to achieve this, How and what’s needed to be done by thousands of young aspiring photographers to get such recognition and achievement.
OSW: My advice is simply for you to Continue shooting, Even if you don’t feel like doing it. Consistency is Key because you really wouldn’t know when your breakthrough would come, and also you shouldn’t stop showing people what you can do, Advertising yourself is also Key, Nobody would tell your story for you, you have to tell it to people yourself. Because you really have to put yourself out there in the face of people and potential clients.
Interviewer: There are a lot of passionate young photographers in Nigerians. Some have been constraint due to one challenges or the other ranging from finances, Mentorship, Lack of platform to showcase their work etc. In any time in your photography journey have you faced those challenges, how have you been able to overcome them. And do you have any initiative or future plans to provide support to these young individuals.
OSW: I had challenges of finances but I faced it squarely I took the toughest decision, before you take such decision you really need to ask yourself how bad do I want it, because I sold my car to buy my first gear, I wouldn’t advice you to do same because it was my own decision, you also have to look within and take your own decisions because the point now is that “HOW BAD DO YOU WANT IT”. In the area of mentorship I also had that problem because most people I met where asking for money which I couldn’t afford and the first photography class I attended was organised by C.A.C.T, Basics of Photography where I paid just 1000 Naira , it was too good to be true but I attended and that was where I learnt about the exposure triangle and I don’t think I have ever changed my camera settings to “AUTO-MODE“. I also had to opportunity to learn from the Best Ademola Olaniran , he gave me a price to pay to him for mentorship, I couldn’t pay and I came out open to him telling him about my inability to pay but willingless to help an assist him in any possible way. He doesn’t need to tell me anything, all I needed was just to be around him when he is shooting, which I would say helped me a great deal, and also a few other Personalities like Aisha KUTA, Yunusa Tanko, Bayo Omoboriowo. On a lighter note, whenever I am in the scene of a shoot, I have all this people whispering in my head on what to do. Talking about initiative to provide supports to young individuals, I would say I am already doing that because I know what I faced when I started, if I want to start counting the amount of people I have mentored I would lose counts, some of them I have not met in person but also I am careful about people coming for mentorship or for the money sake, some are not ready to learn but are on the lookout to get clients from you. For example, After teaching these individuals for three days, they feel they know it all and the next moments they want to second shoot for you, some would even go behind you to bargain with your clients.
Interviewer: Alright, I do have one more question. Could you tell us the first camera you first used while pursuing your photography career. Also What’s your advice and message to the thousand of passionate and aspiring young photographers out there
I have used other cameras, I started shooting with a Film camera, but professionally I started with a Canon 60D, 24-105mm f4.0 Canon Lens, 50mm Lens and my advice is “stay on your lane, don’t Run another persons race, Be certain on what you want and continue shooting, Review your Work and shoot again”.
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