“A Gun, Not Camera, Should Threaten You” – Bayo Omoboriowo
“Abroad, when you want to take pictures, they pose. Even military men pose. Celebrities pose. But in Nigeria, they run and this is pathetic.”
For many years Bayo Omoboriowo flirted with photography, taking pictures of friends and everyday life on the streets for fun. It wasn’t until 2010 after his university days (before going for NYSC) that he began to take photography seriously – as a profession.
Bayo’s childhood fantasies have nothing to do with being a photographer. His early ambition was to become a Chemist but he eventually fell in love with photography.
Bayo’s love for photography grew at a time when the social media hasn’t gained prominence in Nigeria. His work as an amateur photographer during his undergraduate days was appreciated through the printed pictures people saw. It was from there that he started getting invitations to photograph other people.
Describing his early days as an amateur photographer, Bayo said: “I was doing it for fun. With time, people love what I was doing (with my small camera) and they started asking me to print their pictures. Later I was invited to come and take pictures of school fellowship, associations and group.”
Bayo is a University of Lagos graduate of Pure and Applied Chemistry but he is yet to put his University degree into use professionally. When asked if he planned to use his professional degree. Bayo joked, “Every photographer is a chemist.”
But seriously, Bayo said his stint, as a chemistry student, was a childhood ambition and parental decision. “I didn’t think I would be a photographer but when I started, I discovered there was something about it and gradually my interest in it grew.”
HUMANISTIC, STREET AND DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHY
Bayo chose a distinctive and dynamic genre of photography. He chose Street and Documentary photography.
For Bayo, street photography is interesting. The street is full of many activities and drama. He describes it as watching a movie or watching popular African channel, “African Magic.”
When asked why he chose street photography of all the genres available, Bayo simply laughed, saying “It’s simple. The Street loves me and I love the streets.”
But Bayo has moved on from being a regular street photographer into producing humanistic photographs that document all the elements of human life.
Speaking about his work in his office at Makoko, Yaba Lagos, Bayo said “I love the everyday reality. In short I call myself a Reality photographer because what I do is a combination ofstreet, documentary and everyday life.”
Bayo loves to tell stories with his picture and sees this feat as a divine call. He tells the story of the farmer in the farm that nobody pays attention to, stories of the basket weaver- everybody hears ‘basket’ but do not know the woman who actually makes the basket.
“I want to document politics. I want to document things people do every day. Connecting with people…more people-driven because I believe without the people things cannot be. So my photography is more about people now.”
EVERY PASSION MUST BE PURPOSE DRIVEN
Having a clear purpose is very important in the business of photography and for every other go-getter.
A while back, Bayo was into wedding photography but says he left when the ovation was still the loudest because his passion doesn’t lie in it. His passion lies in street/documentary photography where he has invested millions to train and build himself.
“Everybody must define for himself or herself where they belong,” he said.
Bayo said these days young people are easily carried away.
“I left when people were making mad money from wedding photography. Young people must be careful to know that money does not define who they become but they define who they want to become and then money chases after them.”
“Know what you want. If you are passionate about the street, you can make millions from the street. But be careful. Know what you want, define what you want to do and chase it. Chase it till you find fulfillment in it and don’t be carried away with what everybody is doing.”
“You cannot excel in what you are not passionate about. You will only be frustrated and distracted,” he affirmed.
Bayo is the right person to talk about this.
He has achieved considerable success in sticking to his passion, which lies in Street and Documentary photography. Few of his works have been featured on national and international media including CNN, Thisday, Guardian, and YNaija.
He has also clinched several awards along the years including the MTN Afrinolly Short-film Competition 2013- 1st place Winner (Documentary), Future Awards Creative Artist of the Year (2012) and the AAF Etisalat PhotographyAward.
He is also a photo coach with over sixty young people on his list of trained individuals.
…MORE PURPOSE-DRIVEN THAN JUST CLICKING
Writer writes. A doctor heals. Bayo’s tool for improving Nigeria is photography. He takes pictures that will make the nation better and support environment and community development.
Gone are the days when Bayo takes to the street and take picture at a random. These days, he clicks his camera with specific projects in mind – both on personal and corporate projects.
Although Bayo still takes random photographs, he now works mostly on projects that have an end result.
He describes them as “Specific human driven project.”
“When I do projects now, I think of what value this pictures will have on the person I am photographing. I am thinking what value will it add to the nation. Can it contribute to national development? Can my image make Nigeria better?”
Bayo claims cogent relationship with God has worked on several projects. One of such project is tagged “Photograph A Child” project where 100 photographers photograph a child in one community. He does this in partnership with Slum 2 School, Youth Participatory Development Initiative (YPDI) and a number of Nigerian photographers.
He is currently working on several projects including one that features the photograph of women in Africa. He said the project is for 100 unsung heroines where 100 exceptional Nigerian women who have contributed to national development will be celebrated. Sahara Energy is sponsoring the project and it will end up in a photography book titled “Unparalleled Energy”.
THE CHALLENGES OF THE PROFESSION
Talking about his work as a street/documentary photographer, Bayo confessed that the road hasn’t been all smooth. He has been harassed on the street and beaten by the police.
“It is not new to the job,” he said; but affirmed that he has now grown to a stage where he avoids that.
“I have grown to avoid it. That does not mean it is completely unavoidable.”
Describing his challenges as a street photographer, Bayo paints a rather funny but realistic picture that vividly portrays his feeling.
“Nigeria is just funny when it comes to photography. You will see someone say e fe fi picture mi se ogun owo (You want to use my picture for ritual). Why will I want to use your picture for ritual? It is just that fetish, polluted mentality we carry here. You see a person with camera and then you feel threatened. A gun and not a camera should threaten you. Abroad, when you want to take pictures, they pose. Even military men pose. Celebrities pose. But in Nigeria, they run and this is pathetic.”
Bayo says “as a photographer, you must be fearless. When you are harassed, know how to communicate and calm down storms.”
He advised that before clicking, a photographer must approach the people and get their permission.
He says of himself: “Sometimes I go there before hand and state my business. I will then go back and do the work. Sometimes I even show samples of my picture to give them a background of what I do.”
THE FUTURE OF DEVELOPMENT PHOTOGRAPHY
Quoting the statistics that declared that 70 percent of Nigerian women are poor, Bayo says it is high time for a change in perspective – for people to start thinking positively rather than negatively. He wants people to see the resilience and unparalled energy of the Nigerian women in contributing their quota to national development while successfully managing the home front.
“I don’t want people to think of the Nigerian women from that (negative) point of view. The stats might say this but what about the Nigerian women who have given sacrificially and selflessly to build a better nation…It is like saying the cup is half full and the other person saying that the cup is half empty. It is all about what you want to see.”
Bayo says rather than purporting negativity about women, why not create a platform that will celebrate them while using pictures to create a timeline for the progress achieved over the years.
Through this timeline photography, other women can be empowered and they can learn from those successful women. The timeline photography will bridge the gap between the successful woman and the unprivileged woman, he said.
“I am crazy about photography but not for the reason of making people sober and say O ma se o (What a pity). I am taking photographs from the perspective of making things better.”
“So I am not just a photographer. I am a change agent. I am trying to use photography to make a difference…Probably when I am the President of Nigeria, I will still be taking photographs.”
But Bayo is not waiting to become the President of Nigeria before starting a rippling effect of change.
“We can all be the change in our own little way. A little drop of water makes a mighty ocean. Let us make our own drop…and with our own joint effort we can make a better Nigeria,” he said.