Adesuwa Iyare, South Africa-trained Nigerian photographer who enjoys street and documentary photography currently serves as the principal photographer of Dolapo Osinbajo, the wife of the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, speaks with OLAJIDE SAMUEL about her career and other issues…
What is your educational qualification?
I hold a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the Lagos State University.
Why did you become a photographer?
My love for the arts led me to photography. I have always admired photography since I was a child, so it was quite easy for me to make the decision to become a photographer.
How would you describe your childhood?
My childhood was filled with love, fun and discipline by my parents. I grew up with my other siblings partly in Edo State (Nigeria) and the Republic of Benin, where I completed my secondary education.
What were the challenges you faced when you started photography?
First, it was about surviving in a male dominated industry, finding my feet and deciding what part of photography I wanted to venture into because the craft is really broad. Also, convincing my family as to why I wanted to go into photography, as against my initial chosen career path or staying in the family business, was one of the challenges I faced.
Photography has constantly been evolving throughout its long history, and society’s perception of photography and photographers change constantly. Due to various historical and cultural factors, the ways that people see photography have become diversified.
Having said that, most photographers do not have it easy, considering that photography is still very much undermined.
What are the lessons you have learnt in the course of your career?
As a female photographer, I am constantly told to do other things instead of photography. Even before seeing a single piece of my work, many people don’t believe or approve of what I can offer. I have to constantly defend what I do. So, I have learnt to stay focused, knowing that my work would speak for me, without having to wait for any form of human validation.
Phone cameras and editing apps have turned many people to photographers. How has that affected the profession?
It’s fun to see people take pictures with their phones and edit them with apps, using a lot of filters, but it still cannot be compared with pictures taken by a professional photographer. For example, if one takes a picture in a dark room with a phone camera, even with the flash and editing apps, and another person takes a shot with a professional camera in raw format, the quality of picture from the standard camera cannot be compared with what a phone camera would produce.
Also, the megapixels of phone cameras and professional cameras are not the same. The level that a professional photographer would go to create an image is totally different from what one would get with a phone.
Unfortunately, these days, due to the hype around smart phones, professional photographers have to ‘compete’ with the users of such phones at events.
How did you become the personal photographer to Dolapo Osinbajo?
It was a long journey but I would cut it short. I used to be a freelance documentary photographer and after the 2015 presidential election, I attended a Sunday service at the Olive Tree parish of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (Banana Island, Lagos) where the Vice President-elect at the time, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, was a resident pastor. I was invited by a member of the church’s media team. After the service, I was invited to the church office where I was introduced to Prof Osinbajo and his wife, Dolapo, as a photographer. When Prof Osinbajo heard that I was a photographer, he stated that his wife did not have a photographer. She smiled and said if anyone would need a photographer, it had to be her husband. However, as I was about to leave, she called me back to accompany her to a meeting, saying that she wanted me to document her, and the rest, as they say, is history.
What has been your most memorable experience working with her?
To be candid, there have been quite a number of those. I recall a trip we made to Jerusalem. She went to the ‘wailing wall’ to pray alongside other members of the team and suddenly realised after praying that I was taking pictures of her as she was praying. She asked me to give her my camera while I went to pray. As I prayed, she held my camera with one hand, placed the second hand on my back and prayed along with me. That gesture was priceless to me.
Have you ever felt threatened by some of the people you trained?
My joy lies in seeing people I trained and mentored doing well in this profession. It gives me hope that photography is being taken to another level. It also makes me proud of myself that I have impacted knowledge on other people. There is nothing threatening about other people’s growth.
What inspires your photography?
My photography is inspired by simplicity, novelties, interplay of light and shadows, storytelling and nature.
What do you consider to be the high points of your career?
One of the highpoints of my career was when I met the Vice President and his wife.
Another was when I attended the Africa Fashion Week in London, United Kingdom; African Handicraft Market event in Turkey. Yet another highlight was when I was acknowledged by BBC Nigeria as one of the top 10 female photographers (in Nigeria). My photos were also exhibited by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council at the Nigeria Culture Extravaganza in Paris (France) and Cairo (Egypt).
Travelling with wife of the Vice President must be very demanding. How do you juggle this with family life?
Yes, it could be demanding but thankfully, I have a boss who is a family person and cherishes moments spent with family. Of course, there are days when I am not physically present at family functions, but I am encouraged by days and moments shared together because duty always calls, and my family has come to understand this fact.
How fashionable are you?
I dress in a certain way when I’m working. When I am not working, I dress in a classy way, I believe in dressing the way I want to be addressed.
The revered photographer whose works have been exhibited in and outside Nigeria including the Intra- Africa Trade Fair(IATF), stated that she was joyful when her ‘Table of glory’ picture trended on social media.
“There is a great feeling of joy seeing your work being shared all around.I felt good seeing my work out there and being the topic of trend for a good cause even when I least expected the picture to trend that much”.
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