Bayo Omoboriowo turned down an offer to be a University lecturer being one of the best graduating students in his graduation year to cling on to his camera lens; traveling from rural communities to ghettos to public markets and motor parks, being the official photographer of underserved Africans. In the era of selfies, when photography has been individualized and conventional commercial photographers would love to cover happy people at weddings, carnivals, fashion shows and other social events, 27 year old Nigerian Street/Documentary Photographer Bayo Omoboriowo has chosen a different path, the path of photography for social good.
Although the son of a photographer himself, he started out life selling sachet water on the dangerous streets of Mushin, one of the most notorious ghettos in Lagos, Nigeria. He ventured into photography as a hobby borrowing amateur cameras from friends to cover events during his university days. His aspiring photography career almost crashed when he lent a friend his first DLSR camera and it was returned damaged. He has taken photographs for N40 (4 cents), at an event where the source of light for videography was the miniature torch light from a small Nokia Phone, gun-pointed by policemen when covering a protest and trapped by the SARS security operatives.
Despite these odds Bayo says “Every photo-shoot, every challenge and every trouble has been a learning opportunity for me.” He continues; “The only photography tutor I will admit is the ‘Internet.’ It taught me different concepts like depth of field, composition and lots more.” His parents even didn’t know he was into photography until accolades started pouring in, he comments that “the reason why parents may not support their children in their chosen field is because in a developing country like Nigeria, they want a profession that will guarantee economic security for their children.”
Photography is no doubt an expensive profession with the camera in his hands costing over N1.1 Million ($67,000), albeit, Bayo believes it does not cost much to start out in photography. “Anyone who is interested in photography should start from where he is. I actually started out with borrowing cameras and most of the shots I take these days are with my iPhone.”
Most people believe that documentary photography does not pay much especially in a country like Nigeria. However, Bayo disagrees, he believes that most of its practitioners are not patient enough. He advises that documentary photographers should develop portfolios because “people who pay well for documentary photography won’t listen to you if you don’t have a portfolio”
On What Makes a Great Photographer
Bayo believes that God, continuous study and character are the three indispensable keys that make an awesome photographer. “If a banker would prepare and rehearse in front of the mirror before going for a business proposal presentation, then photographers should practice before taking any shoot. Complacency is one of Art’s greatest problems in Africa.” He believes that great gadgets don’t make a good photographer, anyone who is wealthy enough could get them. Bayo looks straight into my eyes in the presence of some trainees available at the interview science as he says “As a photographer, you don’t shoot with your hands, you shoot what’s in your head, so equip your head.”
Bayo has worked on a number of projects but worthy of mention are two of them. First is the ‘Photograph a child’ project through which he organizes photographers to go to remote areas to share time and capture moments with children during the children’s day celebration. The project which started in 2013 uses photography to tell the stories of these rural children. This year over 100 photographers will the involved.
Then is the ‘100 Unseen Heroine’ project which is aimed at celebration anonymous extraordinary African women of integrity who are contributing to national development. The women may not be popular faces like the ones who grace the front pages of magazines but have a heart good enough to better their immediate environment.
Awards and Recognitions
Since his foray into professional photography during his National Youth Service Program in 2010, his career has been challenging yet rewarding. Below are a list of the awards and nominations he has received:
2010 – Exhibited at the Niger Delta Fototales Photo Exhibition, Port-Harcourt.
2011 – Finalist in Still Life and Life Style Categories in the Nigerian Professional Photography Award
2012 – 1st Runner Up at the AAF Etisalat Amateur Photography Competition
2012 – National Climate Change Photo Competition, 2012
2012 – The Future Awards Creative Person of the Year 2012
2013 – Afrinolly Short film competition
I want to learn Photography from Bayo
Bayo just concluded his post graduate Diploma in Education specializing in Educational Planning and Management. The sole aim he deviated from his chemistry background and his photography passion is “to be able to teach photography well enough.” Although he is not starting a school of photography soon, Bayo wants to build himself into such a successful photographer that his photography will be able to inspire people.
His advice for those anyone who has a positive ambition is this “Don’t keep waiting for the perfect time and opportunity, start from where you are!”