By McPhilips Nwachuckwu
Documentary Photo artist, Washington Uba , ironically trained as an Engineer and a Physicist at both the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu and Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Akwa. However, his passion for the camera  was to carve a new career path for him as he lives today to reckon among some of the most important documentary photo artists in Nigeria.

As a documentary photo artist, Washington has in the course of his very engaging career attempted to document the slum life of the people of Okobaba, Ebute  and Lagos main land.

Uba, the photo artist apart from being a documentarist is also the project coordinator for Charity Care Network Initiative (CCNI) whose business in the last seven years has been to highlight and draw attention to the plight of destitute using photography.

To this end, CCNI had  last Christmas collaborated, with Lycee Francais de Lagos, (a French school) Victoria Island to put smiles in the faces of the destitutes at Oko Baba, Ebute Metta, Lagos,  by putting up a photo exhibition tagged, Theorem.

In this interview, Vanguard arts engaged the popularity gaining photo documentarist to tell us the story of his life. It is as engaging as ever. He spoke to Japhet Alakam

Tell us about yourself and your growing up?

Uba Chukwuemeke Washington is my name. I am the sixth child and the third son in a large family of eight with four men and four women, my parents are retired teachers from Onicha – uku in Aniocha North L.G.A of Delta State Nigeria.

My growing up was very sound and strict because my father is a teacher, so there is no time for monkey business. He provided us the basics: that is what we needed but not what we wanted. I didn’t experience poverty or lack neither was I from a rich home. In all honesty, it was fun growing up but it was very tough discipline wise and now, we are happy because it paid off.

How did you come  into photo documentary?

I have been an art lover  from childhood but the twist into the art industry came in 2005 when I decided to document the state of our forgotten brothers and sisters using photography as my medium and the reason is just to raise consciousness on their plight because they  leave in what I call the state of economic purgatory.

My father in the industry is JAHMAN  ANIKULAPO of the Guardian newspaper, he gave me the first opportunity to exhibit in the 2006 Lagos Book and Art festival. The exhibitions is tagged, Dawning Dreams at National Museum.It was a four man show.

Any formal training?

It will be interesting to know that I do not have any official training as a photographer or an artist, but I believe in one principle of creation that our creator has a purpose for every soul irrespective of our human chosen discipline in this earth life.

The basic training of photography I got was online training from a photographic tutor and then later from a renowned photographer with national troupe/national theatre Mr. SOIBIFAA DOKUBOR. I might be sounding spiritual but this is because mankind is governed spiritually by his creator and all we do is bound by time and space. I attended Ika Grammar School, Agbor Delta State and officially trained as an Engineer at the Institute of Management and technology Enugu before I proceeded to Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka to obtain a degree in Physics & Electronics.

Most of your works are focused on the down trodden, Why ?

Because they are very important people and part of the entire creation. So,  we should devout time, energy, resources and consciousness  about them

Why do you think that the plight of the destitute  can be addressed through photography ?

Humans are visual creatures. We devour graphic information to feed our senses, and most of the times we enjoy it. Lately, videos, photographs and illustrations full of shock values are flooding the globe. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then buckle up.

Almost since its inception, photography has been used to advocate for social and environmental awareness. Photographers have witnessed, interpreted, exposed, and addressed obvious problems such as child labor, AIDS, famine, war, and the plight of the extremely poor, refugees and migrant workers. Blending theory, history and practice, this course examines the nature and methods of activist photography and photographers since the 19th Century, haven’t understood the power of visual images.

I decided to use one of the worlds most expensive hobbies of photography to highlight and document the plight of the vulnerable and forgotten people in our world which overflows with milk and honey in a bit to raise money for charity to improve their lot.

As the project coordinator of Charity Care Network Initiative (CCNI) can you assess the role of the organization in the past five years?

My brother there is no assessment in works of charity to advance humanity as far as Washington Uba is concerned because I call them corporal works of mercy. It is the work of a brother’s keeper, man because we are here on earth for each other.

How many works have you done ?

There are so many I don’t have the count

What are the challenges in  documentary photography?

I don’t believe in challenges because life is a struggle, whatever confronts you, battle it and move on because there is a purpose for everything in creation

What can you say is your career high point?

No high point no low point. Anything that happens has its purpose depending on one’s level of consciousness and spiritual understanding because all things happen for good for all that believe in the creator.

Among your works which one will you describe as your best work?

I sincerely do not have best work because  all the works  have different messages and purposes to convey. Everything is bound by time and pace and all cometh in due season according to the invisible forces of creation that plays an unimaginable part in our day to day activities.

Many people are inspired through many things, how do you get your inspiration?

When you are a local boy who understands street figures, with full sense of humanity and the way we should live as humans, there are no better ways of getting inspired than the ugly realities starring at you every moment of your consciousness.

Art is born out of deep consciousness and is more spiritual than we can imagine, because there are different kinds of inspiration, those that advance humanity and those that debase humanity. This shows duality in creation, the inspiration you have determines the kind of soul you are: either to uplift mankind or to destroy it. So, it’s up to us to choose light or darkness because art is life, and it has the power to build or destroy.

Who influenced you?

As a matter of fact, I find myself with a little bit of spiritual understanding of how man should live amidst his fellow man. This entails living in harmony, love and giving of assistance in times of need to the less fortunate in  society. With this consciousness in  me, and later in my quest for knowledge I found people with same consciousness like MAHATMA GHANDI, MOTHER THERESA, BUDHA, and many others who fought to advance humanity.  I  found in all these people great influences.

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