BY CHRIS ONUOHA
Segun Olotun is a UK-based international creative photographer. In this interview revealing interview, he speaks about his professional itinerary in photography, the lucrativeness, and the gaps between photography in Nigeria and the UK. Take a trip with him:
The beginning, the journey so far
I’ve been shooting since 2010. I used to be a salesperson for a camera company called Olympus in the UK. I sold a lot of cameras and so got a free one. When I got the camera, I went on the streets of London and started taking pictures. I had the privilege of working with Kola Abayomi, a very amazing photographer. I got inspired by taking pictures on the streets with him. At a point I felt I needed to change my camera, which I did. Thereafter I started taking pictures in church; the demand for shooting weddings started coming. I had a lot of friends who moved abroad and when it was time for them to get married, they gave me opportunity to shoot. I did a lot of free work. I went to America, shot a friend’s wedding for free. He had a photographer already that he paid about $7,000, I did a free job but at the end of the day he preferred my work to the one he paid for. That was what gave me more opportunities to start shooting weddings around the world. Since then I’ve been growing and I’m still growing….Somewhere along the way I travelled as far as Nicaragua to meet a guy name Mauricio, I attended his master-class in Romania and he encouraged me. In Romania I met some other amazing guys who encouraged and advised me. I learnt from Ben Chrisman, Mauricio’s boss, as well. I attended his master-class. I have travelled around to attend master-classes. By 2015 I had spent about $15,000 attending master-classes to change my style of photography and it has helped me to be who I am today. I’m still learning.
Source of inspiration
Bayo Omoboriowo inspires me a lot. Bayo has inspired and is still inspiring most of us. It has got to the point that if I need advice, the first person I call is Bayo. He has made impact in the lives of many photographers in Nigeria, and he has inspired me to do more. I also look up to George Oshodi, TY Bello, and a number of others.
Differences between photography in Nigeria and in the UK
The difference I see is that in the western world there is an association of photographers. They do collaborations. They have things like secret Facebook page where photographers come to critique one another. In Africa, particularly Nigeria, there is no association. A problem I’ve seen here is ego; everyone has an ego, no one wants to collaborate with the other. Collaboration for me is the main key of success, but in Africa we don’t like to collaborate, we like hiding ourselves. People seem to think, ‘I don’t want them to see my work; I don’t want people to comment about my work, my work is good.’ We just go about claiming, ‘I’m the best.’ So, I would say collaboration is what is missing in Nigeria and Africa. But as time goes, we will achieve that.
Quality of work
During the Now Collectives Photography conference, everyone was blown away with the work of some of the speakers. Everyone thought they used the best cameras. It is not about camera, it is all about understanding what equipment you have at the moment and creating what you can create. So, quality of work, I would say we are doing well, but we can be better. A lot of Nigerians have invested in good cameras thinking that would change the quality of work; it wouldn’t, it is about how we see things. We don’t see things the way the westerners see things, and that’s why we are in love with their work. If they come here and shoot what we shoot here, we would be in love with what they shoot. The eyes have to be trained. But we are getting there.
Lucrativeness of photography
Photography is big business. George Oshodi’s photo of an African king wearing a dress that has the print of Queen Elizabeth sold for over €20,000 in Europe. In 2014, Australian landscape photographer Peter Lik’s “Phantom”, which was captured at Arizona’s Antelope Canyon, was sold to a private collector for $6.5 million, making it the most expensive photo ever sold. The record was previously held by Andreas Gursky’s “Rhein II”, which sold for $4.3 million back in 2011. So, photography is a big thing. It has opened doors for a lot of people not to be sleeping on the streets. Photography has changed lives; it has created plenty of small businesses as well.