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Demola Olaniran-A Glimpse of Lagos through Photographer’s Lens.

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With precision, his eyes dilate as the shutter speed opens to take ageless images. He calls our attention to the things we miss in our everyday life. Click, click, click and the images distill mayhem, beauty that surrounds us and they call our attention to events and people at a great distance from our own patch of the universe. Ademola Olaniran, Governor Babajide Sanwo Olu’s Personal Photographer is one dedicated, passionate and sometimes half-crazy individuals who is willing to give his life, too often quite literally, to show the world what needs to be seen, what needs to be known. With his photographs he reveals Governor Sanwo Olu’s identity, humanity, draws connection, reveal makes memory, stamps presence, create experiences and builds intimacy. With a career Spanning decades as an Iconic photographer, he speaks with Adedayo Adejobi on his works, life documenting the first citizen and what drives his work.

 

With fully kitted photography backpack, three expensive Professional Camera’s and myriad of lenses, flying over the skylines of Lagos in 2019, a trip that would initiate a life-long emotional and artistic relationship with the city, Ademola Olaniran was immediately struck by the endless specks of blue that dotted the land below. Unbeknownst to him, he would later work closely with the Government in the capacity as the Official photographer to the Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.

Demola was particularly interested in Lagos and the massive social and political changes resulting from the collapse of colonial empires, and so the  photographer’s sojourn took on the challenge of a sweeping chronicle of the rich history and iconic monuments in Lagos .

For a man who never had an inkling he’ll become a lensman, because his passion was to become a Surgeon. However, Femi Adewuyi’s ability to take intriguing photographs of the total Solar Eclipse at the Medical school, Ilorin 2006, whilst toying with the exposure triangle properly intrigued Ademola who did some calligraphy on the pictures.The pictures were sold by the duo with some decent monies made.The experience in his second year marked a departure from using the suture, scalpel and forceps in cutting through Cadaver in the Laboratory, and saw the same hands destined to squeeze on the shutter release button.

Reminiscing one of his early photographs as an art, “The first photograph I took and printed was of a homeless woman lying on the street. Ironically, it was right on this street where I have my studio right now. Today, I am still seeing the same subjects here on these streets and making the same direct portraits of people.’’

Atupa Mi

Speaking on what inspired his award winning picture ‘Atupa mi’ – my lantern, which clinched the coveted Still-life photograph of the year at the Nigeria

‘‘my Uncle, Dr. Clement Meseko, a Veterinary Doctor and Virologist at the National Veterinary Research Institute was travelling to Taraba state to collect samples from wild pigs. Having acquired a new Camera,we went on the trip to the border between Nigeria and Cameroon together-.the Mambila plateau. Whist he worked, I took pictures of the endless lush greenery and landscapes. My defining shot was taken in a hut around Gashaka-Gumti , Taraba State where we passed the night,met some friendly locals and rangers who settled us into a hut. The lantern was sitting on the middle right in front of me, and there was a curtain shifted to the third of the picture with the lantern sitting on the other third of the picture. From the day I took the picture, I knew there was something magical about it. I knew it was the strongest image of all I submitted. But the category I fell into, when I saw the names in the category, I researched them and found out that they were  strong names. I travelled from Abuja to Lagos just to attend the awards, without winning the coveted award crossing mind. I was just blessed and grateful to have been nominated. It showed when it was announced, as I was sitting when my name was called as the winner. I wasn’t expecting it. I was satisfied with my image sitting on the big screen and the Greats in photography seeing my works until my name was announced as the winner. Meanwhile, I was still clapping for the supposed winner, until  someone nudged me to say I was the one who won the category.Femi was so excited about me winning the category. The picture has earned me a lot of fame and fortune.The photograph is dedicated to the hope that someday Nigeria will have no need for lanterns.’’

For the photographer, the story behind the work is how he starts the process of taking a new captivating photographs. I t begins, as so many great things do, by chance , ‘‘I start when I have an intuitive response to something that piques my interest. If I have the conviction that it’s worth pursuing, I pack my bags and go to make the work. This often results out of a response to something I see on the media, which could be a newspaper article or something from a literary journal, anything that has visual stimuli. It’s about having my eyes open — there is no formula for when that spark may find me. I cultivate a receptive eye.’’

A pointer to the fact that he’s making progress, is when he is  three-quarters of the way through a project,  and when he realises that he has started seeing the world in a different way. Mentally and spiritually, he’s achieved a feat when he starts looking at the world in a different way.

While most of the photographs presented in Demola’s ‘’Lagos in Full Frame’’ are situated more closely along the artistic than photojournalistic, the photographer’s surrealist sensibilities come to play.The work is a subtle, perhaps unintentional nod to the history of Nigerian studio photography practices.

Ademola Olaniran  portrayed Lagos as he found it, capturing the business of everyday life. He photographed everything from traders performing their daily businesses, to women in the slums of Makoko spreading clothes out in the sun to dry.

With over career spanning over 14 years as a Professional Photographer, its been a mixed grill of failures, successes, a truckload of experiences and lessons learned; especially when the cash flow wasn’t impressive and it felt like he had made a mistake resigning his banking job or dream of becoming a doctor.

Looking back in retrospect, the lensman, even though things eventually picked up, those really dark days remain nostalgic, even though with time photography now pay the bills.

Looking back over the years, he’s been positively influenced by his mentor, Dayo Adedayo, inspired by Donald Barber,  Sunmi Smart Cole, Ty Bello, Aisha Kuta-Augie and Kelechi Amadi- Obi. Dayo Adedayo takes the pride of place, because he has managed to blend finely the business and technical aspect of photography. Besides, his mentor is one known for the beauty of timeless photographs and art pieces in the mold of Donatello, Michelangelo Leonardo Davinci’s of this world who are able to put images on an exhibition stand and sell.

Having worked across the private sector for over ten years and joining the civil service four years ago as personal photographer to the First Citizen of Lagos State, he describes the experience as humbling, fun and fulfilling,‘‘The Governor makes it a lot easier. He’s an interesting person to photograph though he’s a hardworker which makes photographing him quite demanding. He’s interested in photography. He handles the camera once in a while and even flies the drone when we go on inspection to see the work progress on construction sites.’’

Disclosing moments , he says, ‘‘ A remarkable moment of my working with the Governor was on my birthday some years back . That morning, he was leaving for work, and I had already started squeezing the shutter release to make some images, and he said to me ‘ let me see what you’ve got  on your camera’, and I went to him and he said ‘stand there’. He took pictures of me and said Happy birthday boy. It was humbling. He never ceases to demystify the office by reminding people around him and himself also, how life around the government house should be. For me, that’s quite remarkable. I get to see the Governor count his days in office-days past and days to go. I find that instructive, because it brings to reality time and how it waits for no one. He always works very late into the night, and sometimes when I walk in to take pictures, he doesn’t even notice. It is a culture for me not to greet him when I walk into his office. That way, I just want to be a fly on the wall and he doesn’t get out of character.’’

‘‘Documenting a political figure, exposes you to a new level of work ethics and creativity. You have to be faster and swift on the job. It also comes with a lot of pressure. When I started shooting the Governor, it was a sharp twist. He’s a very energetic person and fitter than I am, so I always play catch up.Like you’ll see in most of my posts, the side of a politician that you do not get to see as a citizen is what a photographer works to give to you almost every day.’’

In a word to aspiring photographers, he said, Photography needs a lot of creativity,patience, requires a lot of money to get your game to an enviable height and ability to learn from others’’

Owing to the fact that his wife is Medical Doctor, the lensman is presently working on a family storytelling project that would fuse photography and Medicine.

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