The art scene in Nigeria is ever evolving and is currently witnessing the emergence of young artists seeking to establish a pathway for themselves, one of them being Gbenga Olaniyi. Olaniyi is a young self-taught photographer whose expertise lies in protrait photography. He is also the founder of The Self Expression Exhibition (TSEE) an art exhibition targeted towards creating a platform for young artists.
His talents have seen him capturing a few local talents as well as being selected for Photo Vogue, a photography platform curated by the photo editors of Vogue Italia.
In this interview, he discusses discovering his passion for photography, founding The Self Expression Exhibition and much more. Check it out below;
In the better gear vs. creativity debate when it comes to quality of photos, what’s your stance?
This is a tough question because my camera was stolen at the airport last year and since then I’ve been using my phone to take pictures (this is my little secret). It doesn’t really matter what gear you use to create. I know of many great photographers who use film cameras to create amazing work. To me, it really depends on how you make use of yourself creativity wise.
What sparked your interest in photography and when did the journey begin for you?
I mostly took pictures of everyone in my family because everyone didn’t know how to handle the camera for some weird reason but I spent my time watching photography tutorials when I was 15 then I took it serious when people gave me compliments.
Photography being an art form is expressive. When you take a photograph, what message do you intend passing across?
I definitely have an idea behind it all but rather than confine the work to just my certain message, I prefer to let people give personal interpretations to them. I enjoy letting people derive whatever they can think about the picture. It’s a free world so I allow people to be free with what they think about my art and not stick to what I’m trying to express.
Where does your passion for sticking with photography come from?
I guess it’s something that grew on me with time. It took a while to develop the interest but the passion was there from taking pictures here and there.
Why portrait photography?
Portrait Photography takes you though all the stages of a portrait shoot from pre-production planning, through posing your portrait, through perfecting your shot in post-production that part is fun to me. The pre-production because you’re creating ideas from everywhere and anywhere but still making sure you have to stand out that makes enjoy portrait photography.
So far, have you ever had any regrets regarding your work?
Definitely, not being paid very well or people bargaining to work your mind off I think that’s my biggest challenge.
In the photography world, who are your key influences?
I haven’t really had influence just people putting me through the path straight. Well when I started photography I was glad to have TSE & Fifo to put me through the basics. I remember Fifo sending me a bunch of work years ago to edit just to see how good I was.
Giving the current influx of photographers in Nigeria, do you find the industry competitive?
Not really, I feel like there’s a lot of space for everyone to create and be appreciated so I don’t really find it competitive. As long as your work is mind blowing you’ll definitely get the appreciation you deserve.
Do you see yourself having a collaborative effort with other photographers at some point?
Yes I do. As a matter of fact, later in the year, I have some work I’m releasing with a few photographers.
Besides photography, is there any other art form you indulge in?
Along with photography, I’m learning a bit of video editing. Hopefully i get better and work with photography hand in hand.
What led you to the creation of The Self Expression Exhibition (TSEE)?
I noticed a lot of young artists like myself were not given enough credit they deserve and I feel that’s one of the main inspirations of an artist. So in order to solve that, I created a space for them to show their work and put whatever they want out why it’s called “Self expression”
Who are your favourite artists out of Nigeria and why?
What goes through your mind when selecting exhibition themes and collections?
I don’t particularly pick out themes for my exhibition. I prefer the artists being free enough to create whatever they feel like exhibiting so I do not to work with themes. C