Your shortlisted photograph shows a happy family in the Agbura community, Bayelsa state, Nigeria. Can you share the story behind your portrait?
The portrait titled 'Mama's Family' shows an elderly woman and her beautiful grandchildren at her local palm oil production site in Bayelsa state, Nigeria. Mama Palm Oil as she is fondly called is a very busy and passionate woman about her palm oil business. I spent 3 days in her community witnessing and being part of the entire process of the production but I noticed that despite how busy she was, She always created time for her children when they came around.
What I witnessed during my 3 days with them made me understand the value people of the Niger Delta have for family and the true love that Mothers have for their children contrary to the narrative that people from the region are always violent or reliant on crude oil. This is what inspired me to document their bond and tell the story with this photograph.
You were shortlisted in the 2023 Open competition’s Portraiture category. What advice do you have for photographers thinking about submitting their work to the Sony World Photography Awards?
My advice is quite simple. Be true to yourself and set out to tell a story that you are passionate about. Your voice is powerful, never forget that. When I submitted my entry, there was no certainty that I would be selected out of other amazing artists, but I believed that I had a story that the world needs to hear and I had put my whole heart into documenting it with Mama and her family so all I needed to do was to believe it was possible. So, be determined and believe in yourself.
You took up photography because...
I was a painter before I started photography and I was very passionate about it. But a hatred for seeing what I termed 'bad pictures' at the time lasted for a long while and later became a passion that I could not live without expressing each time I held a phone camera. I later got my first camera and since then I've see 'Gift of Art' as means to make an impact in this world and express myself as an artist.
Who or what has been the greatest influence on your photography?
God has been the greatest influence on my photography giving me a Gift which I can use to express myself. My Dad is one of my greatest influences. His demise taught me a priceless lesson. Two months prior to his death I took a picture of him with my first camera and after he passed on I realized the value of photography while I looked at his portrait everyday. This experience greatly influenced my photography journey.
You’re a photographer and a filmmaker dedicated to documenting the stories of the Niger Delta, a long-term project of 5-10 years. How do you approach developing a long-term project over a period of a few years?
To start a long-term project one must be very committed and passionate because of the many challenges involved. The 'Niger Delta Stories' project is something I am very passionate about. My commitment has been tried many times with various challenges. When I face these difficulties, I think 'if I stop, who will tell these stories that the world needs to hear'. I am on a mission bigger than me and that will impact people's lives from my region.
This mindset keeps me focused and determined. So I approach my long-term project with well-defined goals and a clear vision in mind and this has helped me so far.
Favourite photographic quote?
You don't take a photograph, you make it.
Are you currently working on any other projects?
Yes. I am working on a few projects in partnership with some great organisations in 2024.