Instagram is amazing, it is the perfect swap for our own generation’s photo catalogue, far away from the Fuji films and heavy albums we had to deal with growing up; social media platforms like Flickr, Tumblr and Instagram have become one of the most powerful tools for modern photographers – these apps empower visual creators across the world to have their work viewed thousands, if not millions, of times over. The community behind the social network cannot be underestimated either, openly sharing a wealth of knowledge and inspiring their like-minded peers to take their passion to the next level, one good thing to testify to is how the internet has made it easy for people doing great things to be discovered.
Journalist, documentarian, writer, creative director, photographer, filmmaker, visual artist, radio host, economist & philosopher, that’s what you first get to know about Eniafe Momodu. ‘The Lionaire’, his Instagram header reads, the Lagos-London photographer, who shuffles school with creative work is a young, emerging high-flyer with a distinctive view of the world. We spoke about how he got started, his creative style, work outside of photography. Worth the time.
What made you decide to become a photographer? Was it something you’d always been interested in?
I started with photography when I was in secondary school in Lagos. I used to borrow this small, low-quality Sony device my mum had in her drawer that she never used. One day I decided to take it to school and just take random photos of friends and I noticed how excited everyone got when they saw the photos I’d taken afterwards. They would lighten up and smile and say “wow, please send that to me when you get home”. I noticed that even just capturing insignificant moments on that low-quality device genuinely brought people happiness. Before long I was the official documentarian for my year group and since then I’ve never stopped capturing moments. I upgraded to a DSLR around 2012, but I started taking photography really seriously last year when I launched my website, and it’s all been uphill from there.
Nqobile, Timini, Denola, Fisayo, Cuppy, I could go on and on. How did you build up so many impressive clients? You run London, man!
Thank you! Honestly, there are no secrets. Just go out into the world and meet people – it’s as simple as it sounds. A lot of my “clients” are really just friends I’ve made or people I’ve met from being out and about. There’s only so much you can do from behind a computer screen. I meet and interact with amazing people everywhere I go. It doesn’t take long before you actually have a whole network of friends and connections to collaborate with. Some advice I would give – never be afraid to approach people or say hello to someone you recognise. Sometimes people say to me, “I’m so happy you came and spoke to me, most people would have pretended they didn’t know who I was”.
If you’re too concerned with seeming forward or overfamiliar, you’ll never meet new people. Social media can also be useful. Many of the people I know I’d met or discovered through Twitter or Instagram first and ended up building relationships from there, but still, never take the efficacy of personal, real-world contact for granted.
How would you describe your style of photography?
Generally, my photography is quite minimalist. I haven’t experimented much with over-the-top styles or the alternative trends. My philosophy at the moment is that less is more. I see some photographers who, in my opinion, ruin great images by doing far too much in post-production or by oversaturating their work with filters and effects. When I shoot a subject, the beauty should be evident without needing too many embellishments. I like natural settings, I like bright colours, I like just going outdoors and seeing what I can find. My interests are always diversifying and expanding, however, and I’m definitely planning to experiment with new techniques and concepts in the near future.
What do you usually go out and shoot with?
All I really need is my ‘nifty fifty’ and a subject/model. Sometimes I’ll take a production assistant to help out a bit but that’s not really a necessity. Good lighting is a must, so outdoor shoots have to be on a bright, sunny day or it’s just a waste of time. If you can afford to take extra equipment like reflectors or props I’d recommend doing so when it’s necessary, but don’t forget – less is more.
Are you a fan of studio lighting or you prefer to work with natural light?
I used to be 100% in favour of natural light. The sun is not just infinite but it’s also free, which is ideal if you’re like me and your budgets have budgets. But actually, since I switched to a prime lens with a much wider aperture, studio set-ups look much better and more professional (be sure to shoot in aperture-priority mode). In general, the lighting isn’t important as what you do with it. I can work with sunlight or studio light. It’s just important to be adaptable and know how your camera works. The ‘photo’ in photography literally means ‘light’ so it’s important to understand (at least to some degree) how lighting will affect what you ultimately produce.
How do you achieve such cinematic quality with your work? Can you take us through your post-production process?
I can’t stress this enough – less is more! You don’t need to splash all your cash on pro-tools. You don’t need them to produce good quality photos. Basic photo apps where you can adjust brightness, contrast, white balance…that’s all you really need. Personally, I always like to accentuate the colours in my photographs. The world is so colourful, and I always want to reflect that in my work. In general, there’s no uniform post-production process for me. It depends on the mood, the locations, the atmosphere. Some locations deserve brighter tones, and others might need harsher or dimmer tones. Post-production for me just means making little edits that transform the camera’s initial framework into your finalised vision, whatever that may be.
As a London/Lagos photographer, what makes the two different cities interesting to shoot?
Both cities are very unique and I love them for different reasons. In London, I like to incorporate more of the architecture, especially old-fashioned, Gothic elements. It’s also a lot easier (and safer) to shoot outdoors and in the streets of London. Lagos, on the other hand, is more vibrant and colourful.
From local markets to restaurants like Nok by Alara or Bogobiri House, there’s just a West African elegance that permeates through the city and it usually makes for some great photography that you can’t replicate anywhere else.
Whose work do you admire?
There are so many people I could name but at the moment one of my favourite photographers is Yagazie Emezi. I’ve been in love with her work for a while now and it’s a blessing to be able to experience the world through her lens and with her distinctive perspective. Her ongoing “Relearning Bodies” series is a body-positive movement that shows appreciation for the human body in all its forms, whilst examining unconventional beauty and self-acceptance. Her photography doesn’t just document real lives and real people, but it tells real stories too.
Another photographer we need to protect at all costs – Amarachi Nwosu. She’s artistic, she’s driven, she’s intelligent and she’s inspiring. That’s all I’ll say. If you’re not following her work at the moment, you’re missing out. Thank me later.
I know you do many things aside from photography, I’m certain readers are curious to know these things.
Photography is one of many diverse interests of mine (although it’s my main focus at the moment, other than school). Music is actually my first love. I taught myself to play the piano when I was four years old, and I hope to get back into songwriting and producing when the time is right. I do a lot of creative direction for varying projects ranging from film to stage productions and charity projects, I’m a radio host, public speaker and a multifaceted documentarian. Writing is also one of my greatest passions. Hopefully, I’ll get to share a lot more of my content in the near future.
What’s next for you, are there upcoming projects?
I do have a few exciting things lined up. I can’t give too much away at this stage, but you may or may not see some of my work in print very soon. I’m also planning something pretty big for this December so stay tuned for updates and keep your notifications on.
Plans for Summer 2018?
I’ll be spending most of Summer in Lagos, but I should be touching Cape Town at some point and hopefully a couple of other cities if the opportunities present themselves. My website turns 1 in August and I’ll have to celebrate that somehow as well but I haven’t decided how. This past year has been my year of execution and this Summer will be no different. I can’t wait to share all the things I’ve been working on.