Onyinye Ubah

I wanted to see more of myself. Not necessary myself as a person, but people who share some similarities with me in terms of our origin. My aim has always been to create a space for more black people to be seen. Over the years, I noticed that the black colour was relegated behind the scene and noticeably absent in many contents created in the media. With that in mind, I saw a huge need to contribute in changing that narrative and capture the real African beauty.

Coincidentally, my mother bought me a camera when I was studying Physiology in the University of Arizona. I had asked her to get me a camera because I wanted to make some money as a student. Funnily, I didn’t use it for some time. I considered it quite difficult to operate. After about a year or so, a friend asked me to take her graduation pictures. That could be considered my first job and she loved my work and encouraged me to pursue photography. I went on take more graduation pictures of other people, solely with the aim of making money. In time, I moved from covering graduation to covering small events and other creative projects that involved one form of storytelling or another.

It took me about a year to fall in love with the art of photography. The deeper I walked into it, the thicker my love for it grew. I saw myself moving the era of just making money to a place of using images to bring the images of black people into limelight. In the early days, I had a strong support system that really took my new found love of photography seriously. As a newcomer in the industry, I felt a sense of intimidation from people who were already established in photography. Come to think of it, I didn’t get any formal training in photography. I had my trainings from YouTube. Not forgetting I was only armed with just a small camera.

One day, my mother, my brother and I travelled down to Nigeria, precisely Akwa-Ibom state. It was in 2018. I saw myself engaging in street photography and family photography. Though it was ephemeral but the joy of being surrounded by my culture was great. I remember showing those pictures to family members. Their response was awesome, despite the fact I knew they could be quite difficult to impress. The collection I made while I was in Nigeria had my community well represented.

After my tour of Akwa-Ibom with my family, it fuelled my passion for photography the more. I had never had a cause to question my passion because the art of photography for me was moving into a realm of memorabilia. I had had reasons to ask question on my longevity in this field, the magnitude of my work in the nearest future or long term, whether to make it a side hustle or not. In all, I had never questioned my strong passion and love for photography.

Rather, I have been inspired to go the extra mile by meeting black men and women with different backgrounds, experiences and stories whose identity is similar to mine. Of recent, Beyonce’s Black Is King video is really exciting for me especially the cinematography.

Recently, I worked on a project with Apple. I was privileged to be one of the seven creative people chosen in the launch of their 27 inch iMac. It was a great and fascinating opportunity to showcase my journey as a creative who has been using their product as a tool for editing my works.

In time, I have become intrigued by the twine of photography and storytelling. I see myself bringing in documentary into my photos. The images captured arouse questions and curiosity from the viewers. They want to know why some certain things happen in a certain way. Sometimes, I make a systematic planning for a shoot which is another angle of storytelling. Here, I allow my viewers get some feelings of the colour, locations and other elements that they can relate to in a wedding, graduation, party and all.

Unlike the early times I started with my friends, I am faced with the challenge of capturing images correctly at the moment. When I meet my client for the first time, I usually go out of my way to connect with them, all in a bid to get a good angle of their image in a beautiful way.

In the coming years, I think one of those things I am looking forward to is merging the field of photography and health sector. I look forward to more representation of black women in the male dominated field of photography, massive projects with international brands that would showcase the blacks and probably, more globetrotting too.

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