Etinosa Yvonne: Using Her ‘Superpowers’ to Dig Up Untold Stories November 15, 2020 – Posted in: Arts, photography, Showcase – Tags: Nigerian, photography, Storytelling
My perception about photography changed right from the day I followed up a story about a lady with vesicovaginal fistula. It was an unimaginable sight where her urine was leaking out of her vagina uncontrollably. Only few people wanted to be around. Her husband doesn’t speak good English. I followed them all through their journey to Ebonyi state.
The above story is how I have continued to follow a lot of stories in the rural areas that may easily get to the mainstream media. This was how my love for long term documentary photography was born. I saw photography beyond flash and images but rather a medium to add value and connection to a work of art.
I don’t know about other photographers but I didn’t start off as a photographer. I was originally trained as a theatre artist in Igbenidion University in Benin City. Though people generally see me as a photographer, I see myself as a visual artist. Before then, I sought original content for a travel blog where I saw myself taking pictures of my adventures in different parts of Nigeria but I didn’t feel the satisfaction I wanted. I picked up a job so I could sustain myself while still trying to figure out what life had for me. In 2017, I resigned from my job and pursued photography hands down.
In a digital world where information is at your fingertips, training oneself is fast becoming the new normal. I consumed a lot of videos on Youtube and articles on photography. My defining moment came in 2018 at photography workshop where I listened to Uche Okpa Iroha speak. He spoke about photography in a way I never thought about. His speech was coming totally from an angle of passion and commitment, not necessary about fame and glamour. His speech was a defining moments where I had to take myself seriously and have never looked back since then.
It all started with my sister’s camera. Most people around me were unsure of my dreams but somehow were very supportive. They never judged my intentions. For me, I see those early days as the days of my beautiful beginnings. Of recent, I was nominated by three different people and among the six talents in Africa for the World Press Global Talent Program. I have also been a winner of the ArtX prize in 2019 and lots of other accolades. In the just concluded Endsars Protest, I was also in the forefront of covering the agitation of young people in Nigeria and some of the pictures made their way to Aljazeera. I have partnered with many organisation in Nigeria and outside in using images to tell stories.
Over the years, my job has exposed me to the coping mechanism of violent conflict, boko haram, sharp disparities and insurgency witnessed in Northern Nigeria. One of the chilling discoveries for me is the silent killings that are usually swept under the carpet and sometimes mentioned as mere statistics. It is interesting to note that once I enter any local community for any kind of documentary, I first of all introduce myself to the head of the community. It’s one of those steps to integrate into a community where I would be working with the people in covering of a documentary. In the process of my short assimilation into any community, I dress like them and cover as much as possible in order to blend seamlessly. Photography is a job where you have to keep your feet on the ground and give no room to intimidation.