InterviewsUsing Photography as An Escape with Akintunde Odesilo

Using Photography as An Escape with Akintunde Odesilo

© Akintunde Odesilo
“My childhood was not so interesting, I’d say I had a typical Nigerian upbringing where the parents were always right and the child was never right, speaking back to your parents was seen as rude, gifts in the form of money given to our parents to keep for us can not be accounted for ’til today, and the definition of fun was playing football in the streets. I am the only child of my parents, and my amazingly beautiful mother took care of me, and raised me to be the gentleman I am today.”
Akintunde Odesilo is a Nigerian fashion and street photographer. In the city that never sleeps, as Odesilo states, he explores and showcases Lagos, its people, cultures, and lifestyles. There is no commonality about Akintunde’s work outside of representing the everyday lives of Lagosians. He tells the many stories of ‘regular’ citizens living their lives in Lagos, Nigeria.
“You can call me Akin for short. I’m from the southwestern part of Nigeria; a state called Ogun, but I’ve lived in Lagos my whole life, the city that never sleeps.”
When and how did you start taking photos?
“Summer break of 2013 in uni, I mysteriously came across 500px, it’s an online photography platform, basically Instagram for just photographers. I’d literally spend hours browsing through photographs on 500px wondering how they were created. I stayed with my grandaunt while I was in uni; she noticed I had developed an interest in photography and brought back fashion magazines anytime she went out.
After a week of browsing through 500px and different fashion magazines, I decided to go on YouTube to see how these pictures were created and what camera I could possibly get. The following week, I decided to get an entry-level camera; a Nikon D5000. I didn’t have enough money saved up to get one, so I decided to get a loan from my uncle. Instead of giving me a loan, he placed an order for the camera on eBay, which meant I had to wait for it to be delivered. Let me tell you right now, it took just three days but it felt like forever!! Three days later, there I was with a big smile on my face and a new camera right in front of me, as soon as I laid my hands on it, I never looked back. A month later, I sold my Nikon D5000 and upgraded to a D7000 which is a mid-level camera.
Now I mostly take streets and lifestyle photographs with my phone. Let’s save the story of how I began shooting with my phone for another day.
Photography for me is an escape from this world into my own world, where nothing else matters; all the unwanted noise drowned out, just me, my camera, and the moments.
What are your inspirations?

“One of my inspirations is everyday lives and moments. I take walks often in order to absorb and observe everything going on around that I don’t tend to see or notice while moving around in my car.
Also, other photographers, like Alan Schaller, Sean Tucker, and Camilla Akrans inspire me to do so much more with this passion of mine, try new techniques, and experiment with studio lighting.
PINTEREST!!! It is another source of inspiration for me, not just for photography but also for UI design.”
What do you want to convey with your photographs?

“That beauty and serenity can be found in the most chaotic places.”

This is a part of Seven Foto Questions, a series of interviews with photographers answering the same questions about how they each came into their craft.

What is your favorite photo, and the story behind it?

“Oh wow, that’s a difficult one. If I absolutely had to pick one, it’ll be a photograph I titled Boys in the Hood.
I had been having issues with my car for some time and I finally decided to take some time off work to get it fixed. By the time my car was ready, the sun was setting; it was time to head home. The mechanic and I got stuck in slow-moving traffic, and I was dead tired. I decided to distract myself by doing one of the things I love most, observing people.
I noticed some young lads (area boys) just going on about their business, talking, and being loud. That moment for me just seemed so interesting and somewhat peaceful. I decided to take a picture of them with my phone, but I had to be stealthy because nothing is for free in Lasgidi (Lagos). So I positioned myself, my body facing the direction of their hangout spot which was in the middle of the road on a small roundabout. I raised my phone to my face to make it look like I was just using my phone and then “click”.
I thought I was sharp; it just so happened that one of them was looking directly at me while I was trying to be stealthy. He pointed in my direction just before I took the photo and yelled “Oga no be free o, you go pay us” meaning “it is not free, I’ll have to pay them”. Luckily for me, the traffic had cleared a bit and the mechanic drove off cause that particular area isn’t safe at night.”
© Akintunde Odesilo
“What makes it my favorite is the gesture he made when I took the photograph and the fact that I had an interesting experience out of a long and stressful day.”
What do you consider a “good” photo?

“To me, it has nothing to do with whether it is colored or monochrome, or whether the lighting is perfect. To me, a good photo is one that it’s viewers can connect with. It tells a story to its viewers, makes them feel as though they were there.”
Can you use one theme to describe your work?

“I’m still experimenting to find a style I could call my own. Right now I’d say my style or my type of photography is unorthodox. Totally different from that of a typical Nigerian photographer.”
If there is one thing you want your audience to know about you, what would it be?

“Lol, well if photography doesn’t work out, I could always be a chef.”
© Akintunde Odesilo
A portrait of Akintunde Odesilo. © Ari Labadi

© Akintunde Odesilo
© Akintunde Odesilo

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