Connect Nigeria interviews the astonishing photographer, Mrs. Yetunde Ayeni-Babaeko, the CEO of CAMARA Studios, an established photography studio based in Ikeja, Lagos. The Enugu born, Germany raised photographer has been taking the photography industry by storm since 2004 and is still conquering much territory.
CN: What does your business do and how does it solve people’s problems?
YAB: My business is called Camara Studios and it has been existing now since 2007. I major in advertising photography because that’s what I learnt in Germany, that’s what I majored in. Of course in Nigeria you can’t just specialize in one thing, so you have to spread your wings but it has been great because now I’m also doing fashion photography, editorials, but still mostly advertising. I’m sure like seventy percent of my business is in advertising. We cover events; corporate, wedding events, that sums it up.
How do we solve people’s problems? Photography is needed in so many sections, you will be surprised that honestly in so many ways especially in advertising you need pictures. You are not lying, you are not deceiving but what you’re doing is you’re putting the product into a better light and it’s a skill and advertising agencies do need that skill to sell their products for individuals definitely. You are capturing moments in a wedding and it lives forever. After the wedding the cake is gone, the guests are gone, money is gone (laughs) the images are what will live until you die. So it’s about rephrasing the moment, creating legacies and making them live forever. They are necessities like medical photography as well. Apart from writing, we need images and visuals to send across messages and information.
CN: What would you say are your greatest challenges with photography in Nigeria?
YAB: That one is always hard for me to answer because I’m such a positive person. Every challenge for me is like yes I’m taking it on. Like just yesterday a client sent out a task, several photographers all had the task to photograph one thing and the best photographer would get the job, so those are things I really like and jump into. Pricing is definitely a challenge. It was easier when we started in 2004, 2005 because there were not too many advertising photographers out there. Now, it’s not crowded but there are a lot of photographers and they jump into it not knowing how to charge most of the time so we photographers are putting ourselves into a spot where we are really shooting ourselves in the foot and the client is smiling.
Other challenges, Oh! Timing! Very terrible! I hate Nigerian time you know. I mean I can be late, I can, but on a job, I’m never late and it can really frustrate you when you are somewhere and the rest of your team comes in 3 or 4 hours later so it’s a real challenge to manage this and also it puts us into a situation where abroad, photographers can do two, three jobs in a day but here if you get one job done in a day you can celebrate. Those things are some challenges I face.
CN: What inspired the event ‘Battle Scars’ and why breast cancer?
YAB: I really don’t have anything to do with breast cancer at all, my family has not suffered from this terrible disease, I don’t know anybody in my close inner circle but, I have the camera and I have a responsibility and when Wana Wana walked up to me and told me that I should drop some money because my husband just donated a huge amount of money to 1k for cancer and at that time I was so broke I just gave out 1k from the little money I had and she looked so glum so I said see, I have this 1k but what else I can offer you is my camera and I believe we can do really good things with my camera and my fellow photographers. If I call them up and we go together on this journey we can move mountains and even if we don’t move mountains, even we can help only just one woman, it’s something and that’s how the journey started. This concept has been done before but never with African women so we hope that this will cause it to spread and go farther.
CN: So do you think after this you will definitely do more events focused around social issues such as this?
YAB: Yes, definitely because now that we can see how these things work in a positive way, everybody is far more encouraged to do so and also the cancer patients right now are happy that this thing has taken place and that it was not just hot air. We have raised some serious amount of money and the breast cancer patients and survivors have already contacted me because they want to be a part of it. I wouldn’t say that it’s becoming a trend, but women are opening up and are very courageous. If it’s not breast cancer it will be something else.
CN: If you had to give someone who wanted to pursue a career in photography two tips, what would they be?
YAB: That’s easy. Always photograph what you like not what you think makes most money. Second of all don’t spend too much money on equipment, spend it on training workshops and books.
CN: What do you like photographing?
YAB: Advertising, products, everything that has to do with a bit of glam and very conceptual, yes that’s what I like. I’m not the kind of documentary photographer; I like a controlled environment where I can organize everything from start to end.
CN: If a business genie could grant you three wishes, what would they be?
YAB: Wow! I would wish that I could afford more staff than I already have. I’m happy with my staff right now but I want more of them, it’s difficult to find. Secondly I would wish every image I take would be an award winning image (laughs) and I would wish to be healthy and fit all through my life because once your health and flexibility goes, it affects your photography.
‘Eko Moves‘ is the latest exhibition of photographs by Yetunde Ayeni-Babaeko, which she shot in different public spaces in the ever busy city of Lagos. Read about it here.