Born and bred in Ikorodu, a professional and smartphone photographer, Arowolo Fatai shares his photography story, the pains and bliss of doing the photography business in Ikorodu.
Tell us more about yourself
I am Arowolo Fatai, Head of Photography, Arowolo Photography. I am also called Wakagrapher. I do smartphone photography and a lover of tourism. I try as much as possible to capture my environment using photography as a tool. I love to travel a lot.
I was born in Ikorodu. I am an Arowolo, from the Arowolos of Ikorodu — Sanni Arowolo.
How and when did you start photography?
I started photography when I was an undergraduate. I studied Biochemistry. I am a graduate of Osun State University. So I started photography when I was an undergraduate. I started little by little in 2014, but fully in 2015/16 towards the end of my programme in the university. But professionally I will say in 2019.
If you were not a photographer, what do you think you would have been?
It’s not even about what I think, I will be a public health officer and a social worker. It is still in my bucket list. I studied Biochemistry. One of the things I still want to do is get an Msc in Public Health when I am ready. So it is one thing I still want to do. It does not take out photography. Both can work hand-in-hand the way I have envisioned it because I love people, and love to tell stories of people, and I love love, and try as much as possible to spread the word of love through my work. That’s why I love wedding photography. But public health is one discipline I will like to major in later in life.
Who are the famous people or places you have taken photograph of?
I have encountered a lot of famous people. I don’t run a portrait studio, so I don’t take pictures of celebrities in person but I have come across a lot of them during events. But places, yes! Like I said, I am a Wakagrapher. I have pictures of the Onitsha Niger Bridge, I have taken pictures of Ijebu Ode. I could remember on that fateful day during my CDS, I climbed an abandoned network mast. I could not afford a drone, besides it was just getting into the market then. So, I climbed a network mast. I had officials challenging me that “Hey, why are you climbing there? Why are you taking such risks? What if anything happens to you, no safety helmet, and you are just climbing? I explained to them I just want to take an aerial view of Ijebu Ode. I took them, framed them during my POP, and donated the frames to the library there. I have pictures of Osun Groove, the popular Osun Groove where they host the Osun Oshogbo festival yearly. A few pictures of the CMS Cathedral Church.
I have pictures of Idanre Hill, Owu Waterall in Ilorin. I walk around, take pictures of beautiful places.
My smartphone photography has taken me out of this country. In fact, I won a competition with Tecno Mobile in 2019, and I was flown to Paris in France and Milan in Italy. I have pictures of the Cathedral in Milan and the Eiffel tower in Paris .
As a smartphone photographer, what is the edge of smartphones photography over the digital camera photography?
One of the challenges that led me into smartphone photography is the issue we have in Lagos. You bring out your digital camera, you have hoodlums and agbero come to challenge you and someone trying to extort you just because you want to document your city. But with your mobile phone, people might not even know you are taking pictures. You take a lot of pictures and you document your city. That’s one of the challenges I faced in Ikorodu and I had to get a smartphone to start my smartphone photography.
Being a Wakagrapher, which I will like to call a travel photographer, how lucrative is this part of photography?
The tourism industry is a big industry and it is quite lucrative. For me, it has opened connections. I haven’t made a dime from my travel, tourism journey. It is not as though I have sold any images or gotten any big pay from it but it has opened other doors. Like people are curious, “Oh, what do you do?” Then, I take them to my wedding pictures, and they will be like, “Oh, you do weddings too!.” Fine! It also opened the door Tecno Mobile Nigeria for me I have done a lot of contents for them with my smartphone. Taken a lot of pictures with my smartphone. It was the pictures I took from my mobile phone that got me into the competition in the first place, and after the competition I had that relationship with the company, and till today, I still do gigs for Tecno Mobile with my phone and even with my digital camera. But personally, I have not made a dime from it. I do it for the passion not for the money. The money might come later, probably I will see people to come and buy my images. That can come, say in the nearest future, you never can tell.
…I am curious: do you take smartphones to events to take pictures?
I do my stuff with my digital camera. I do weddings and event with my Digital camera. There is another part of me that travel around, see beautiful places and capture them with my smartphone.
Let’s talk about doing photography in Ikorodu, how has it been?
It’s been challenging and great as well. Because towards the last quarter of 2021, I started getting wedding jobs in Ikorodu. I tried as much as possible to distance myself from family and friends, people around me in Ikorodu when it comes to my craft. I do not want people around me to patronize my craft while starting because I wanted them to see what I a capable of doing, and not because “I know him”. The few people I tried to render my service to priced down my craft ridiculously so I felt I needed to do more outside, so when people at home see what I am capable of doing, I will be able to say this is my price.
What have been the biggest lessons doing the photography business, especially in the Ikorodu environment?
People still try to use home advantage and familiarity and try to price it down. One of the lessons I will say is that you need to know your worth, and learn to say no, and you have to trust actions and not words. It’s business, and you need money to run your business. So don’t run it based on promises. Know your worth, stand your ground, learn how to say no, keep learning and evolving.
What is your biggest dream as a photographer?
It is to be financially independent. And travel the world, experience Africa culture and document them.
What factors have aided the success in your career thus far?
Hard work and consistency, family support and social media because I use my social media as my website. So those four.
You mentioned social media, for an upcoming photographer, how can they maximize social media to advance their career?
Keep shooting, and keep sharing your works. That way you could easily document your own journey and bring it out as evidence of what you have done in the past. By that way, you are building a body of works. Keep building, keep sharing. It is not about the likes you get, just keep doing your own thing. You shoot, edit, post.
Lastly, what will be your advice to people who want to venture into photography in Ikorodu from your experience working in the Ikorodu environment?
Taking the first step is all that matters, it is not how big it is. Start from where you are, what you have, go for mentorship, acquire skill, keep improving yourself, and when it comes to target market, try to target those outside Ikorodu. Don’t make Ikorodu your target from home. So that when Ikorodu people see what you can do, they will definitely come for you.
…I will like to give a shout-out to my dad, he is my number one fan. From the very first day I told him I want to do photography, he supported me. We have parents that when their kids tell them they want to do Photography, they will always raise eyebrows, and ask if that is what you can pick from all the available jobs there are. “Is that what you are studying in school? is that what I sent you to school to do?”and all that. But my father supported me from day one. Without him, none of these would have been possible. Also to my wonderful wife. She has been a good support system. Mrs Adereyi Adijat Arowolo.