Toyosi Faridah Kekere-Ekun is a Nigerian photographer whose work focuses on fashion, beauty, and portrait photography. After graduating from the University of Nottingham with a BA in Politics and International Relations, the twenty-two-year-old attended the Spéos Photographic Institute, Paris to develop her expertise in studio photography. She now lives and works in Lagos, Nigeria.
Q. How did you get into photography and how many years of experience do you have?
A. When it’s truly a passion it’s often near impossible to lay a finger on when you started shooting, and experience in this field really does take a lifetime to amass. If I were to pinpoint a significant milestone though it would be getting my first Polaroid camera when I was thirteen, I haven’t stopped shooting since. Professionally I have about two years’ experience.
Q. How did you master your craft?
A. Obsession and education. Constantly shooting, researching, experimenting, and, of course, with the help of photog-friends, my brother, who’s a filmmaker, and my amazing teachers and classmates at Spéos.
Q. What kind of camera/lenses do you use?
A. For most of my professional and studio work I use a Canon 5D Mark II, 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses but shooting day-to-day I’m hardly ever without my 1989 Canon AE-1 film camera. I document so much better on film because you don’t have the option of taking fifty photographs of the same subject in an attempt to get the perfect shot. I usually have thirty-six exposures (images) per roll to work with and I don’t want any of them to go to waste so I’m more focused and pay greater attention to detail when shooting film.
Q. When did you realize that photography was more than a hobby?
A. In 2009 a friend of mine bought a Nikon D5000 and for some reason I always considered those “big, big cameras” off limits and for the pros only. Plus they cost an arm and some legs! She let me play around with it and it wasn’t long before I began asking myself why I had set up that barrier in my mind and what exactly stopped me from being one of those pros? It was pretty much a wrap after that.
Q. How would you describe your aesthetic; where does your inspiration come from?
A. It’s really interesting; in terms of inspiration my mind works in reverse from the norm. I see an image perhaps when I’m daydreaming or actually asleep and I have a book in which I describe the image to myself and exactly how I plan to execute the shoot. The more I work on the project the more my brain retraces its steps until I realize what inspired me in the first place. More often than not it’s artwork, (I am extremely attracted to color), personal experiences, or even the technique adopted in the work of other photographers I admire. Never imitation, though, only inspiration!
Q. What are your favorite kind of photo shoots and why?
A. Any shoot I’m emotionally invested in, or which facilitates a sincere interaction between my subject and I, whether it’s light and fun, deep and depressing, or cold and awkward. There’s always something new to learn and an added realness to the final product.
Q. Describe your fantasy shoot?
A. I wouldn’t want to give away the farm to the competition! However, it would definitely be an elaborate underwater shoot. I haven’t worked out the logistics yet but that would combine two things I really love, being in the water and, of course, photography.
Q. What is your end goal with photography? Where do you hope it takes you?
A. Photography is a part of my everyday life so I don’t have an “end goal” per se. What I do hope is that my work takes me all over the world for exhibitions and location shoots and more exciting things that haven’t even crossed my mind. Meeting new people and discovering new ground is completely intoxicating to me so if I could do that and shoot simultaneously that would be the dream.
Q. What is your advice to beginning photographers (are there any resources you would recommend)?
A. One thing I think is a shame, particularly amongst young African photographers, is the preoccupation with sharing their own work and not celebrating one another’s talent and creativity. For me it’s so important to pay attention to your peers, admire their strengths, and take note of their weaknesses in order to progress and learn from them. Also, don’t get bogged down with “finding your own style,” just keep shooting what you love and let it come naturally. This one I myself am still very much struggling with!