FEMI AWOJIDE: PICTURES THAT SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES
Femi Awojide is a Nigerian-born and educated creative director, filmmaker, digital content producer and photographer. He studied Electronics and Solid State Physics at the Federal University of Technology, Akure and earned a Masters degree with distinction in Advanced Multimedia Designs and 3-D Technologies from the Brunel University, West London. His competencies cut across several aspects of the arts and sciences of digital media production and post-production. Awojide worked for three years doing multimedia in advertising and is the Creative Director of TRISENZ Studios—a new media agency, which combines art, technology and strategy into globally competitive visual narratives. He works as a director, cinematographer, visual effects supervisor, editor, and colourist in the film industry, spanning across documentaries, commercials, music videos, short and feature films.
You once said you wanted to be a vulcanizer by profession. Was there any particular reason for this?
(Laughs!)By the way, my parents never knew of this past secret wish of mine. It’s mostly an effective joke I tell to emphasize how disinterested I was in extended reading back in the day and maybe till now! Trust African parents, mine quickly set me straight on that, thankfully. Once I found what interested me, I generally enjoyed school and learning.
What inspired the Contre-jour filming style of the Silona: Portrait of an African Dancer short. You also seem to employ this back lighting technique in some of your still photography as well.
I’ve always loved dark photography because I love mystery. I believe it is more interesting when the main information is hidden because it rouses people’s interest. It is kind of the way humans are wired and this also fits my lifestyle—my workspace is usually dark so I naturally tend to film or photograph my personal work that way—’Contre-jour’.
Do you have a special preference for black-and-white photography for a reason?
Yes! I do. Black-and-white photography helps narrow down the audience’s concentration to just two spectra of light or their absence. It is life—ying and yang, true or false, yes or no. Colours could be distracting and that is why I love the black-and-white form.
You recently embarked on a project on still night photography. Is there any particular reason behind this project, will it be limited to Lagos and do you plan to exhibit or document the photographs?
Night photography is very dear to me because you see the true character of a place or even its humans at night. It also allows the aesthetics of the location to shine through. I am currently photographing Lagos because I am based there and it is easy to get in the car with a friend or two and look for interesting spots to capture. The bigger picture is to cover as many major cities in Nigeria as possible and publish a photo book even though Lagos has to get its own. I love this city and we have so many stories to tell in pictures and film. The project will require moving a team around with expensive tools I don’t yet have the funds at the moment so I am taking it in my stride. It will eventually happen when the time is right.
Did you face security challenges while on the project?
The security situation (which is getting better with the government’s Light Up Lagos program) is a major concern in achieving the dreams I have for capturing Lagos but I believe there’s a way. Several times the police are a big factor to also consider. It seems there is an unwritten law against street photographers in this country. The last time I was out to capture a part of the town, police stopped us and extorted money. Sad.
There are several people working in the area of still photography, film and multimedia. What is the distinctive feature/characteristic trademark of your works?
I think what stands everyone out is that individual difference. You cannot see what I see and same way I see it. My camera is an extension of my eyes, which are unique to me. It is not a competition—art is never a competition because we all have our interpretations of the same situation and every interpretation is valid.
You also make documentaries and music videos. Which would you say is more challenging or more rewarding?
All forms of filmmaking have their unique challenges. I would say making documentaries are more challenging because most of the time, you’re trying to tell a story from a neutral point of view, which is hard to do as we all have different opinions. Documentaries are also meant to be extensively well researched, which needs time and money. Music videos are usually quite interesting and fun to film but you also have to consider several factors and work with your client’s vision, adding your unique style to it.
Which Nigerian film directors would you like to work with on their next projects?
I hope to work with Baba Tunde Kelani on a feature because his body of works has much inspired me. Mr. Femi Odugbemi is on my wish list for a documentary film project because I believe I can learn a lot from his wealth of experience and in return, add a lot of complimentary creative value to his work. I would also like to work with Tope Oshin because she comes off as a fellow nerd and is one of the most dynamic directors we have here, and then Kunle Afolayan because he’s a brave and crazy, yet intelligent risk taker of a filmmaker. Others are great Mildred Okwo, and Lancelot Imasuen Oduwa.
You bumped into Usain Bolt, the fastest man on the planet on one of your travels. What was the meeting like, are you planning any documentaries in this regard and do you always capture your varied experiences on still and video cameras on such trips?
I capture both motion and still photographs during my trips although I mostly share the stills on my social media platforms. Usain Bolt is a friend of mine… kidding! (laughs!). I met him while at school for my masters. He usually trains for some of his big events at Brunel University. On my way home one fine evening, I bumped into him and his friend and asked, ‘are you who I think you are?’ He laughed and asked who I thought he was and I replied ‘Usain?’ He said yes, we shook hands and I asked for a photograph and that was it. Just like lightning!
Do you have any favourite destination?
Within Nigeria, I have not travelled as extensively as I would love to yet; I would like to visit the north. I hope we have peace across the country soon so that I can explore its beauty. Outside Africa, I plan to visit Thailand with someone special and maybe swim with the sharks!
Any new projects in the horizon?
I am working on a short film project with principal photography starting in August, as well as a documentary project I cannot let out of the bag yet!
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