The Now Collectives 2017, a big step forward for the Nigerian wedding photography industry

I wrote on my last post about the reasons why I attend conferences and workshops. This post is about my last trip to Nigeria, where I was invited, along with my partner Gabriela, to speak about our wedding photography approach, about how we build the story for the client and what we take into consideration when we put together the final story.

There are four main reasons I went to Nigeria to be on The Now Collectives 2017′ stage:

  1. This event is organized by my very good friend Segun Olotu, a visionary Nigerian wedding photographer. I knew about this project even before it was written on paper and I know how much passion, effort and money Segun put into this event to become a reality. We spoke many nights and days about the Nigerian wedding photography industry and about how much he wants to do for his compatriots: to give them access to great content and to give them the chance to meet some of the boldest photographers in the world in order to grow themselves and their businesses. I believe he did, The Now Collectives will become one of the major events for photographers in Africa for sure. I wanted to help him in order to achieve his goal.
  2. I’ve never had a presentation in English before so I wanted to slay one of my fears.
  3. I love Nigeria and its people. I was there for the first time a year and a half ago to shoot two Nigerian weddings and I met so many cool and warm people. I was received really well that time and I made lots of friends there so I wanted to visit them. You can see some of the pictures I shot that time here and here.
  4. I love to travel and travel is a part of my life in the past 3 years.

It was not easy to get there and it was a long process, but we prepared everything ahead of time. June was not an easy month to travel, actually it was a month that was difficult to deal with: Gabi and myself had 6 weddings to shoot and 2 baptisms in Romania and I had to second shoot a further 2 weddings in the United Kingdom. The Now Collectives took place on 13th and 14th of June so our trip was short, between two weddings. A week later we had to be back in our country for WEDDCAMP, probably the most important conference for wedding photographers in Romania.

So, as I said, it was a though month, but we pushed through it with a lot of energy.

Road to Lagos

lagos from plane

We left Bucharest on Monday morning and we had a stop in Istanbul. There, we met Tope Obadina, a great Nigerian videographer we know who was coming to Lagos from London for The Now Collectives. It was great to travel together, we felt more relaxed traveling next to someone who was born in Nigeria.

Before touching down to Lagos, we were witnesses of probably the most beautiful clouds spectacle we have ever seen: a mix of Cumulonimbus and Cumulus clouds all over the sky so Gabriela and myself could not separate ourselves from the airplane window for half an hour.

We have arrived safely, these type of clouds can sometimes be dangerous.

lagos airport

Most of you might believe Nigeria is not a safe country to travel because of the many stories you have read on the internet or you watched on TV, but it’s not like that. Lagos is one of the safest areas in Africa if you take some precautions before and if the right people are taking care of you, so the bad impressions about this place might be overhyped. While I was there (the first time for more than two weeks), I never heard of any crime or kiddnaping, actually the amount of the crimes fell in the last 20 years as the locals were saying. I also travelled to zones (far away from Victoria Island) where the kids never saw a Oyibo (white man). Gabriela was a bit concerned about this trip in the beginning, but right now she wants to go back there.

Segun and Bayo Omoboriowo, Nigerian President’s official photographer, – check his website, he is doing a great job for the President and his NGO helps a lot of kids and people in Nigeria – were waiting for us close to the airport. After landing, we had to wait for Chad Pennington, Richard Beland and Bisi Alawode (three of the speakers of The Now Collectives 2017) so we could go together to the hotel. We’ve met Chad before in Romania when he attended the inaugural WEDDCAMP and it was a great pleasure to meet him again. I shared with him and the others some Orijin (a Nigerian traditional drink) and we spoke about their trip: some of their luggages had been lost so we had to wait for them in the airport longer than we expected. It was lovely to meet for the first time Richard, a Canadian music photographer who impressed me – check his website to see how many celebrities he photographed – and Bisi Alawode, Richard’s student, who also impressed me with his vision and stories.

Gabriela Matei waiting

The traffic in Lagos is really awful, we were lucky to get quickly to our final destination. We were placed in a very nice hotel in the heart of Victoria Island and soon we met everyone for dinner. It was a great pleasure to meet Christelle Rall (we chatted a lot on Facebook, it was lovely to have finally met her in person), Amy Anaiz (a very warm and big-hearted person), Beena and Anil Tohani (we heard only beautiful things about them from Segun and indeed they are a great couple and great photographers), Olu Akintorin (I loved all his jokes and his way of being, he speaks too fast for me, but this helped me improve my spoken English), Mauricio Arias (we’ve spent two great nights in Bucharest after his first workshop in Romania, brilliant mind and a party animal – it was great to party again together) and cousin Biyi Akinsemoyin (we met before in October 2016 while we shot a Nigerian wedding in Chelmsford – this time he did not complain about his hotel room, the room was large enough in Lagos).

The Now Collectives 2017

Content: I am not going to write to much about what every speaker shared, all of us shared precious and valuable information and performed really well on the stage: why it is good to get close to your subjects, how to conquer the personal space of your couples, inspirational stories, personal projects, how to build a story, tips about branding consistency and about business, how to free your mind and why it is good to search your freedom before taking great shots, why it is important to find balance in your life in order to find your way in your imagery, how hard it is to work for a President and do great things for the people around us and many, many other things.

What was really important besides all of the tips written before was all of us were there to help a community that is fighting to find an identity, models to follow and I would say to find leaders to guide them all and I believe Segun and Bayo can be great leaders. They have all the tools to help others to succeed, they are investing their time and money in different projects for the Nigerian community, they have another quality I really appreciate, they never give up on something they believe in, they are fair, responsive, flexible and honest and I am pretty sure they will not step on the others heads to achieve goals.

The Now Collectives Lagos 2017

Organization: Organization was excellent. As I said before, we were picked up from the airport and placed in a very nice hotel in the heart of Victoria Island close to the conference hall. The conference took place in another hotel so we were picked by car everyday. The lunch was provided by the The Now Collectives. If you have the chance to discover the Nigerian cuisine don’t miss moin moin (bean pudding made from a mixture of washed and peeled black-eyed peas, onions and fresh ground peppers), suya (grilled meat coated with ground chili pepper, peanut powder, and other local spices – it is prepared barbecue-style on a stick), the pounded yam (I personally prefer the fried yam, but everyone loves pounded yam), Jollof rice (it is made with tomato and pepper base), Dodo (plantains fried in vegetable or palm oil) and many more dishes. The food is spicy (it took me 7 days to adapt to their cuisine during my first trip), but very tasty.

The promotional materials were diverse.

TNC PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS
Photo: Amy Anaiz

In the beginning there was a press conference where we had to speak to the press and three TV stations sent their people to the conference.

What deeply impressed me in Lagos, more than talking on the stage of this wonderful conference, was the time when Amy gave away a camera to a young Nigerian photographer. She also performed a live shoot.

The conference was closed by a vibrant epic party with African music, dance and drinks. I was really happy to meet Bernard Kalu (check his street photography and follow him on instagram, you can rarely meet a photographer like him) and Tolani Alli (she is doing a great job for different NGOs there and she was accepted by World Press Photo for a highly competitive international diploma course put together by the WPP, Noor Images and The Danish school of Journalism and Media after a three month process with interviews, submissions of photography essays and stories and portfolio reviews) and to meet again Jide Odukoya, Leke Alabi-Isama and other friends I made during my first trip.

On the third day, we were supposed to do a street photography session. but because it was raining so heavy we stopped at Hans & Rene for the best ice cream in Lagos.

unabashed

I prepared a slideshow about the conference you might want to watch:

I admired the Nigerian photographers hunger to learn and experiment new things and Gabi and myself were really happy about how everyone received our presentation, with a big round of applause and ovations at the end.

A big thanks to everyone and I could not forget to thank to Segun’s girl, Tola, for taking care of us during this journey.

THANK YOU NIGERIA! HOPE TO SEE YOU SOON!

P.S.: The next blogpost will be about WEDDCAMP 2017! We had a stunning experience this June!

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