Passion For Projecting Nigeria in Positive Limelight Drives My Business, Career for Photography – Dayo Adedayo

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British-trained Nigerian documentary photographer and cultural anthropologist, Dayo Adedayo

Story By Titilayo Orilabawaye


Business part of photography needs to be thought. It’s one of the reasons people don’t accord professional photographers the respect they deserve as other professions because they don’t know how to place premium importance and charge the appropriate fee for their services.


Debonair, urbane and cosmopolitan. Dayo Adedayo is a British-trained Nigerian documentary photographer and cultural anthropologist. The path Dayo is treading in the photography world is totally different from what a typical journalist does.

According to him, “My brand of photography is driven by passion to position Nigeria in a positive limelight through my documentary and visual storytelling”

In an interview session with the team of EnterpriseCEO at his residence in Lagos, the famous photographer with over four million photographs in his archive shared his journey into documentary photography, challenges, and profitability of the profession with the most defining moment of his career.

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Speaking on the state of the photography industry in Nigeria compared to other countries, Adedayo maintained that the industry is yet to attained some significant growths compared to the rest of the world, adding that the industry might not be there yet but better than it was yesterday as there is creativity in the space as people now dominating with visual storytelling.

“If we are to compare the photography of Nigeria with the rest of the world, we have not started at all. Photography can’t be in isolation.  We have not started but we are a lot better than where we used’’

With his formal education in Photography Arts at Westminster College and University of Westminster, U.K, the former social photographer revealed that his formal training exposed him to know more about photography as it is more complex than holding a camera to take a shot.

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In his words, “There is something spectacular about going to photograph school. You can’t say because you’re an artist, you don’t need someone’s guidance who has technical details to guide you on . To be exceptional in whatever you do in life, acquiring education about it is tantamount to its success.’’

“The same applies to photography even in Nigeria today, over 90% of practitioners never see the wall of photography school and what we have in Nigeria is social photography. But when you go to school there is more to photograph than taking pictures and it’s not necessary you become a photographer after graduation, you can be working at police forensic lab, undercover,’’ he added.

According to Adedayo, the business part of photography needs to be thought, saying it’s one of the reasons people don’t accord professional photographers the respect they deserve as other professions because they don’t know how to place premium importance and charging the appropriate fee for their services.

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He urged photography practitioners to acquire formal education in learning and honing their skills from expertise in the profession, he charged them to seek education on the job as it will aid them to grow fast and become successful.

“People that started photography in Nigeria are dropouts, primary school leavers, hardly we see people in this job that makes money like law, banking, medicine professions. These early people were shortchanged in terms of money because of their lack of education. You cannot be successful without education, not a paper certification but you need to get education in whatever you’re doing’’

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Commenting about the photography profession profitability, he said, “Across the world, the numbers are dropping because of digitization, so I would say it is not that lucrative because they (Photographers) themselves don’t make money from photography and that’s the bitter truth. The people that make money from it are manufacturers and traders trading photography.

“In the west, those that are making money from it are less than 1%, is not a profession where someone can make money, what I get from it is not money but peace of mind and legacy. I see things that a lot of people paid money for, as free.’’

“This is my 33 years into photography, I have never worked for one single day, I see it as fun. I pick my camera and go, not that you have to be in the office by 9am and close by night. The most important thing is that I love what I do and I can do it for free without going back.’’

When asked what prompted him to keep records of all his photographs into an archive that spans over 4 million images and still counting, the veteran image maker explained that he got the idea from where he was trained as a professional photographer, and also he learned record keeping from her mother.

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“I wouldn’t have known this if I had not been in school. Education gives more exposure and enlightenment. I took this recorded act from my mom, I keep records. Things that people see and throw away, I keep. You will be shocked that I am writing my memoir and it will be very rich because I had 24 years of my daily report diary from 1983 – 2007. ‘’

“The over 4 million images are kept in files alphabetically for easy identification when I need them. I learnt that in school. Michael Jackson is making more money today than when he was alive. So I want my grandchildren to make far excess money than I earned throughout my lifetime.’’

Recalling his defining moment as a photographer, Adedayo said it was the day he met Dele Momodu in 2002 at a wedding function where he attended as a social photographer and that happened to be a day his career experienced a major boost.

He recalls, “it was in 2002 where I went to cover a Femi Popoola wedding. He was my client in the UK and Dele Momodu was also at the function. Fortunate for me on that day, my attitude to work that day unknowingly impressed Dele and that part of my training is to dominate my environment whenever I’m working.’’

I met Dele on merit and that’s the best thing that ever happened to me and I will never forget that day. Within the first six months of working with him, I got passports from three different countries and got connections through him. I saw the opportunity, he gave me the opportunity and I grab it with all I have. Dele is an angel that has helped so many people through small businesses and coming to the limelight.

Adedayo’s attitude and diligence towards his passionate profession earned him that opportunity and according to him; Opportunities would always come and most times people fall to grab the opportunity thinking there will be a second chance.

“The older you become the lower your income because God created us in such a way that the day you clock 40, that’s the end of you. Your brain starts going abstract and younger ones will be more creative and faster than you. The only thing that is left on you is residual knowledge as you can’t assimilate as when you’re younger.’’

As a documentary photographer who has traveled to all the 774 local governments in Nigeria for documentary, he was asked if Nigeria’s factor has ever been a source of his inspiration.

He said, “With my experience of visiting about 45 countries as a photographer, I can say Nigeria is a beautiful country. Studying photography inspires me and opens my mind. As at 2002, Nigeria doesn’t have good replica images, when I came back I told my friend from the airport that we’re going to make it and make good pictures of Nigeria.

“I started in Abuja in 2003 during swearing in at the National Assembly, started taking pictures through the same Dele. It is not everything in life that you will get money from, you will do a lot of work for free but what is behind free is freedom. That project gives me entitlement to go around Nigeria.’’

Speaking on the role of technology in the future of photography in Nigeria, Adedayo said that technology will enhance and take over photography because today there are images of phone cameras that weren’t like that long time ago.

In his words, photography will not be the same again as everything is digital, and in Nigeria, is going to develop. Edo state has started classes on photography. Lagos State Polytechnic is starting a photography course soon.

“Without photography, we won’t be able to tell our stories. The future is bright because we’ve not started photography in Nigeria. We shouldn’t think about money but about the impact, it is going to bring into society. It can be used to change our narrative because the more you see an image the more he resonates with you anywhere you go”, he said.

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