Saturday 6 September 2014

On World Photography Day, Lagos focuses National Development

By Tajudeen Sowole
It took the second edition of World Photoågraphy Day, held in Lagos recently for a section of Nigeria photographers to take another look at the role of photography in a changing environment.

Held at Kongi's Harvest Gallery, Freedom Park, Lagos Island, the gathering, which was themed The Role of Photography in National Development had some of the top Nigerian photographers like Ola Adeboye, Don Barber, Kelechi Amadi Obi, Amanze Ojeikere, among others as speakers and discussants.

Participants during the World Photography Day in Lagos PIC: CHARLES OKOLO
The World Photography Day is celebrated across the world on August 19 of every year. In his opening speech, the convener of the Lagos event, Yemi Royal Akala stated that the 2014 edition was inspired by the "success” of the previous World Photography Day, held in Lagos for the first time, last year.  And when he added that the enthusiasm shown by the response of interest groups and individuals since the first event "has been encouraging,” the audience-packed ground floor of Kongi's Harvest Gallery confirmed his argument. Ahead of the opening, Akala recalled how about 100 photographers participated during the first event. He hoped that "the second edition will surpass the first.”

At the 2014 event, Akala, who is also a photographer, was elated that his colleagues and other photo enthusiasts heeded the call "to come in and discuss how photography can make meaningful contributions to national development.”

However, the first paper of the event by Adeboye differed slightly from the central theme. In fact, Adeboye, who is of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, (NIJ) sub-themed his presentation as Photography As A Tool For Change.
He started by giving a background of the gathering as he traced the world of photography to 1839, a period he described as "iconic year in the history of Photography." He explained how the year flagged off a new way of imaging as well as high point in science of photography. "It was the year Frenchman, Louis Daguerre’s Daguerrotype was made public to herald a new picture-making era for mankind and a giant leap in Photographic technology."

He noted that over the centuries, photography has moved from just a process of creating image or representing reality to being used as powerful tool of communication. He added that modern photography goes beyond the ability to know the technicality, but about "celebration of content with context."

As the presentation progressed, he asked: what positive impact has photography contributed to make the society a better place for all? Are there any testimonies of that power of Photography that has made it ubiquitous wherever man can be found on planet Earth?  Indirectly answering these questions, he brought in the role of photography in American strength of propaganda.

Adeboye cited two examples. One of them; "Mathew Brady was a master photographer of his era whose portrait of Abraham Lincoln for the Presidency in 1860 ‘proved the medium had the power to affect events.” He referenced reports about the belief that quoted Lincoln was ugly, and not fit to be the President of U.S., particularly in an era when politicians were expected to be good looking to attract American electorates.

Adeboye traced the photographic transformation of Lincoln to Brady’s artistic composition. And a 1993 quote from Goldberg summarises the photographer’s creative effort on the politician: ‘Brady pulled Lincoln’s collar up to make his neck look shorter, posed him to look serious, dignified and wise, and retouched the lines of his face.  He gave Lincoln a good character and made him look presidential.’  

Amadi Obi spoke on copyright consciousness of photographer and what makes the content of a work value as intellectual property. He argued that the volume of megabytes or high tech equipment a photographer implores in making images do not really count. "It is the intellect of the photographer that counts."

However protecting photographers' intellectual work in Nigeria appears to be a challenge. While arguing that the copyright law bestows the intellectual right on "the creator of an image or photographic work," Amadi Obi noted the conflict of interest in the area of assignment photography. Except the photographer "concedes" the right in writing to the owner of assignment or employer, the copyright, he insisted, belongs to the photographer. 

Amadi Obi who is a lawyer by first choice of profession and also a painter shared his experience in the complexity of handling clients. As much as photographers should enforce their right, it is important to note that majority of members of the public know little or nothing about copyright, he stated. He therefore warned: "handle your clients politely."

In a brief statement, director at Alliance Francaise, Lagos, Christine Deneuve said photography "is not just a tool for showing, but recording memory of events."
 Not exactly a smooth and compact conference at the second World Photography Day in Lagos as the event was interrupted by a break for a visit to the palace of Oba of Lagos, Rilwan Akiolu. About two or more presenters were expected to speak after returning from the royal visit.

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