You had a thing for advertising before now, why the career shift?
I left advertising because I’ve always had a passion for photography, and in the preceding years I’d found some success in the field while still just dabbling on the side. I decided the only way to really give it a chance was to remove the safety net (and flexibility-impediment) of the steady advertising gig. But I still have a thing for advertising. My Dad was a celebrated ad exec from my earliest memory, so it’s innate to me. I’ll always love advertising, and I still infuse lessons from advertising into my work as a photographer/CD. With every shot, I consider what I’m selling — from a garment, to a model, to an emotion — and work from there.
Whenever ever you make it home (Nigeria) and see adverts on TV or listen to those on radio what comes to mind, would you say we are getting it right or we still have a long way to go?
Nigeria is on its way with advertising, but I think we’ve still got a little work to do here. I think there’s still the reflexive fallback on “happy families” advertising to sell everything from dish soap to rat poison. I think much of the Nigerian population is more sophisticated than our advertising sometimes gives them credit for.
That said, there are folks out here doing killer work on the agency side. Stuff from folks like Uyi Omokaro (DM2), Chuma Obumselu (DDB), Nnenna and Kaliko (YBR), and Damola Ademola (EXP) makes me excited about where the creative industry here is going.
As far as radio ads go, I hate them all. Not just in Naij, but everywhere. Hahaha.
How do you define a good and creative advertisement?
For me, a great ad makes you think or feel. Telling me “MediaRoom Pens are the best! buy MediaRoom Pens!!” doesn’t elicit any thought or emotion. But finding a creative way to show how much better they are — that’s the win. Or making me identify with the MediaRoom folks because I feel they understand my outlook on life (or even my sense of humor) sets them apart from the 8000 other pen brands on the shelf.
How did photography as a career start for Remi Adetiba?
I’d been obsessed with photography from childhood, and while producing a project with my sister, I felt it would be expedient to grab the camera myself. There’s a much longer version of the story, but I’ve told it a hundred times before and don’t want to bore your readers with it again.
If you had the opportunity to meet one photographer in the world who would that be and why?
Wow, just one? That’s cruel. I truly admire the genius of Albert Watson. I’m slightly protective of my eyesight because I’m such a visual person, so for him to achieve all he has with only the use of one eye is phenomenal to me. That said, I worship at the altars of David LaChapelle and Herb Ritts. One’s semi-retired and the other’s deceased, so I’m accepting all offers to make either happen — hahah.
What is your daily routine like?
Depends on what I have going on. Since I left advertising, my life has been a lot less regimented (for better and worse). For example, a couple weeks ago I woke up with a set agenda for the day, and 3 hours later I was packing for a flight instead. But when I can, I like to start my day with a workout — trying to get back to my fitness schedule from before it kinda got derailed by travel. After the workout, a conversation with my NYC/Cape Town agents (every couple days), deal with emails, work on upcoming photo projects, and since last October, a healthy amount of work on King of Boys, the movie I’m producing with my sister Kemi. Maybe end the day by grabbing a drink with a friend or two — I don’t get to do that as much as I’d like.
I assume you have seen some works from top Nigerian based photographers such as TY Bello, Kelechi Amadi and more, what’s your take on the art of photography in Nigeria?
It’s great. I like that there’s space for different styles of photography. I’m neither a TY nor a Kelechi — both are very different from me and from each other. I consider them great friends and amazing human beings, but I love that I don’t have to be either of them to thrive in this market. There are also other young guns doing dope work here — Lakin and Emmanuel Oyeleke come to mind. Aham Ibeleme’s done some cool stuff too. However, I think there needs to be a greater respect for the differences in styles of photography — don’t book an event photographer for a fashion shoot, and don’t ask me to cover your wedding (it’s tempting as hell, folks spend money on weddings! Hahaha). There needs to be a respect for the many disciplines of photography, rather than the “isn’t it just point-and-click” mentality that makes some think we’re all interchangeable.
What’s your favourite local dish?
My mother’s Ogbono soup will change your life. Or it would, if I were the type to share.
How is your leisure like?
Don’t have much leisure time these days. I’m kicking my own ass with work now so I won’t have to when my body’s a little less forgiving.
Who is your celebrity crush and why?
Kerry Washington is sexy and clearly cerebral. Intellect is incredibly sexy in a woman. Or in anyone, I guess. That said, I’m low-key about to get Yagazie Emezi’s face tattooed on my inner eyelids.
What’s your brand called and what’s your vision for it?
I don’t have a brand. I’m just a photographer whose mission is to make everyone I shoot feel like a movie star (especially black women, but really everyone).
You recently concluded work, alongside your sister (whose huge fan I am) on her yet to be released movie, “King of Boys” , was that your first time working with her, in what capacity did go in and how was it like working with a sister on such project?
In addition to being one of the Executive Producers, I was the Line Producer on the project — basically overseeing budget, locations, scheduling, and all other factors of the production to ensure the trains ran on time and Kemi was able to focus on directing with as few distractions as possible. Then on the visual side of things, I shot the promo imagery and was responsible for the posters and website, which was a fun throwback to my NYC advertising days.
And yeah, Kemi and I had worked together in the past — she brought me on to produce the music video for Bez’s “Say” for her production company back in 2013, and of course I’ve shot her a couple times now. That said, it was my first time producing a feature film with her (or anyone), so I got to see a different side of her. I knew she was a hard worker before, but she was a damn machine on this set. Of course you clash like you would with any sibling, but I came out of principal photography with even more respect for her than going in.
Have you any formal training in photography?
Not in the least. I learned on the job (which was incredibly risky), and did research as I proceeded. On my earliest shoots I’d hire folks to handle lighting while I focused on (concept and composition) because I heard a couple of my favorites never lit their own shots. Very quickly it became important for me to be able to light my own work — not just in case I was saddled with a less competent lighting person (which did happen once or twice), but for the feeling of authenticity that I truly knew what the hell I was doing, despite not being formally trained.
Every so often, I want to take a formal class to fill in any gaps I may have missed, but then someone — usually TY (hahhaa) — discourages me from doing it. She says “What if as you’re learning these ‘technical’ skills, you unlearn key elements that make your work unique?” I love TY so it’s hard to argue with her.
In few words , What is Remi Adetiba’s idea of an ideal woman?
Self-possessed, intelligent, beautiful, confident.
Share some of your challenges as a photographer with us.
Like I said, a lack of value for the work. I don’t question my value, and thus I always say I’d rather eat noodles at home with my dogs, than take a job from a client who doesn’t value my work and wants to pay me as such. Nah, I’m good — I actually really like noodles.
What would you say to budding photographers and those who look up to you specifically?
Know your worth, respect the craft, and don’t try to be everything to everyone. You should aim to be a scalpel, not a Swiss-Army knife. Be the best at your specific area of photography. And of course, I’d thank them for the support.