For many who don’t know the satisfaction one can derive from photography, Bolaji Alonge has taken his passion for photography and art to a whole new level. In this interview with LEADERSHIP, he bares his mind on the industry and is required to succeed
Can you tell briefly about yourself?
Bolaji Alonge is a photographer, actor and journalist from Lagos, Nigeria with more than a decade of experience in documenting history and showing beauty where it is least expected, by using photography and journalism. I have been a stage actor from my UNILAG years and feature in several TV series since 1999 (Oga Landlord, Being Farouk, My Flatmates, among others).
How did you get into Art and photography?
My father was a photographer and from childhood we (my brother and I) were always in the dark room with him. That’s an experience that sticks- seeing the washing, clippings of photo films, red, bright light. That was really funky for me. Playing with cameras from childhood led to studying Mass Communication at the University of Lagos, to always taking the camera with me everywhere I go, capturing experiences to share.
How would you describe the Art industry in Nigeria
The experience has been enlightening and vibrant, the Nigerian art scene really started booming in the last years, with more people appreciating the art of photography and ready to paygood money for creations – at least before this lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tell us briefly about your Eyes of a Lagos Boy project
The Eyes of a Lagos Boy project is about documenting history, people desire to be informed and getting a peek into the past. People want to learn. It is about showing the beauty of Nigeria, through my photography, writings and art. Eyes of a Lagos Boy is about creating awareness of our history as a people. Photography has proven to be a great way of preserving history. I present my work through art exhibitions, I regularly publish on my website www.eyesofalagosboy.com and in the press.
What other projects have you worked on and how has been your experience
Eyes of a Lagos Boy is involved in the Epe coastal communities project in Lagos, calling for attention for people who are cut off from the rest of us by water hyacinths, without access to potable water and proper health care. I also teach kids photography in schools, as it is important to look out for young talents and those really interested in photography. I have also collaborated with the Silent Majority project, teaching inmates of Kiri-Kiri Maximum Security Prison photography, a course that ran for several months in 2018.
What’s the major challenge for an aspiring professional going into photography
A major challenge is getting the camera that does the job and cameras are not cheap. I always encourage whoever loves to take photos to use what they have (your phone), the camera on your phone can do magic if you stay still and are well positioned.
What special difference do you bring into your work
I bring adventure into my work, I show beauty, action and reality, underwater photos and experience from the oceans. I have shown my culture and people to the world. The story never stops.
What are your plans for the future. What would you like to do different
My upcoming exhibition is a collaboration with Olusola Otori, bringing together photography, video documentary and painting.“Beautiful Disaster” is dedicated to the people of the Lagos lagoon and set to take place at Didi Museum in Lagos. We are waiting for the post lockdown era to share it with the world.
We are looking at ways we can support these riverine communities, using art and photography as an instrument to defend their human rights. Working with the right partners is essential for the success of any project, and we are building a strong network to make this project meaningful and relevant.
Do you think government is doing enough to promote art in the country
The government is trying its best to support the arts, but should do more to support the structures that encourage arts. Freedom Park, in the heart of Lagos Island serves as a recreational area for youths who now have a protected and enabling environment to express their arts. The park is owned by Lagos State government. The government should create more Freedom Parks around the state and country.
Do you think art can help address youth unemployment?
Art has been a great escape for many Nigerians. Our arts now speak for us around the world. Music, paintings, photography and Nollywood have been amazing assets. The art sector can be a source of employment for many more. With support to enable youth to express themselves and the further development of the art market in Africa and access to global markets thanks to the internet, this can be achieved.