Mbakaan Kwen studied Mass communication in both her first and second degrees. She obtained her first degree at the Benue State University, Makurdi while her MSc is from the University of Lagos. She is a photographer and in this encounter with STELLAMARIES AMUWA she advises young Nigerians to do their best in whatsoever their hands find doing and never stop dreaming big
What inspired you into full time photography?
I was inspired into photography from my previous job as a news writer for one of the biggest national dailies. While on the job, I noticed readership in Nigeria has gone below what I initially thought but I also noticed people were more attracted to photographs such that picture stories were gaining more viewership and wider coverage than written lengthy articles. Similarly, I observed with recent trends in the world, stories were expressed better with pictures and so I said to myself why not venture into photography and tell which ever story I want rather than writings that may end up at suya stands without anyone or few persons actually reading it? So here I am today telling any story I want via photography.
What have been your challenges so far?
My biggest challenge in photography is buying equipment. Photography is such an expensive profession and you need good gear coupled with skills and creativity to deliver good results. Secondly, some people undermining the profession and unwilling to pay good money for services rendered is another challenge the industry is faced with. You hear statements like “is it not just to snap and edit so why are you calling so much money?” and a lot of unpleasant statements and questions just to demean the profession.
Yes. My regret is the fact that I wasn’t exposed to the world of photography early enough to have started long before now.
What are your fondest childhood memories?
My fondest childhood memories are listening to my father every night for traditional stories. As a child, those stories were scary and unimaginable. Each time I visit home now, I still ask my father to tell me those stories and he’ll just laugh out loud. I will never forget these memories.
Who is your mentor?
I am inspired by a lot of photographers like TY Bello, Kelechi Amadi-Obi both Nigerian photographers, Annie Leibovitz, and Sue Byrce both American female photographers but Paula Brennan an Australian female photographer is my mentor particularly because of the genre of photography she does.
What does fashion and style mean to you?
Fashion and style to me simply means art which is used to communicate events, time, ceremony, religion, culture, profession or anything. That is why there is a fashion/style for everything in life.
What’s your take on the new normal, sticking to facemask at same time staying fashionable?
This is simply a paradigm shift in the fashion world if I must say. The way we appeared before the pandemic wasn’t the same way our fore fathers and mothers did. Nothing in life is constant and so we change with time, space and events. This is our new reality and we have to make it as fashionable as we can. Wearing a face mask doesn’t make you less fashionable and as it stands, we have to embrace it as a new fashion accessory.
What’s your greatest challenge when it comes to measuring up with your professional colleagues?
As funny as this may sound, the challenge here would be keeping up with the most updated photography gear. Like I said earlier, photography is so expensive and trying to keep up with new equipment like some other photographers do is not something I can think of right now and maybe never.
What makes you happy and sweeps you off your feet?
Ah! A cool and romantic candlelight dinner with soul music gets me all year long.
How do you unwind?
I have several ways of unwinding which include hanging out with friends, movies both at the cinemas and at home, chatting and a lot more.
What genre of music do you listen to and why?
I am not stuck with a particular genre of music. I listen to different genres depending on the mood and time of the day.
How would you rate Nigeria in terms of projecting young people for positive impact?
On a scale of 10, I will rate it 6 because this has been a recent development in the last few years and if it continues at how youths are engaged, then everything would change for our dear nation.
What stereotypes do we need to change to encourage more youths to break glass ceiling?
The stereotype I would change to encourage someone would be the fact that some people think other professions are gender specific but that isn’t the case. Every profession is for every gender and anyone can be anything they want to be if you believe in yourself.
Level of impact from the work you have been doing?
I have been able to impact a lot of people in the short time of doing photography particularly girls and women.