LEADERSHIP Books & Arts spoke to George Osodi on one of his recent projects, Orphans of Boko Haram, which highlights the existence of children whose parents died in the heat of the Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria.
The internationally recognised artist, whose works depict positive and negative socio-economic and political aspects of the Nigerian society, found these children scattered in villages in Yola and Maiduguri States, while shooting the ravaged trail of Boko Haram in the northeast.
“Some of these smart but orphaned children are living with village chiefs or friends of their deceased parents. You find about 20 of them living with a village chief, and about two or three with other families. They live a life of uncertainty, with no clue of what the future holds for them. The situation calls for immediate solution,” Osodi sadly stated.
By making their portraits, Osodi hopes to draw society’s attention and aid to them. In a more organised system, the children would be found new homes to live in, with some semblance of stability if not normality of their old lives. Their present circumstance, Osodi says, indicates the wide gap between Nigeria’s governance and the governed; the lacuna between the passion to govern and to govern properly.
“Unfortunately, our leadership is still far away from the people. It is high time we began to form better relationships and coherence between the leaders and the people,” Osodi tasked society.
Speaking of his projects, the photo artiste says an emotional and spiritual attachment determines his picking his works, not a calculated pitch. Accounting for his works, which have appeared on foreign media houses like New York Times, among others, Osodi admits, “For me, it is about my first love for that project, the need to do it, so the world can know about that situation, and an idea of how the project was accomplished. If in the process of dissemination, foreign agencies or media see it, and indicate interest to use it, we negotiate on cost. This is how it spreads from one medium or place to another, so long as the work is good.”
“The biggest way to market yourself is through a good work. It requires some level of discipline, timing, patience and knowledge, your ability to apply what you know, to convince people you can do your work well,” he advised younger artistes.
He is also open to working with the younger generation artistes, a demography he believes he has much to learn from as they churn out modern technologies in his profession. Although, the world he knew is changing in the way people make and view images, he believes there is enough blue sky for everyone to fly in.
“Population is continuously exploding, from which we each, in our different areas of photography, street, event, photo journalism, fashion etc, cater to. As photographers living in our part of the world, we have ample opportunities and materials to capture.”
“Photography has become a major source of employment for Nigerians and most of the globe. Trained or untrained, we cannot deny many Nigerians have picked up the camera and are making good living out of it. Yet, most institutions of learning don’t have photography as a full course of study; laws to protect photographers, their intellectual property and their gears (particularly photo-journalists) are hardly implemented, and security agencies manhandle photographers in the field,” he laments.
But times are changing, as we have younger entrants in photography, and people become more educated and aware of photography. “As security personnel train their personnel on public and human relations, people learn to respect the professional space of photographers, we see reduced harassment to photographers, but much work needs to be done to protect the lives and works of photographers in Nigeria and Africa,” the artiste concludes.