The idea of creating something beautiful out of nothing is what made Nigerian Canon Ambassador Emmanuel Oyeleke fall in love with photography. And this photograph of his friend, which explores his quest for simplicity, freedom and self-agency, deliberately defies definition. For him, photography – and life – is about freedom. Freedom to move. Freedom to express yourself. Freedom to evolve.
“Throughout my life, my passions have been ever-evolving. My father is an artist and does sculptures and paintings, and this influenced my artistic abilities. I remember when I was a kid, I removed all the pictures from my parent's wedding album and used the pages to sketch on – I messed up the entire thing! I also loved repairing stuff, finding something that was broken and attempted to make it work again. I took TV sets and radios apart with a screwdriver and tried to put them back together again (not always successfully!). I was curious about everything and wanted to master so many things. During my school years, I learned to play Scrabble and became so invested in it that I ended up doing it professionally and went on to represent Nigeria. I had the opportunity to travel a lot and it was during this time I started documenting my travels through photography. Eventually, I spent the money I had on a camera and knew I wanted to go down the photography route, so I took a workshop and fully immersed myself.
I wanted to continue travelling around the world, taking pictures, but it didn't quite pan out that way. I got an internship with a fashion and portrait photographer and fell in love with how you can create so much with so little. At this point in my life, I was so shy I could hardly stand in front of people to take their pictures or even engage with them. But I realised that I couldn't be this shy person if I wanted to take pictures of people. The camera became a way to overcome and mask my shyness, it brought me confidence, and whenever I'm holding it, it gives me a sort of boldness. I've been a photographer ever since and love how photography has the possibility of serving a higher purpose. So perhaps that makes me an artist.