TURNING THE FOCUS ON ỌLÁJÍDÉ AYẸNI: THE MASTER OF ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Architectural photography is a skill meant for the elites. Let's meet one of them

Have you ever seen a picture of an ordinary building on social media and was left impressed with the unique angles and colour schemes it was captured with? Well, that’s the talented handy work of photographers who specialize in the special art of Architecture Photography.

It’s where the focus of the photograph falls on the interiors, exteriors or any element of any building, inclusive of bridges, cityscapes, and other man-made structures. Ordinarily, this all might seem extremely uncomplicated to accomplish with a simple camera, but as I lean against the window in the back of my cosy Uber ride, we pass a very tall and shiny building in the bold metropolis where the subject of this interview lives.

I wonder exactly how I could work a camera to capture the best angles of this building as if it was an Instagram model desperately needing to be seen, perhaps even understood. The task suddenly feels difficult, but from the work I’ve seen from Olajide Ayeni, the ease of what he does baffles me.

From black and white photos of the most run-down structures to making the most boring of architectural feats look stunning and inviting, I know I’m about to meet a master of this unique craft. What I didn’t know was this niche required a good knowledge of the principles of architecture as well as a solid mastery of photography to achieve wonderful results. 

Ọlájídé Ayẹni is based in Lagos. Lost in traffic with congested edifices here and there, built so closely together that I suddenly found myself noticing and comparing the stark differences between them, the interview eventually began hours later with me seated across from Olajide in a popular café, both curious and impressed with his ability to capture all of it. 

The world is finally healing from Covid. Lagos was one of the places which witnessed a high amount of people who were infected with the virus. So how does it feel? A year later, no recent lockdowns. No announcements of high numbers of newly infected people. We survived, right?

I like to think so. The era of Covid was a lot. I knew people who had it. Nothing about what happened a year ago made me happy. There was a lot of pain and suffering around the world, even here in Lagos. But look at us now. We are here: safe. So I feel good, really good, that we can sit across from each other, knowing all we will walk away with is the memory of what I hope will be a good conversation. 

Oh, it definitely will be, but it depends on what you’re willing to tell me about yourself. First and foremost, I want to know the man behind the camera. Who is Olajide Ayeni?

Okay, first you can call me Jide. (A warm laugh). Everybody does, okay? 

ỌLÁJÍDÉ AYẸNI

Okay, Jide. Who are you?

I’m a photographer. What else? (we both laugh this time, but when the chuckles settle, I wait for him to go on). I like to see myself as a rare kind of artist. You won’t find many of us here in Lagos, utilizing the power of photography, film, and written media to tell stories about immovable creatures we build all around us, each with its unique tale. 

I’ve lived most of my life in Lagos. I love this city. It’s home. I even decided to pursue my most important academic pursuits here, graduating from our local university with degrees in architecture and environmental design.

Impressive.

Education is very important. Study to sharpen your God-given talent. There’s no way around it.

How long have you been a photographer? This rare artist frolicking the city of Lagos, taking pictures of building after building? 

I think…almost five years now. Yeah, five years of frolicking the city! I found myself falling in love with photography during a gap period I took after schooling. I bought a camera and began playing around with it. From there, one thing led to the other. 

What made you pick up a camera? 

I honestly don’t remember. Maybe I saw a picture on Instagram and wanted to create something like that. All I know is I’m here now, and the moment I bought the camera, my path was set. 

The Journey So far

Five years in the game, what does photography mean to you

It’s a unique form of storytelling. I’m no different from writers and directors of hit tv shows. How photographs can be used to convey a specific message from a certain period and about a certain group of people is a skill you have to learn. 

Pictures of just a simple room can inform us about people who live there, or lived there, their way of life, social status, and class. That’s the power of a picture. It leaves so much room for imagination. Like a cliffhanger caught behind our lens. 

That’s the power of a picture. It leaves so much room for imagination. Like a cliffhanger caught behind our lens. 

ỌLÁJÍDÉ AYẸNI

Interesting perspective, Jídé. And you can do all of this with your phone too? Many photographers use them right?

Believe it or not, but phones can work magic. It’s reliable, handy, and extremely portable. But if we look at capability, then I prefer the DSLR because of its technical superiority and good focal length to widen and zoom.

I’ll pretend to know what you’re talking about! Okay tell me, why did you choose architectural photography? Are buildings better models than your fellow human beings?

I think it happened because I already had an academic interest in architecture. Over time, I realized it was much easier for me to understand just how to capture edifices more perfectly than I could a man or woman. 

Do you think we need more architectural photographers in Nigeria?

Of course. The more, the merrier. Just be dedicated to the job and love telling stories no matter what the subject of your camera lens happens to be.

Ambitions

I’ll cut right to the chase. Is it lucrative, Jide? Tell us o! Money dey?

When you’re good at what you do, the money will always be there. Getting people to see your work no matter what kind of artist you are is the hard part. 

Tell me about some exhibitions you’ve done and exhibitions in the works.

Let me see. The Maker Lab 2018 Edition 1, ”Here is Home” exhibition for the African Artists’ Foundation is one. Canon Alumni Exhibition 2018, African Artists’ Foundation is another. There are no exhibitions in the works yet, but when there are, I’ll be sure to let you know first.

Closing

After we enjoy a nice lunch, talking about life, Covid, and how the world will never be the same, I decided to walk a bit down busy sidewalks before I order an Uber to my hotel. Each building I observed with keen, curious eyes, suddenly looked like a story waiting to be told. 

Now that you’ve met Ọlájídé and understood what architecture photography is all about, you may have decided it’s a career path you’d like to explore. This resource from ArchDaily is a great way to start, and alongside classes from the “University of YouTube”, you have a shot.

Follow and interact with Ọlájídé on Instagram.


Interviewer: Adeola Adegbite
Editor: Bassey Eyo
Graphic Producer: Harry Ugorji and Mu’azu Jiyah
Website Producer: Akuns Kingsley

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