Oladayo Adebayo, fondly known as Dayo Adebayo, is one of the leading Nigerian professional photographers, who set the pace over 30 years ago. He grew up in South Western Nigeria where he had his secondary education at Ijebu Ife Community Grammar School, Ijebu Ife, Ogun State and University of Ife (Now Obafemi Awolowo University). He studied General Agriculture before proceeding to the United Kingdom to study Photography in Westminster College and the University of Westminster. He started his professional career in the United Kingdom as social and portraiture photographer but he has since transformed into documentary and landscape photographer, devoting his life to documenting Nigeria.
He started the journey in 2003 and has never looked back, traversing one end of the country to another photographing different images of the country and historic events, making him one of the most prolific photographers of his time. He has a number of works adorning different parts and things in the country, including the international passport, and with 10 pictorial books on Nigeria to his name.
Dayo Adedayo’s sojourn in the world of photography started on an innocuous note and he embraced it with a child-like candour. He has over the years travelled across different parts of the world, dining and wining with the high and mighty while etching such fleeting moments, including capturing scenic images, historic events, monuments and imageries of all sorts through the lens of his camera. It is not surprising that he introduces himself anywhere as simply as a photographer. ‘‘I am a photographer and I have been doing this for 31 years.
It is all I do and all I know. I sleep, eat and drink photography. I have been a photographer all my life; from the age of 18 this is all that I have been doing.’’ But it all started when on his 18th birthday his sister gave him a camera as a gift. ‘‘Photography started on my 18th birthday, when my sister, Mrs. Adedoyin Bejide, gave me a camera. Those long cameras,’’ he recalls. He got fascinated by it as it became a part of his life, taking it along with him wherever he went and capturing all sorts of images and scenes with it even while in school.
Becoming a professional photographer
At the time he decided on the profession, it was not a fanciful thing for anyone of his age especially in London when he could have become anything else but certainly not a photographer. As fate would have it, he lost his father at the tender age of seven and his mother whom he said is not lettered did not oppose his choice of career. According to him: ‘‘I don’t have that kind of family upbringing where you want to do something and someone will say no you can’t do it. No, we just do what we have to do.’’ But even at that, he didn’t have it easy with some of his friends who sneered at him for choosing a lowly rated profession.
‘‘But my friends were very cynical, saying, what is this? He never bowed to their pressure but stuck to his guns and conviction, as he tells you that: ‘‘I am very strong headed, you have to convince me beyond reasonable doubt for me to change my mind on anything that I want to do. ‘‘It is the only thing that I know, it has caused me so much stress, so much pains, so much agonies, so much nightmares and emotional trauma because there are times when you will not know where the next meal will come from. ‘‘There are times things are not just going your way but in all, at my age, now I know that if you persevere at the end of the day it pays off.’
My first job
His introduction to the world of professional photographer in 1988 after his graduation from school in England was an editorial job he did for a company. According to him, it was an exciting job and since then he has never looked back. ‘‘The first job I did after my studies was actually an editorial job for a company in United Kingdom to photograph the management team. It was quite serene and I said now I am in the real world, let the game begin. It was quite interesting and when I got my pay cheque I was really happy.’’
Ovation Magazine changed my life
Perhaps the defining moment of his life and career was between 2002 and 2007 when he worked with Ovation Magazine published by Dele Momodu. He recalls with nostalgic feeling and excitement how he worked closely with the magazine, touring different parts of the world, with particular reference to the 2002 edition on ‘See Dubai and Die’, which according to him, was the bestselling edition of the magazine. No wonder he tells you that Ovation Magazine changed the dynamics of his life and career, as it was his break in life and window to the world. ‘‘Ovation changed my life completely.
With Ovation I travelled the world free of charge. Between 2002 and 2007, I travelled business class, I slept in five star hotels and even in Nigeria I was quartered in the best hotels. ‘‘My lucky break, and I am not ashamed to say it, was through Ovation. Because in life, no matter how big you are there is always a lucky break. ‘‘In the era of Ovation, the magazine was the social media and, in a way, it made me and I will be eternally grateful to Otunba Dele Momodu.’’
Establishing a foothold in Nigeria
After over a decade in United Kingdom plying his trade as a professional photographer, Adedayo decided to return to his fatherland; this was in 2006 when photography as an enviable profession was still at it nadir. It was something that was not reckoned with as it has become today. Was he afraid returning home? ‘‘Not at all. I didn’t entertain any fears when I came back,’’ he says. Aside his patriotic fervour, he says, ‘‘I saw the opportunities. Nigeria is still on ground zero in terms of photography and if anybody comes in today, into that profession, that person will make a lot of inputs.’’ However, by dint of hard work and lucky breaks, he stayed focused, attracting attention to his craft in a very enduring and commanding manner, to the extent that today he is rated as one of the best professional photographers in the country. He has earned for himself a pioneer status, as he describes himself as ‘John The Baptist,’ paving the way for others.
Nigeria is world best kept secret
For him, he sees Nigeria as the best kept secret of the world despite its many challenges. ‘‘Nigeria is the best kept secret in the world. I lived outside the country for so many years and I know what it is like outside the country. Yes, we have challenges, no doubt about it. But those challenges as far as I am concerned are business opportunities.’’ It is no wonder then that he has thrived despite those challenges, as he says that the Nigerian environment provided opportunity for him to establish himself. ‘‘You can be in Nigeria and become the president of Nigeria and change the society. ‘‘I am a photographer, just a photographer and you can’t mention 10 photographers in Nigeria today and I will not be there, it is absolutely impossible. I must have inspired a lot of people to say, oh! If Dayo Adedayo can do this I can do better.
Becoming Mr. Nigeria
Years after settling in the country, he changed his focus from social photography and portraiture to taking stuck photographs. According to him, ‘‘I saw there was no future in it and it was a very right decision that I took. ‘‘I started taking stuck pictures. Before coming back to Nigeria and even up till tomorrow, there isn’t much visuals, both still and moving, images on Nigeria.’’ With this discovery, Adedayo turned the angle of lens on Nigeria’s landscape as he started documenting various images of the country. This, he says is inspired by the fact that there is a lack of images about Nigeria while ‘‘the world is desirous to see Nigeria as the largest black nation in Africa. ‘‘There is no local government in Nigeria today that I haven’t been to,’’ he says, even as he describes “Nigeria as the best secret in the world.’’ You can understand perfectly when he tells you that he is ‘Mr. Nigeria.’ This can hardly be disputed because he has spent most part of his career documenting the country and its people from different perspectives. To his credit, he has 10 pictorial books on Nigeria, with his first publication in 2009. Some of the titles include: Tour Nigeria; Nigeria; Lagos State – The centre of excellence; Ogun State – The Gateway state; Nigeria the magical; Enchanting Nigeria; Nigeria 2.0; Rivers State – our proud heritage and Yoruba proverbs.
The best of Nigeria is yet to be seen by the world
The one reason why Adedayo decided on pictorial documentation of Nigeria, he says, is because a lot has been written about the country but the world is yet to see the best of the country’s images, hence he is telling the story of the country through his lens. ‘‘It is pictorial because there is nothing that I want to write on Nigeria that no one has never written. But there are pictures that no one has never seen on Nigeria and I can give you several examples that will blow people’s minds,” he says.
Living beyond my dreams
Certainly, Adedayo is quite overwhelmed by the extent of his works and achievements as well as the recognition and accolades that keep coming his way. He says: ‘‘Honestly, they are all beyond my dreams. There are mails I receive and they blow my mind. Today (The day of the interview) I received one where a lady said, ‘Mr. Dayo, thank you for showing the rest of the world our civilisation. ‘‘At times it brings tears to my eyes. I will say that I have been more than honoured by Nigeria and it gives me more impetus to do more for Nigeria because the Nigerian passport, which everybody carries today flying all over the world, carries my work. ‘‘What more honour do I need? Nobody will give me that opportunity anywhere else in the world. I can only get that in my country. I was the official photographer to the Federal Government of Nigeria for years and I still am.’’
The most photographed image in Lagos
‘‘I will say is the Lekki/Ikoyi Link Bridge. It used to be the National Theatre.’’ On what should be the appropriate pictorial representation of Lagos: ‘‘To me, it should be the three white cap chiefs, if you are looking at a representation of Lagos State.” Iconic images of Nigeria There are two things that stand out for me in Nigeria: Lekki/ikoyi Link Bridge and Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library in Abeokuta. The library is the first presidential library outside America and it is the 14th in the world. If you look at the content, what is inside and you are a student of history and politics, you will doff your hat for Olusegun Obasanjo. The most expensive photograph taken by him He may not be able to point to the most challenging job that he has done over the years, as he says that the difference is just the terrain. However, he reveals that the most expensive job he has done was in Abeokuta, Ogun State. ‘‘The most expensive photograph that I have taken in my life was in Ogun State where I have to clear everywhere because the place was messed up. ‘‘This is something that should be a national heritage but just messed up. Itesi, the first hospital in Nigeria. It took me two days to clear the place.’’
Excitement of the job
The most exciting aspect of his profession is meeting people and learning daily from his various encounters: ‘‘People, different people. You learn every day; you meet different people every day. We are different and you don’t box yourself into a corner.’’
Anambra people are the best in Nigeria
Having travelled extensively within the 774 local government areas of the country, Mr. Nigeria should be able to give a valid opinion on Nigerians and this he does as he tells you that Anambra people are among the best Nigerians that he has come across. ‘
I have had a great life
No matter what anyone may say and the rough road he has come in his life’s sojourn, Adedayo is contented, as he says that he has had a great life. ‘‘I have had a great life. I told my wife that when I die they should play Frank Sinatra, ‘My Way.’ I have lived my life the way I want to live it. I have seen sunrise, I have seen sunset, I have seen deserts, and I have seen lush green forests across the places. ‘‘I have seen beautiful women, I have seen handsome men, I have seen beautiful people, and I have had the best foods. I have been to the best hotels in the world all because of my profession. I have slept in too many five star hotels and the worse hotels like the one I told you of in Gembu. ‘‘Without being a photographer, would I have been able to see all these things? I doubt it. If I have to, I might have to pay for them. To me, it is the best profession in the world. I thank God and I thank my sister, who didn’t know what she was sowing then.
‘‘I thank the friends that I had and I thank my wife and children because I am never at home. I travel a lot. All in all, it is a very beautiful profession to be in because I have seen virtually everything that people pay money to see. I have seen the longest cave in Nigeria, I have been to the deepest cave in Nigeria and I have seen so many water bodies in Nigeria.”
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