Emmanuel Arewa: Fashion and Photojournalism, Best of Both World

Davido, Runtown, Yemi Alade, 9ice, Omotola Jolade to name just a few of the celebrities he has lensed.  At 31, Emmanuel Arewa undoubtedly counts among the sure talents the Nigeria/Africa photography scene has to offer. AfroXel has the opportunity to discuss with him.

Hello Emmanuel, your Instagram handle is Spotlightpi, what does that mean?
It is just a social media acronym. It is Spotlight Photos & Imagery. I felt it would be too long for audience, I then decided to put it as "spotlightpi"

Oh, great! So, can you introduce yourself to our readers?
My Name is Emmanuel Arewa, Creative Director/Head Photographer @Spotlight Photos & Imagery. I also double as a Freelance International Photojournalist/Documentary Art with Agence France Presse (AFP). I am 31 years old.

Is spotlightpi your company?
Yes, I founded Spotlight Photos & Imagery.

Fashionita by Emmanuel Arewa

#Sochic | @EmmanuelArewa

Tell us a little bit about your story with photography, how did it start?
Many years ago, as a kid, I loved to draw but I lost that passion due to the negligence of my parents. They were not paying attention to it. Then, when I was a teenager, I got a film camera I was using to take pictures of my friends in school, but I had to give it out. Seven years later, in 2009, the person I gave my film camera to back then, traveled to the UK and bought me a Canon Powershot Digital Camera. That is the reason why we are having this interview today.

And ever since you have been taking pictures? Where did you learn the art?
Yes, I have been making images. I started learning on my own via the internet. I could only afford the 10pm - 5am plan from my Internet provider. So, I had sleepless nights watching tutorials, reading articles and studying other photographers work. Much later I decided to take it further. I enrolled into the Nigerian Institute of Journalism to Study Photojournalist. It was a Certificate Course organized by World Press Photo, Netherland.

That is how you came to photojournalism? 
Yes.

Marie by Emmanuel Arewa

#WhiteBeauty | @EmmanuelArewa

This aspect does not really appear on your Instagram feed, does it?
No, it doesn't. I take it more personal. Nevertheless, when you google my name you will see a lot on Photojournalism.

We noticed you almost exclusively shoot women and that you seem more inclined to fashion photography, are you?
Hahahaha! Not exclusive. But imagine a world of fashion without women, inventions like makeup, human hair & perhaps some fabrics may never had existed.

So, fashion photography is more like for the fun?
It is fun and beyond. You can use fashion to tell stories. Fashion photography is Influence. Influence is dominion, dominion is power. So, for me it is beyond fun.

Is it power then?
Sure, it is. Fashion photography is a powerful tool. People jump on trend based on what they see without using guns or arms.

When you grab your camera, what are you looking for in a shoot?
Something new and different. A statement that can compete with International standard.

Up side down fashion by Emmanuel Arewa

#UpSideDownFashion | @EmmanuelArewa

You early talked about photographers whose work you were studying. Can you remember some names?
Marius Budu, Henry Cartier Bresson, Mario Testino, Hakeem Salaam, Jean Paul Goude to name just a few. If you check out these guys, you would understand where I am coming from.

What is the most difficult part in being a photographer?
In this part of the world many factors are against being a "Successful Photographer". Less creative appreciations, clients, struggle to get affordable gears due to exchange rate.

How do you overcome those challenges?
Sometimes it is hard to fight for yourself. However, we are doing the best we can to educate the public.

Is there a message you try to pass through your images?
I have different images with different messages. However, I create some images just for the sake of appreciating beauty, art and creativity.

Where do you get your inspiration?
The only source I can trace it to, is God.

Motherhood by Emmanuel Arewa

#MotherLuv | @EmmanuelArewa

Can you tell us a little about your portfolio? People or companies you have worked with, major achievements, rewards if any.
Not too much. I have worked with all the major magazine in Nigeria such as Allure Magazine by Vanguard, Life Magazine by The Guardian, ThisDayStyle by ThisDay, TW magazine, GlamAfrica etc. I have also worked with virtually all the top designers in Nigeria directly or indirectly. I lensed some of Nigeria's finest entertainment personalities like 9ice, Davido, Runtown, Yemi Alade, Omotola Jolade, Chidinma, Chigul & many more.
My journalistic works have been seen on international platforms like The Guardian UK, Dailymail.com, New York Times, MSNBC, Afripol, Google News, Yahoo News, BBC, etc.
Awards in Fashion I guess that will come soon. As for journalism I got awarded on merit by Nigeria's Media Merit Awards in 2014.

If you were to share an exhibition with another photographer and could select any of your choice, which one would you choose? Why?
Never thought of this. But I will pick Mario Tesino. I think we think alike. We both have a style but can be very unpredictable. I like that about him.

If you are asked today, photojournalism or fashion?
Both! They both pay bills and I find fulfilment in both.

Nigeria or International?
International! That is my Dream.

Marie style by Emmanuel Arewa

#Fashionita | @EmmanuelArewa

When people say, "men become photographers because of the girls" what is your answer?
For me, NO! From my story you can tell that I didn't just choose photography, photography also chose me.

Any advice for a beginner in photography?
I will tell him that creating great images demands passion which I did not mention above. So,
passion, God, perseverance, studying other creatives works (not only photographers).

What project are you working on actually?
I have a few but may not be able to share coz they are not up 50% accomplished.

Thank you, Emmanuel.

You can check Emmanuel's work on Instagram, Facebook or visit his website

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