Lagos, Nigeria cannot be described in a single word. This enormous city—and the continent’s most populous—is a fast-moving, never-stopping metropolis that houses both the super rich and the super poor. It’s a city just as famous for its music scene as it is for its exploding arts scene, and Lagos has become a hub for tech startups in recent years—and if that’s not enough, maybe one of the dozen white sandy beaches around the city will charm your socks off.
To get a true glimpse of Lagos, one only has to look to multimedia journalist Samuel Okocha who has been documenting the city streets with candid shots of the people of this ever changing city.
For three years, Samuel says he “traversed the streets of Lagos capturing the unique moments of residents looking for money, eking out a living and trying to enjoy the gift of life.”
Samuel’s street photography has been turned into a book that has just been released, titled From Nobody To Somebody: A Journalist's Lagos Diary. Inside features a personal essay and more than 90 images of the streets of Lagos.
We had the opportunity to speak with Samuel Okocha about his background in photography and his new book on Lagos…
Q&A with Samuel Okocha
When did you start street photography and what do you look for when taking a photo?
I started out doing some subtle form of street photography during my early days as a news reporter working for online platforms. Then, the photos were mainly to complement the texts of my reports for the web. But I became really conscious and active in 2015. That year was when I discovered myself as a street photographer and became really active photo-shooting on the streets almost every day.
When taking a photo, I look out for scenes, people and emotions that speak to me. I have to feel something. Once that happens, I literally go on a shooting spree, capturing as much as I can of the fleeting moments.
Do you have a favorite photo from your new book?
That’s a pretty difficult question to answer because it wasn’t easy making choices on the images that made the book. That meant I picked from a pool of favorite photos and had to remove images that I felt didn’t fit into the bigger picture story of the book. So, that said, it’s hard to pick out a photo as favorite. I love all the images for the varying feelings they evoke.
Tell us about your new book and what we can expect from it.
My new book is a visual statement on everyday life in Lagos which is home to more than 20 million people hustling to make a living. The tension arising from that pursuit is what the book seeks to show.
The book features over 90 images from three years of photo-shooting between 2015 and 2018, capturing unique and candid moments of everyday people in public spaces. These moments have been assembled in the book.
With an introductory written essay, the book, through its images, takes the reader right into the streets of Lagos with each photo telling a unique story. Readers holding the book should expect to feel the tension, energy and passion for life in Lagos.
Do you have any plans to shoot street photography in other cities?
Absolutely. I am looking forward to shooting in other cities. I have done some street photography in a few cities within Nigeria and Uganda. But I would love to shoot, on an intensive level, in more cities across Africa and come out with an interesting body of work. I am working towards that.
Rachel Ruiz-Oakley is the Managing Editor of Slide Night.