‘Days of Dorcas’ competition fuels revolution in photography

‘Days of Dorcas’ competition fuels revolution in photography

That a revolution has without mincing words, began in the photography space in Nigeria with regards to women, is not in doubt, what with the changing

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That a revolution has without mincing words, began in the photography space in Nigeria with regards to women, is not in doubt, what with the changing narrative that is already taking place via the ‘Days of Dorcas’ photography competition, a project which already held its inaugural edition this past week, with plans to make it an annual affair. Besides creating awareness of what photography can be used to achieve, the primary goal of project ‘Days of Dorcas,’ is to find, nurture and support young budding female photographers to enhance their career in visual arts and photography.

A brain child of foremost African financial institution, Guaranty Trust Bank plc, ‘Days of Dorcas’ photography competition, is part of the bank’s Art635 Gallery initiative aimed at promoting arts and supporting African artists.

With only a handful of women making their mark in the photography space, compared to their counterparts in other developed economies, it became imperative to have a platform, (or project if you will) through which women can be encouraged to not only embrace every opportunity for self expression through photography, but to also learn how to make a living off their skills, regardless of cultural prejudices peculiar to our environment.

However, it is one thing to love photography and another to earn a living off it. A lot of people think that a love for photography and enthusiasm is what makes for a thriving photography business. The days of having just immense talents of looking through a lens for the most magnificent angles is not sufficient enough to make one successful in the industry today or be reckoned with.

This is where the experts come in.  Each with at least over 10 years of experience and all earning a living off their skills, the quintet made up of Bénédicte Kurzen, documentary and journalism photographer; TY Bello, photographer; Jumoke Sanwo, video art and virtual reality artist; Yetunde Ayeni-Babaeko, photographer and Uche Okpa-Iroha, curator and photographer, were responsible for teaching 25 carefully selected female participants, all under the age of 35, the art and the business side of photography.

Workshop facilitators; Benedicte Kurzen, TY Bello, Uche Okpa-Iroha, Jumoke Sanwo and
Yetunde Ayeni-Babaeko

The week long workshop was all about breaking it down to the basics, helping each participant determine their area of core competence, how to go about developing it etc.  The workshop culminated into a competition of some sorts where participants made presentations to the facilitators/judges on what they were most passionate about. Quite a number of the participants stood out with the subjects of their presentation.

Odunayo Funmilola with a presentation titled ‘I want my father’s love and not electoral love,’ depicted the menace of incest using imageries of a father who lusted after his daughter.

Atinuke Ibrahim with the presentation she titled ‘Putting the sister back in sisterhood’ showed why it is important for women to support each other, using imageries of female local fish sellers who bonded like sisters at the market place and didn’t see the need to be competitive despite the fact that they sold the same thing at the same place.

Sonayan Thomas took the religious route with her presentation titled ‘The Proverbs 31 woman’ where she highlighted the distinct characteristics of a virtuous woman as opposed to the equality, feminism beliefs currently being championed.

Gloria Ukata confessed that she had a re awakening during the workshop. She had arrived as a budding beauty photographer only to have her views changed based on all she learnt. Little wonder she titled her presentation, ‘My journey to self discovery’.

One very profound presentation was by a young lady who preferred to remain anonymous. Hers was on ‘Body Positivity’. She had photographs of herself back when she used to cut up herself as a way of expressing her emotions. Thankfully she found healing and is in her place of Zen.

Even though these presentations made an impression on me, they however didn’t make the judges’ choice. They of course knew better and had things they were looking out for in each one’s presentation.  And so Gloria Ekpu, a journalist, emerged winner with her presentation on ‘Crunching Above Weight’ while Favour Ogundimu, a student emerged runner up with her presentation on Death. Both were given photographic equipment to help further their passion.

Grace Ekpu and Favour Ogundimu

The workshop/competition may have ended but it is only just the beginning for the participants who will undergo a period of mentorship with their facilitators. They get to learn more about the craft, focusing on their area of core competence, have the benefits of the facilitators’ contacts and networks and learn the business side of photography. They will hopefully also get placements into some platforms that will give them that much needed exposure like the Lagos Photo Festival, the Lagos Photo Range, Bamako Festival etc. for that needed visibility to enable them penetrate into the art market.  After all what is skill if it doesn’t work for you?