Young photographer with a mission
By Ozolua Uhakheme
Assistant Editor (Arts)
Emily Nkanga, 21, is one of the few young Nigerians with a strong passion to excel using photography as a launch pad. Nkanga, who studied TV and Film at the American University of Nigeria, Yola, Adamawa State capital, urged Nigerian youths to engage in meaningful enterprise instead of waiting for the elusive white collar jobs. She also tasked the youths to use the social media positively and make good money from it.
The young photographer, filmmaker and Chief Executive of Emily Nkanga Photography, said she drew much inspiration from everyday activities and fine art. Last year, she undertook the documentation of the plight of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the northeast. She also initiated a concept titled: “Keep Hope Alive” – which gave back to the community a percentage of cost of her photographs sold.
But her recently published book entitled: The caged and the free spirited, revealed her story telling talent, using images to pass strong messages. The book, a product of her personal experiences in relationship, contains mainly photographs of a model and quotations that reflect two extreme sides- a soul in bondage and a freed one. But, it is also spiced with darkness, tears, pain, colourful ambience and smiles.
She said as a photographer her aim is to to convey messages apart from knowing the technicalities of taking pictures. She said people should not just see images and scroll, but should be able to relate to them. “It wasn’t just enough to connect with people on a personal level I needed something that would actually connect to people. So, there was a time when I had a personal experience. This book was done from a personal experience,” she added.
She continued: “The book also reveals that lots of people go through challenges, but because they smile, one is tempted to believe such persons and do not have deep stories to share.”
Speaking during a chat with The Nation in Lagos, she said choosing photography as a career is very challenging because you don’t want to repeat the same creative idea all over again. “If not, it will get boring and people will get tired of it. So, if you have about 10 clients, you need to create 10 different ideas for them. Interestingly, my major clients are in the music industry maybe because that is where I started off,” she said.
Though she wanted to be a cinematographer, she believed that a good photographer is capable of being a great cinematographer. So, instead of going into films, she chose to start with photography. According to her, when she eventually becomes a cinematographer, she would have great experience from photography.
Nkanga is not a stranger to the entertainment industry. At an early age, her mother introduced her to the church choir where she played the clarinet.
“I was actually in an orchestra. But it was more of an all-women gospel orchestra in a Redeemed Christian Church. It was mostly elderly women, but my mother drafted me in,” she recalled.
When asked what attracted her to movies or films, she said: “It is an art. Basically, my foundation is to tell stories. If you check most of my projects, there has to be a story. I can’t just say I am putting out images; there has to be a story behind it. So, for me it is just like storytelling and the ability to tell the stories is what inspires me towards filmmaking.”
Undaunted by the teething challenges of the Nollywood, Nkanga described Nollywood as a success story, although she agreed that it could be better. “In fact, Nollywood has improved. I watched some of the new age movies and I told myself that there is hope. In fact, hope is here. But, I think apart from proper technology, it also has to do with proper training. People feel they can go ahead with something without wanting to go the extra mile. But modern filmmakers know their onions and are seeking to improve,” she added.