Own Your Story

Learning to own our narratives and to expose them in our own light is a core mission for us at Tell That Story (TTS). As the African adage, “until a lion learns to write, the narratives will always glorify the hunter” says, the need for the African stories to be told by Africans cannot be over emphasized. It is something that needs our urgent action.

EXPOSED! Was the tag for the third workshop by TTS which played host to the renowned international documentary photographer Andrew Esiebo and Henry Oji of BigH Studios, a well-established fine art-portrait photographer. Both photographers have used their spaces to share our narratives as artists from Africa living in Nigeria.

Esiebo in his first session demystified the philosophy behind his approach to work. He emphasized that the act of observing, taking note of what is relevant, researching the subject or project and a careful planning of the execution are essential ingredients he applies to create his images.

“Every story must have order; a beginning, a middle and an end to make it a thorough story”, he said.

“Having an understanding of the Ws (who, why, where, when, what) of each story/image helps the reflection process needed for storytelling and it ensures we make strong relevant images. For all my projects, I always apply the acronym PACE which stands for portrait, action, close up, and environment as this has helped me get all the needed elements into my projects,” he explained.

We must ensure we are deliberate and consistent in our use of colors, patterns, framing, etc as they give voice to our stories. Every project is enhanced by our daily encounters, needs, and interactions with people. Finding yourself is one other essential tool for making great stories; it governs how we see the world (our vision) and this in turn determines how we create images.

What are relevant stories?

Simple stories of a phenomenon – an observable fact or event, especially as it relates to our social, political, or economic lives have proven to always stand the test of time and resonate with people. Examples of such phenomena include gender issues, climate change, environment, spaces, and food culture, to mention a few.

Esiebo’s second session, saw him use lessons drawn from his personal journey and experience to help guide our pursuit. Worthy of note is a quote he gave: “Your vision is your unique view and not your gear.” Little wonder he didn’t mention his gears and equipment.

On improving our work, he suggested self-criticism and the development of personal projects. Esiebo also said engaging in the regular practice of the art of photography and reading books, especially on other topics aside from our regular photography texts will help us shape our narratives.

He also suggested ways to promote our work including;
1. Creating newsletters to update editors, curators, and gallery owners on our projects
2. Enlarging our network
3. Trading our service for sponsorship
4. Applying for residency
5. Exploring calls for photographers
6. Attending photo festivals

He concluded by saying we must put in commensurate work and produce good works and never allow externalities to determine our success, value, or worth. Good work will always attract the right market.

Moses Akhigbe, a finance expert, shared knowledge of some tools that will help us manage our business account. He said, “In your strength lie your opportunity. Identified weakness taken care of prevents manifestation of threats to the business, and knowing how to manage your books will save your business from failing”.

Final Lap

The last day of the workshop opened with Henry Oji pointing out that the artist’s work by all means is a reflection of themselves. Citing his works as a case study, he listed some adjectives that define his personality, which could be seen well featured in his works.
He said knowledge is good but understanding is better. In understanding, you are able to express knowledge. Gaining understanding begins by asking ourselves questions: Who am I? Why do I shoot what I shoot? What am I saying about my work? What are the repeating patterns in my work? What inspires me?

“We are image creators and artists who define what our images mean or stand for”, he said. Emphasis was laid on research, training, and experimentation. Constant practice was not left out in his discussion.
He concluded by saying we should shoot how it feels not just how it looks. The workshop rounded up with a hands-on shoot session that involved the whole class.


The usual things people expect to gain from workshops are technical-related topics. For a change, it was good to not be bored with the technicalities of the craft. Andrew Esiebo’s works consistently resonate with ingenuity that inspires photographers to shoot their truth. The impact of his sharing would not be forgotten in the near future…Osahon Evbuomwan

One of the most striking lessons I’m taking from Andrew is the PACE approach to photography – Portrait, Action, Closeup, and Environment. This sums up how I should achieve my images.
On the other hand, BigH demystified everything that has been a challenge to me in photography, ranging from thought process to execution of one’s thoughts of images to be made. In fact, I had to unlearn, learn and relearn in order to grasp all he taught so I can be a better image/ photo creator. In all honesty, what I paid for this training measures up in no way to the content I received. And YES!!!! I would give anything to have this experience over and over again. No regrets whatsoever… Tamara Dainspecta

EXPOSED! Was very revealing! Imagine that in a space of three days, I got to meet, interact and learn from some great photographic minds and just amazing human beings in general. The experience was next to none. Experiences like that gotten from Tell That Story’s ‘Exposed! Workshops’ are rare, to say the least.
It is great to see and feel the passion others have for photography. It was an amazing experience and I am more than glad I was in attendance. I think beyond learning about the creativity and business of photography, a key takeaway for me was the emphasis on the need for character, personality, perseverance, and an understanding of who you are as an individual…Rosemary Osuya, TheBlackScribbler

This text is a summary of the workshop, EXPOSED! organized by TellThatStory and it is written by Edgar Imafidon and Babawale Obayanju