His pictures most definitely speak loud and clear and at his Anthony Village in Lagos, we at OnoBello.com got a first hand experience of what drives this renowned artist, Kelechi Amadi –Obi.
A dexterous painter and photographer, Kelechi Amadi-Obi studied to become a professional Lawyer, however things took a turn when his passion for the Arts lead him to pursue a career in Photography and Painting.
He boasts of a vast portfolio in Fashion, Corporate Adverts, Achitecture, Places, People and Painting photography and has worked closely with major fashion houses and the media in Nigeria as well as notable celebrities including Oluchi Orlandi, Ojy Okpe, Jay jay Okocha, Richard Mofe-Damijo, P Square, Omotola. Jalade EkeindeTuface Idibia, Genevieve Nnaji, Asa, DBanj, Uche Jumbo and Nike Oshinowo-Soleye.
His unique style, mastery, aesthetics and creative lighting in his paintings have been reinvented in his photography has resulted in dynamic oriented works of arts for his clients.
Kelechi Amadi –Obi has received numerous awards and accolades including the 2004 St.Moritz Style Award for Photography. Also, some of his works have been featured in exhibitions within and outside Nigeria, including 2006 “Snap Judgement” – New Position in Contemporary African Photography, International Centre of Photography, New York, USA, 2005 “Depth of Field” South London Gallery, UK, 2004 “Lagos” Ifa Gallery, Stuttgart, Germany, 2003 “Transferts” Africalia, Brussels, Belgium. In August 2012, his work ‘Whispers From The Sahara’ was exhibited and auctioned at the prestigious Didi Museum in Lagos.
Here’s bringing you our exclusive interview with the self taught artist who shows that drive, determination and hard work will bring about a realization of anyone’s dreams. And to all you budding photographers he has this advise for you, “understand who you are, understand your story people will not respect you until you have a story to tell as an individual”.
OB: At What Point Did You Decide It Was Photography And Not Law?
KAO: It wasn’t even Photography and Law, it was between photography and Art. It was me as an artist right from childhood deciding to do Law. I have always been an artist.
OB: Did you take professional classes for art?
KAO: No, I have always been self-taught.
OB: Did you practise Law at all?
KAO: I wouldn’t call what I did practise. It was during my youth service. While I was in school, I’d decided I was going to be an artist.
OB: Seeing photography wasn’t the money maker when you started, what was your motivation?
KAO: I have always known that whatsoever you do and you do it well enough, money will not be a problem. If you provided certain services and provided it with world class quality, people will always pay you.
OB: But you will agree there was a time it was difficult?
KAO: From the beginning, it’s always difficult
Some of Kelechi Amadi-Obi’s Corporate Adverts Photography Works
OB: Did you get discouraged at any point?
KAO: That’s the problem. The process of creating the work or making the craft is my joy, so whether people where paying me or not, I was engaged in an activity that I thoroughly enjoyed. Hardship is not a deterrent because the job itself has its own satisfaction. I am encouraged because the work I am doing impresses even me.
OB: Where there people you were looking up to at the time?
KAO: Yes but I have often found myself looking beyond the shores of Nigeria. I found myself looking at the likes of Nick Knight, not the money they were making or their lifestyle. I know little about that but I was more interested in creating the kind of work they were making. It became my obsession. Early in life, I have discovered that you cannot be far from prosperity while practising art.
OB: What Can You Call The Highlights Of Your Career Yet?
KAO: The highlights of one’s career happen on a daily basis. For me, it’s one day at a time. There was a time I would set goals and it was achieved so fast that I was left with a vacuum so I had to set bigger goals. For me, it’s a daily struggle.
OB: Has there been any bad day?
KAO: There are always bad days. Life is a combination of designs and accident. You make plans and chance happens but how do you see those bad days. No one ever learns from success, people learn from defeat and failure. It is how many times you have failed that teaches you these are not the good roads and if you study the lives of successful people, you will learn from their mistakes and it makes it easy for you to succeed but with each success, there is always a failure around the corner. The question is do you stay down or do you get up and move on. So if you are talking about stumbling blocks, they present themselves every day.
Some of Kelechi Amadi-Obi’s Fashion Photography Works
OB: What is it like following this line of business?
KAO: It is beautiful. Being a photographer gives you access to people. I also love the magic of it, the story telling, the transformation and the opportunity to determine what people will see in the future so for me, its an honour for me to be doing what I am doing, to be a chronicler of history.
OB: Were you making money then?
KAO: It had nothing to do with money. It was when I was in the university that I realised people wanted to pay me for what I was doing, but all this while, I was working like a jackass. I look at people who say there motivation is to “Hammer”, I say that’s a wrong motivation because you tend to leave the career if you are not making money and by the time you want to get back, you have already lost momentum.
I remember the first time someone wanted to pay me for making a drawing, I was shocked because for me, it was enough for you to tell me it was beautiful but this person wanted to pay me N500; so in school, I began to make money, then I realise the importance of building a brand. I realises if you consistently perform what people considered difficult, people will associate you with a certain quality and that association will become a tangible product. So in 1990 while in school, I created the brand Dezulu. I started signing my name to the posters I created and people started associating Dezulu to a particular quality. So while others were charging N500 to make a poster, I was charging N2,000 and my studio never ran dry of clients. That’s when I realised I will never be hungry.
Some of Kelechi Amadi-Obi’s Celebrity Photography Works
OB: You are always involved in one workshop or the other, what’s the feeling you get in giving back?
KAO: The truth is a teacher learns more by teaching because in the process of impacting knowledge, you are revising what you already know.
Secondly, you are going to learn from the students especially the brilliant ones and thirdly, if you don’t teach them, someone else will and take the credit for doing so.
OB: What are the challenges of organizing these workshops?
KAO: Truth is I don’t organize them, I am always called upon to lecture and I oblige but there will always be challenges.
OB: Are you considering a photography academy?
KAO: Yes, as a matter of fact. I am considering photography academy but just like every other thing I do, I am not arrogant to say because I know certain things in photography, I know how to teach them so right now I am doing my research of the other academy and workshops around the world to see their curriculum so that when you go through my academy, you will have the standard that is obtainable out there.
OB: What other future plan do you have?
KAO: Other future plans? Hmm, interesting! The future is a mystery; I’m a person who lives in the present. I have dreams but they are there to make me happy. I don’t dwell too much on the future, haven said that, Africa needs to wake up to our responsibility to the rest of the world. We have something to add to the world. Our future dream is for us to be able to wake up and turn things around so that Africa become a place people look at and see ingenuity, excellence, beauty and that is what I am working on, one day at a time.
OB: Between painting and photography, which do you love best?
KAO: I enjoy both. Photography is immediate and allow for interaction with lot of people because I’m shooting fashion, Portraits, Adverts, I’m dealing with human beings but what I love about painting is that it allows for solitude And provides the avenue for you to think deeply about who you are. It has a completely different mode that it puts you in.
Some of Kelechi Amadi-Obi’s ‘Whispers From The Sahara’ Works
OB: Your exhibition, ‘Whispers From The Sahara’ what inspired such depth?
KAO: It was an exhibition, which was a function of our expedition from Lagos to London by road. It was a life changing experience for me. Not only did it open my eyes to desertification but also to how awesome Nigeria is compare to other parts of the world. Also to our position as a people in Africa and the world. It open my eyes to our responsibility to the rest of the world. If you are in Nigeria that have the natural resources that she has. She has human resources of over 150million people, then you are in a country that has the potential to be strong as Japan, China. I stand to be corrected but I think Nigeria is the only black country that has the capacity to move beyond 3rd world because of all she possess including elites. So if you are a citizen of such country, you are endowed with immense advantage compared to the rest of the world, so whatever your profession, you have the potential to be the best in the world not just in Africa.
Some of Kelechi Amadi-Obi’s Painting Works
OB: With such large array of clients that range from celebrities to conglomerates, how do you take time off?
KAO: I’m a father of 4 children with a beautiful wife. That’s my second work. So I sometimes help my children out with homeworks.
OB: So You Don’t Have Any Hobbies?
KAO: I love to watch movies and workout.
OB: Does your wife understand and tolerate your workload?
KAO: She is an artist herself, so she thoroughly understands what it entails. She’s also an interior designer. So she understands where I’m coming from.
OB: IF any of your children wants to follow your footstep, will you encourage them?
KAO: For me, I have to watch out to make sure they enjoy it but yes, I will encourage them.
OB: You are also the publisher of StyleMania magazine; tell us what led you to go into such a competitive and money exhausting business like publishing?
KAO: I found out that I’m a fashion photographer. Fashion photography lives in the fashion world. We need that audience so for me; the fashion magazine creates the audience. I woke up one morning and realized that there’s a gap in the industry and I know the fashion designer too must be feeling this way so the magazine comes to fill the vacuum. We have done over 10 editions in one year and people have come to realise the quality will never go down.
OB: Considering the fact that your work has taken you far and wide and you have won numerous awards and accolades, can you say photography and painting in Africa is getting the recognition it deserves abroad?
KAO: You see, recognition is something you have to earn, first recognise yourself then the outside recognition will come naturally. You can’t pursue success, you attract success and recognition will come. This is what we have to do in Africa. Leave the rest of the world, they are doing just fine.
OB: What do you consider the strength and the weakness of the industry?
KAO: Photography in this part of the world is an alien thing, a borrowed technology. People need to be educated about photography. The main problem in photography is photographers don’t recognise how powerful they are, that if they decide not to make any images, the memory of a place, thing will be wiped out. Blogs, billboard will suffer.
OB: What will your advise to upcoming photographers be?
KAO: Understand who you are, understand your story people will not respect you until you have a story to tell as an individual.
OB: Seeing the height you have attained, you must be making money?
KELECHI: Oh well, we get by (Laughs)
OB: What do you do with it?
KELECHI: Invest, put it in a place such that it will work for you but I have realise it pays not to try to live above your means. Be real to yourself. You are not trying to impress anybody. Don’t be on a wild goose chase. A lot of times people have money but become unhappy because they realise the money can’t give them fulfilment.
OB: What Will You like To Be Remembered for?
KELECHI: I will like to leave this earth knowing that it’s a little better as a result of me being in it. If I can achieve that, I think I have tried.
For more information please visit website: www.kelechiamadiobi.com
Share your views, drop or reply comments below