If you have ever wondered what the spirit of the Nigerian “youth” is, what keeps a burgeoning crowd of unemployed, frustrated, angry young people at bay, sane and engaged, the answers are simple. They have taken their future into their own hands. Nollywood and the Nigerian music industry have grown at an immense pace without support from the government. As a matter of fact, all the conditions suggest the Nigerian youth should be a failure, yet they are an inspiration to the rest of Africa. Against all odds, we have seen D’banj, Tuface, and Whizkid among others become international superstars because their works stand out.

However, Nollywood and the Nigerian music industry are not the only indicators of a bright future for these youths. Internationally known, locally respected photographers like Kelechi Amadi-Obi, Jide Alakija, Emeka Okereke have lead the blazing trail for an industry that has seen a massive surge in activities and creativity. Alas, being able to afford a DSLR doesn’t a photographer make, some would argue. Young photographers like Obi Somto have allowed their works do the talking. There is so much to prove, to set you apart from the herd, and crazy, fun, intelligent, quirky Obi certainly stands out. He has shot President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Tuface, Asa, Saeon, Ayo, Kel, Ice Prince, Ramsey Nouah, Dr Sid, Ice Prince, Brian (ex Mr Nigeria), Eva, Desmond Elliot, Sound Sultan, Banky W, MI, and Ruggedman, to name a few.

The “superhuman from Venus” is a Banking and Finance Graduate of Babcock University and has been taking pictures professionally for about 2 years. He also says he is not just a photographer but a retouch specialist, an amazing photoshopper. Daily Times’ Olushola Aromokun and Damilola Solomon sat down with Obi to get the method behind the madness.

Excerpts below:

Obi Somto, Onyinye Fafi-Obi, Kelechi Amadi-Obi, family? friends? What’s the connection?

I think it is creativity…Onyinye is a stylist, not a model, even though she’s modeled for me on personal projects. She is a very interesting person, creative.

Oh, so she does all your styling jobs?

Not all, I work with different people. I do a lot of personal jobs with Onyinye though; personal fashion shoots…

Like the Elsie Vintage series…

Yes, like the Elsie Vintage shoot.

Do you choose your stylist based on the project?

I actually don’t choose the stylist if it’s commercial work, but if it’s personal work, then obviously… I’ll have everything in my head, what I want, and choose the stylist

Oh, so the client chooses?

The client chooses.

You seem like an “attention to detail” person…

Well, yeah… I don’t have to choose the stylist to be detailed. When the client chooses the stylist, we have a meeting before we shoot and discuss everything in detail.

Back to the Elsie Vintage project… is that a series of different projects under one name?

Elsie is actually Onyinye’s thing, it is like vintage blog sale thingy. It is a series, anytime there’s new stuff she calls me and then we shoot it. It is an ongoing series…

To push the sales…

Yeah.

Well, it seemed like a movement, something potent and powerful. Are you guys gonna push that?

Well…Elsie is all Onyinye. But Onyinye and I, every time we work, it is always something good. I think that is what is reflecting on the Elsie Series. That’s why it seems to be that way. We think alike…chop chop chop and we are dancing, happy.

That’s the thing about creative projects, they can grow a life of their own and demand to live…

*laughs* The thing with Elsie, it has happened or it is happening. It has grown bigger than we thought it would be.

…So, Obi Somto the fashion designer? Soon?

No! no! Fa’ wetin? I wear t-shirt and jeans. I’m not going to go the fashion way…fashion what. Maybe Onyinye will eventually go in that direction.

Maybe as a creative director

Perhaps…yeah.

Bad ass photoshopper, according to you

Ooh mama ! *laughs*

Will you ever venture into video? Cos right now you tell amazing stories with your images? and that seems like the path…

*Pauses* *Sighs* I don’t think so

Why? You don’t feel the pull?

I don’t feel the pull. When I see a good picture, I’m drawn to it. Videos don’t give me that. A lotta people have asked me that, but I say no. Well, maybe o…but for now I’m still learning photography

Kelechi Amadi-Obi has a magazine (Mania), he has diversified. Do you feel you’ll get to the point where you want to do something like that. Channel your creativity. Is there something you are looking to do?

Do I have to tell you that (laughs) I don’t think I wanna tell you. Seriously though, like Kelechi has the magazine, there’s a lot I wanna do that’s photography related, and not just photography. For now, I’m not gonna share.

Putting a lid on it? PDP style?

*Laughs* full PDP.

So…Sex!!!

Maaama!

Sexxxxxxx, Obi Somto, Sex!

I’m a whore *laughs*

You have a projected personality on twitter that has fused your photography with your craziness. You almost made boobies trend…

I made boobies trend. Not almost. What’s wrong with you… *laughs*

That’s the thing. How do you see this – you are a creative person; photographer, artist and a major influential person. Do you see the power? Your art is not just art, but something much more powerful…

I don’t know…I don’t. I think I’m a very very sexual person. And somehow, according to you, it shows in my work…

We’ll get to that…

*Laughs* I think we should get there fast.

There’s so much sex, so much intimacy… not the act itself but the suggestion, in your works. Is that deliberate?

I think it’s a part of me. God knows, when I shoot, I just wanna take good pictures. I see a good picture, I shoot it. And then at the end of the day, YOU will come and tell me my photos scream sex. *Laughs*

When you mentioned it the other day, I was like “What’s this guy talking” about. And then I went back to my photos, hoping to see what you saw…

Did you see…

Yes I did. Strangely, I did. But when I’m shooting I never think of… well, I do. To some extent, when I’m shooting, especially fashion, and the models are not giving me what I want, I walk up to them and talk sex to them. And it works.

A lot of greats have embraced that, let’s see, Avalon?

Yeah, sex works for me…

Now pause, give us three names of photographers. If their works influence you, repulse you…whatever

Kelechi Amadi-Obi, Jide Alakija and Mario Testino.

Kelechi Amadi-Obi and Jide Alakija are my friends and mentors. I talk to them a lot about photography, business and the art of. I mean, they’ve been there before me, many years before me. They’ve been a bigpart of where I am today. And then Mario Testino, I don’t know, I love his works. I see his works and I’m motivated to do more stuff.

We’ve heard so much about Onyinye Fafi-Obi, your chemistry and all the gush. Is there more to the story? Is she the love of your life who has taken you off the market?

No no no…Onyinye and I are kinda related. We share a cousin. We are like distant cousins. Onyinye’s mum said her daughter and I can’t get married…so…

So, she’s not the babe you’ve been raving about on twitter? The one that made you break all hearts?

Well, love comes and love goes… *laughs*

What kinda creative collaboration would you give an arm and a leg for? Who would you like to work with?

Well, I’d love to shoot for Vogue. Apparently, I shoot fashion and portraits. So, Vogue

That’s another thing, why just fashion and portraits?

I shoot documentaries too, but mostly personal. At a time, I used to shoot weddings, but I think my personality goes more with fashion and portraits

Scared you’ll end up flirting with the bride?

*Laughs* No no, it’s not about that. I take work very seriously. I don’t flirt with my clients. That’s wrong

Very very wrong

Very very very wrong *laughs* There are other girls to flirt with…like your colleague here. *Laughs*

Thank you Obi, you’ve been wonderful

You’re welcome 

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