‘I’ve always been fascinated by the human face’

TY Bello is one of Nigeria’s most recognized artists. She came to public attention in the early 2000s as a member of the music group
KUSH. 

She has also built a reputation as one of Nigeria’s foremost photographers and is a member of the talented photography collective-Depth of Field.

Her evocative portraits never fail to rouse strong emotions and have made her one of the most applauded and keenly sought after portrait photographers in the country. Indeed, she has the unique distinction of having photographed three sitting Nigerian Presidents.

TY deploys the same creative gift to produce engaging yet timeless music. 

She launched her successful debut solo album Greenland in 2005. 

Its title track- Greenland and Ekundayo became instant hits and are now widely accepted household favourites. 

The Future- her Nigerian jubilee tribute was released on the eve of the April 2011 general elections.  It became the awakening song for Nigerians as they steered the fate of the nation with their votes.

TY’s songs and her photography, which has been exhibited in Nigeria and around the world, have earned her awards both at home and abroad.

She recently worked with Canon cameras on the company’s #mynaija photo competition where winners have emerged. In this interview with GuardianWoman, she talks about her passion for music and photography, including her recent partnership with Canon cameras

Tell us about TY and your passion for photography?

I have always believed that creativity is a wellspring of many virtues. I’ve learnt that it’s important to never let any of the gifts you have been given go.

Music and photography have been those two things that stood out to me; I think they really have a lot in common.

Although photography takes a lot of my time, I make sure that I commit to spending a certain amount of time making music each year.

What aspect of photography do you specialise in?

I’m a portrait photographer. Even though I still work in documentary and conceptual photography, my images have always been portrait, I’ve always been fascinated by the human face and I love making deep connections when I make images.

What brand of camera do you use and why?

I use Canon cameras. I started creating images with Canon cameras very early in my career because they’ve always been very user-friendly, the way the cameras are built and the general outlook just works with how my mind works. I’ve always been a Canon girl.

I also love the fact that Canon is always at the cutting-edge of technology when it comes to photography. They understand where the industry is heading and what the needs of photographers are and they constantly have it in mind when they make cameras.

Who/what inspired you to become a photographer?

I think my inspiration for photography came first from the enjoyment I have in helping people feel beautiful. I started off as a beautician and I found it very fulfilling.

I found photography a more exciting platform to explore this. I have also been greatly inspired by many of my mentors. From Jide Adeniyi Jones to Akinbode Akinbiyi and Jackie Phillips.

We know Canon has launched a nationwide campaign called “live for the story”. Tell us about your role in this campaign.

The live for the story campaign is an exciting one for me because I’ve always believed in the beauty of Nigeria, her people and telling our own stories.

It’s basically a call for everyday Nigerians to tell their personal stories on what makes Nigeria unique.

It is exciting to champion a cause for individuals to pick up devices and actually make images that inspire us as a people.

The prize for the winner of the #mynaija photo competition is an exclusive trip with you to a beautiful country somewhere in Africa. How do you feel about this?

I really can’t wait for this trip. It’s always a joy to connect with other creative people and spend time inspiring each other to make images. I can’t wait to see how much the participants and I will grow from this.

Tell us about your experience with Canon so far.

My partnership with Canon has been a dream- come-true. It is something I’ve always wanted and it is beautiful that their goals in Nigeria are very much in line with what I’ve always wanted to do.

They really are interested in inspiring everyday Nigerians through the art of photography and I’m so humbled by the opportunity to be part of that.

The year has been unfolding beautifully and I’m looking forward to other things to come especially the Canon academy where I get to teach other photographers.

What advice would you give to young upcoming photographers in Nigeria today?

To young photographers, I’d say dream big… And stay consistent. The most important thing to do as a photographer is to keep making images and to keep experimenting and pushing ideas. It’s those ideas brought to life that will open the doors you’ve been knocking on.

What do you think Canon could do differently to maximize their share of voice in the Nigerian market?

I believe what they are doing right now is a great way forward. They are making better connections, not only with the photography industry but spreading the love for photography to people who weren’t in that zone.

There’s a lot of hunger for creative expression in Nigeria and it’s awesome that Canon is connecting.

In this article:
imagesphotographyTY Bello
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