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Roderick ‘Deeds’ Ejuetami’s Eyes On The Prize

By Chisom Njoku
26 February 2023   |   2:05 pm
The concept has evolved over the years to include, for the first time in a long time, African creators and artistes as main characters. We’re seeing this in real-time with Rema, Tems and Burna Boy headlining the NBA All-Star weekend and Olaolu Slawn designing the Brits trophy to the delight of Africans everywhere. A creative…

The concept has evolved over the years to include, for the first time in a long time, African creators and artistes as main characters. We’re seeing this in real-time with Rema, Tems and Burna Boy headlining the NBA All-Star weekend and Olaolu Slawn designing the Brits trophy to the delight of Africans everywhere.

A creative mind on the scene tasked with the duty of curating important stories around the culture through his art and photography is Roderick Ejuetami, better known as ‘Deeds’. He is behind some of Afrobeats most iconic images capturing great talents such as Wizkid and being behind a majority of the images circulated from Tems’ big night at the 2023 Grammys.

He sits down with The Guardian Life to discuss his journey so far, inspiration, and plans for the future.

Introduce us to the man behind Deeds Art
I am a creative director – based in Lagos, Nigeria. I have worked across multiple types of photography projects in the commercial and cultural world with some top corporate entities including, banks as well as culturally important personalities. My career has evolved from being a photographer to being a creative director. Now, I’m the founder and CEO of a studio and magazine. I also do the creative direction for a recording artist called Tems.

Where did you grow up?
I’m from Delta State. I’m Itsekiri from Warri, in Delta. I was born in Lagos State, and I went to school in Delta State and Benin City. I studied Biochemistry. After finishing Biochemistry, I practiced photography for just a few months. I worked at a club owned by my friend Efe. Then I moved to Lagos and discovered so many other chances for photography. I basically found my calling. When I got to Lagos, I decided that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

What sparked your interest in photography and storytelling?
From a young age, I’ve always liked to think of things in different ways. I like to observe and I think I was really quiet and shy. When I was 16, I saw my brother’s camera and took it. He had a production company, and I didn’t know much about photography at that time, but I would just look at the camera. I was in Abuja at the time, and I’d take the camera and just go into the street and take photos of anything I found interesting. I had that experience and then I went back to school. When I left Benin and got to Lagos, I would reach out to big photographers. One particular one called me in, Solu Sola, and showed me some things. He introduced me to the industry as a studio photographer. But I knew that what I really wanted to do was music photography. I could see afrobeats growing at that time and I could also see Jay-Z and all those guys. I could see Jonathan Mannion – he’s a photographer, and I really wanted to shoot like him. I really wanted to be different and I wanted to work in the music industry.

At what point did things switch up for you?
My big break was when I shot Wizkid. He had just come back from his long trip out of Nigeria and no one had seen him in a while. I was among the first few people to visit his house. I took a mad photo of him, which became really popular. I think this was another part of my journey that assured me that this is what I wanted to do.

How did you become Wizkid and Tem’ go-to photographer?
In 2016, I took pictures of Wizkid for the first time. Well, I think from that year till now, we’ve had different opportunities to work together. It’s been an ongoing relationship. I worked with Tems for the first time in 2019. I still work with her and I also work with Tiwa Savage. I worked with Burna for Twice as Tall, the Grammy-winning album rollout photos. I shot Naomi Campbell when she came to Nigeria. I shot the second Homecoming festival. I worked with someone else to cover events for Powerhouse, Jameson, and Johnny Walker. I’ve worked with fashion brands and banks too.

What is the most exciting thing you’ve encountered on your job?
The most exciting thing has been watching Tems become what she is. Watching her start from being a new artist, becoming one of Africa’s biggest female artists.

You’ve captured some iconic viral moments in the past. From Wizkid’s million-dollar Wireless headline show to personal candid shots, how do you achieve the ‘perfect shot’ as a photographer?

I feel the perfect shot will be the one that can tell you so much about the object. A perfect shot of someone will be the one that gives a specific, glorified extension of the person. It makes the person look like a god. A shot where you can feel the essence of your subject is the perfect shot for me, and that comes in different forms and angles, and different perspectives.

What do you love most about your job?
I love that it gives me the opportunity to travel the world and create as many narratives as I want.

Do you have any other creative interests asides from photography?
Yes, I love music. I love art and paintings. I started learning how to paint earlier this year, and I plan to do some projects. Those will be like my extra creative ventures. I love playing basketball and swimming. I love music, I want to learn how to make music. I love painting and I’m learning how to paint, and I’m going to release a collection very soon. I love pouring out into nature and taking photos. It’s part of my work.

What’s next for Deeds Art, as a creative and as a person?
So, as a creative, I plan to put as much energy into establishing and working on my agency and magazine – deeds magazine and deeds studio. I’d dedicate my energy and resources and circle of influence to building those passions. As a person, I want to keep trying to give back to the creative community. I want to keep building with the creative community in Lagos, Nigeria. Taking Africa to the world. I feel like it is my responsibility to do that. There’s so much that the African creative community has to offer the world and if we can nurture, guide, and direct it, we can do it. That’s my narrative about building the creative community.

What can you say to the young Nigerian photographer or creative who is uncertain about what the future holds for them? Advice to aspiring creatives?
I’d say keep it moving. Don’t ever give up. Decide what you want to do and take the necessary steps to make it come to life. Do the work, research, pray, be patient, and believe. Honestly, you will achieve everything you want to if you can do those things. Work hard and be consistent. See where you want to go and keep working, keep moving, and you’ll get there.