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The World Through Tom Sateer’s Eyes

I am highly impressed by people who challenge my way of thinking and are able to get me to feel their work, as opposed to just seeing it. It is safe to say that Tom Saater happens to be one of the few people who do exactly what I stated above. My first encounter with Tom was transformative. I was attending the panel discussion: Art of Storytelling: Cultural Entrepreneurs during the 2015 Lagos Startup Week at A Whitespace Creative Agency and I had the opportunity to interview selected panelists. Unfortunately, I didn’t interview Tom.

I sat down after my interview to listen to what each panelist had to say, and the panel opened with the moderator introducing the panelists and their qualifications. When Tom spoke, his images were being displayed behind him and in that moment I became a believer and fan. I didn’t feel the need to check his social media page or portfolio online, I just believed, and still believe, that Tom Saater is one of the few people who have sold the Nigerian dream by being the best positive human that he can be.

Tom Saater

During that panel discussion, Tom spoke about his background and how he got to the position he currently occupies. His story was filled with humility, hope and the aspiration to tell the world a story through his eyes. Tom was homeless for 7 years, and fell in love with photography from the newsstand. He had the burning desire to change his situation. Recently I had an argument based on the fact that people without privilege couldn’t appreciate the arts because of the issues they face on a regular basis, but, despite his situation at the time, Tom did. He appreciated the art of photography and pursued this art until he became a pioneer in the field. Tom is a freelance social documentary photographer, and an emerging documentary filmmaker and he focuses on reportage, urban portraits and social, cultural issues.

Tom Saater

In the duration of his career as a photographer, he has worked with UNCHR, The Carter Center Atlanta, The Telegraph London, The Economist, AFP, Aljazera, Coffey International, Buzzfeed New York, The Japan Times Tokyo, The Courier Mail Australia, TimeOut city guide, Abuja and Lagos (including two front covers), The Africa Report Paris, Foto8, Demotix, Mediadesk UK, BBC, Arise Magazine, Blast Films UK, Big Brother Africa (Video) Frog Design Shanghai, USAID Bridge2 Market project, SightSavers UK, Action Aid UK, Monocle Radio UK, Amnesty International, Christian Aid UK, DFID Nigeria, SURE-P Nigeria, MDG Nigeria, Prince Clause Funds Amsterdam ,The Nordic residence/villa Abuja, The Finland, Norway and Swedish embassies in Nigeria, amongst others.

Tom Saater has also exhibited at the 2010 Addis Foto Festival in Ethiopia, based on his participation with the British Council in a photography project called My Home is Here. The project involved Tom traveling around Nigeria to produce images of Climate Change in Nigeria. Tom also participated as a photographer in the Invisible border’s 2011 trans-Africa road trip across Lagos-Chad-Sudan Ethiopia.


In all this Tom remains grounded in the story and drive that brought him to this point in his career and life. I remember during his speech at the panel discussion he said, “I have no intention of being rich, I do this because it is my passion”, and as pretentious as that might sound, his words for me were laced with truth and the passion he spoke of.  He remains to be one of the humblest people I have ever met. As we see the world through his lens, I hope we sense the need to speak up and speak out just as his images do.

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Tom Saater
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