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‘I want to use photography as tool for societal re-orientation’

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Yemi Kings

Opeyemi Femi-Oke, otherwise known as Yemi Kings, is only just living the life he has always dreamt of as a little boy; he has always wanted to create art. All through his childhood to teenage years, creating art always fascinated him.

Naturally, he gravitated towards music, sketching, dancing, painting, and acting. As a young chap, he learned to play a wide range of musical instruments at a very tender age. The first instrument his mother bought for him was the Harmonica. Which happened to be the only instrument played by his father, and late grandfather. His journey for the past 27 years has led him all to this point.

While growing up, young Yemi was taught by his parents never to give up on his dreams and work hard towards every goal he sets for himself. His father, Mr. Raphael Olufemi Oke, a Lecturer and disciplinarian and mother, Mrs. Omolewa Oke a nurse, are well-respected Pastors in Osogbo, Osun state.

His father grew up in a very impoverished family, and decided against all odds, that he was going to become somebody in life. His mother came from a more educated background, and they were financially stable. He met Yemi King’s mother, and together, they raised him, and his elder brother, Temitayo.

Inheriting this never-say-never attitude, Yemi is also riding on the crest of his father’s history and is aiming to make something of himself in every land he finds himself.

But unlike his father, who lectures for a living, Yemi decided to venture back into his creative space after he studied Psychology from the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. He has decided to use photography as a tool of positive influence in his society, and his main desire is to use images to bring into light matters that everyone has been silent about, or too scared to talk about.

He aims to educate people about the ways and culture of other people in different corners of the globe, as well as use his photography as a tool for societal re-orientation.

“What we don’t understand, we fear, and what we fear, we hunt.”

Also, one of the things that are personal to him is using his photography for the redefinition of people’s perspectives about themselves, and each other. He says he aims to photograph people in ways that make them realise how truly beautiful they are.

“Everybody is beautiful in their own way, if only we just take a good look,” he said.

To get him fully ready for the job ahead, Yemi Kings trained with Mr. Olakunle Akinterinwa of Fullhouse Photo Studio, Mr Seun Akinsanmi of EloPhotos Academy, and Ria Solanke, all who are highly trained photographers as well.

His biggest inspirations come from the likes of TY Bello, whom he has met, Sue Bryce, Paulina Duczman, and Felix Kunze.

Yemi attended the Canon Academy in Abuja and has also featured as a speaker and Trainer at the Nigerian Photography Expo and Conference (NIPHEC). Recently, he has been appointed as the coordinator for NIPHEC 2020.

While serving as a youth corper in Bauchi State, Yemi Kings photographed the Emir of Bauchi Emirates, who fell in love profoundly with his craft and has promised to have him create more portraits in times to come. He has also photographed for brands such as Access Bank, Pepsi, HOTR, City Scope Africa, etc. He has documented stories happening at weddings, concerts, conferences, and on the streets of Nigeria.

“I feel so glad about where I’m today, and I know tomorrow is going to be better. I wake up every day, ready for the challenge that the new day brings, and I am sure that with God by my side, I can do all things. And I am also very happy with the kind of parents I have. They have been very supportive in all ways,” the young photographer said.

By virtue of his experiences, Yemi Kings hopes to encourage all Nigerian youths out there to look into themselves and nurture that gift or talent which has been given to everyone.

“We all have something that is unique about us all, that this world needs,” he said, adding, “I have decided to give expression to every talent on my inside, and I must die having given expression to them all. There is no room to blame society or situations for my inability to express. I must do that which I am meant to do, regardless of the challenges I face.”

For the sake of improvement, “I have people I have submitted myself to. I am accountable to these select few, and they, in turn, guide me both professionally and spiritually. We all need mentors and role models to help us; good friends to give us Godly counsel. No man should be an island; I constantly seek to get better every day, and if it’s short of excellence, then it won’t fly.”

To pave the way for him to perfect his talents, the dark-complexioned Yemi Kings, who is an extrovert, plans to go for a Master’s Degree in Photography and Filmmaking.

“Both photography and cinematography tell stories, but they tell it differently. I would love to know how to utilize the two concurrently,” he said.

He also has also opened his Media Academy in Lagos for young Nigerians to also come and learn skills that can make them stand as entrepreneurs, and also contribute to the development of the society.

His advice for his peers would be, “You are created for something, do it; start and grow. Everything you have ever desired is on the other side of Fear.”

He continued: “In terms of fear, do not let anybody intimidate you by their successes. Instead, be challenged to be the best version of yourself. Find something that is original to you, develop it, and with constant consistency, the world will notice you for the excellence.”

However, photography wasn’t always sweet for young Yemi.

“There were times I had to walk long distances and long hours, just to work and learn. Severally, I emptied my account to pay for conferences, traveled long journeys to meet up with role models. Sleepless nights of practices, and exhausting my internet data on watching interviews of role models I thought I would never meet, to doing free jobs just to develop a portfolio. Sacrifices must be made. Efforts must be put in all of these because achieving greatness is never easy. But, it is very possible, if only we allow ourselves to be disciplined enough to work the hard work, and trust the grace of God to see us through,” he concluded.


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