A Winner’s Tale of Victory

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It’s no longer news that a young amateur photographer, Oluwaseun Otitoola, has emerged the winner of the 2017 edition of the 9mobile Photography Competition. What is exciting is that the winner never owned a camera prior to winning. When he disclosed this recently at the awards ceremony, it came as a pleasant surprise to the handful of journalists who waited patiently for the results to be announced.

Established as a talent development initiative of 9mobile, the competition rewards three of the several entries for the annual contest.

Oluwaseun Otitoola won the competition with his entry titled “Fragment of CMS Bookshop Building”, beating two other finalists – Amanda Ihemebiri, whose entry was  “The Nestoil Tower” and Taiwo Omotosho, who had put in the work “Lines Side by Side”.

Oluwaseun was announced winner at the grand finale and award presentation ceremony, which was held recently at the 9mobile Head Office, Banana Island, Lagos. With emotion-laden voice and eyes moist with restrained tears of joy, Otitoola, 24, recalled how he had taken advantage of his friend’s camera in deepening his interests in photography.

“I didn’t have a camera of my own but I love photography so I borrowed my friend’s camera to participate,” he disclosed. “I chose ‘Fragment of CMS Bookshop Building’ because of the symbolic status of the building and its environment which tells the story of Lagos in the past and the Lagos we know today.”

On the day he set out to take the pictures, this graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University encountered some street urchins who were suspicious of his intention with the camera. They bombarded him with questions, demanding to know if he was spying for the Lagos State government with the aim of demolishing the structure in future. After explaining in lay man’s language that he was doing it for competition’s sake, he was permitted to take the pictures and he eventually submitted three pictures for the contest.

“If you have passion for it, you will do it like a pro,” he said.

For the organisers, any work that grabs and holds attention a little longer than usual amongst the 100 entries wins the interest of the panel of judges made up of professional photographers.

The winner went home with a professional canon camera, N30,000 worth of airtime.

Ikenna Ogbenta, emerged winner of the newly introduced voters’ choice category with his entry titled “Skies and Scrapers”. He won after pulling the highest number of votes online.

At the prize presentation ceremony, the Chief Executive Officer, 9mobile, Boye Olusanya said being an innovative and youth-centric company, 9mobile created the photography competition in 2014 as a talent discovery and reward platform.

He said: “9mobile Photography Competition is not about winning but about talent, creativity and innovation. The aim is to engage and empower budding photographers to fulfil their passion by using the power of digital media, online, social and mobile technology to capture compelling images that tell authentic Nigerian stories.

“Over the nine years of our existence, we have consistently been at the forefront of promoting talent and creative development among the youth across different sectors such as education, art, literature, science, sports and entertainment amongst others.

“A bold new generation of Nigerian photographers is emerging to capture the changes and challenges people are facing across the country and we are glad to see young people participate. It gives us pride that we are playing a crucial role in nurturing their dreams.”

Olusanya thanked the judging panel, comprising Hakeem Salaam, Kola Oshalusi and Kunle Awolowo – who are all accomplished international photographers – for doing an excellent job of ensuring that the entire process was fair and of the highest standard.

This year’s edition of the annual 9mobile Photography Competition kicked off on August 7 with a call for entries, which closed on September 11.

The competition functions as a platform to discover, reward and empower budding photographers to fulfil their passion and capture compelling images that celebrate our Nigerian heritage.