An Odyssey in the Realms of Pixels and Light

With a thriving business venture centred on photography in the ancient northern Nigerian city of Kotangora, 27-year-old Umar Aliyu mentors and empowers a devoted coterie of trainees. Okechukwu Uwaezuoke reports 

Even before the sun adorns the horizon in the rustic, historic Niger State town of Kotangora in resplendent hues, Umar Aliyu’s day has already begun in earnest. By then, the Edo State native would have, as a devout man of faith, performed his Fajr, the first of five daily prayers in Islam, having risen from bed before the clock struck 5 a.m., in time to hear the muezzin’s soulful adhan or call to prayer.

By the time the clock strikes 8 a.m., he is well on his way to his studio—his sanctuary of creativity known as Kraytivity Concepts and Events. Talking about the name Kraytivity Concept and Events, it was meticulously crafted to mirror his fervent dedication to artistry and his professional trajectory thus far. Enamoured with the world of artistry and seething with a profound passion for crayons, he revelled in the joys of drawing, albeit amateurishly rendered. After his photography tutelage, he embarked on the ambitious journey of birthing his own brand in 2019. Initially named Crayon’s Photography, the nomenclature metamorphosed into Krayon Kreativity on a friend’s whimsical suggestion. Subsequently renamed Kraytivity Studios, the evolutionary process eventually culminated in Kraytivity Concepts and Events, a nod to the inclusion of event planning within his budding business empire.

In his studio, surrounded by his numerous students, he is more than just an artisan; he is a conductor of dreams, weaving enchantment with each click of the camera. As he navigates the maze of his art, he feels boundless energy flowing through his veins, much like a maestro orchestrating symphonies of light and shadow. “Having a photography establishment is no small thing, especially when you have tonnes of students learning under you,” he muses. “Every day is a learning experience that also includes challenges. I come in sometimes and am told we have malfunctioning gadgets or something damaged from misuse, yet I can go weeks with seamless and problem-free business days.”

Whatever the case, his dedication remains unwavering. He has no choice but to navigate the tempestuous seas of business, steering his ship through both treacherous and serene waters. And by the time the clock strikes 8 p.m., signalling the end of another day, his tasks, though far from being accomplished, would have left him with an aftertaste of contentment. Within the hallowed walls of his studio, every guest is deemed important, and every client is a king. Their smiles are the currency of his realm, and their satisfaction is the crown jewel of his kingdom. Thus, as night falls and the world grows quiet, Umar Aliyu, a sentinel of service, anticipates the challenges that the next day may bring.

He took a dip into photography in 2014, after his graduation from secondary school. A craft initially not of his choosing or to his liking, it was thrust upon him by his father, whose advice, it turned out, became a guiding light in the fog of indecision. Wrestling with his rebellious spirit, he—swept up in the fever of the trending passion among his peers—initially fancied himself wielding clippers and razors as a barber. “An embarrassing occupation,” he scoffed at photography, scathing in defiance of his father’s urgings to abandon his infatuation for barbing. Reluctantly, he yielded, finding himself learning the ropes at the discretion of Lucky Digital Studio in Kontagora, a sanctuary of camera and light that belongs to an acquaintance of his father’s, named Isaac Saleh. Through the lens, a newfound passion bloomed in his soul, an artistic metamorphosis birthed from a rare confluence of paternal wisdom and filial obedience.

A few words about his family. It’s a large one, at least by modern middle-class standards. As the eldest of seven siblings, his family structure uniquely combines the biological offspring from his mother—three in number—and the remaining quartet from his late stepmother, who bid farewell to this world in 2020. Altogether, he has two sisters and four brothers. His mom is a secondary school teacher with the Niger State Board of Education, and my dad is an automobile mechanic. Despite modest means, the family cherishes their blessings of consistent meals, tasteful attire, and quality education, instilling an enduring appreciation within each member.

Aliyu’s photography experience, meanwhile, has been one remarkable journey spanning over a decade. He wistfully reminisces about his ventures beyond the familiar landscape of his birthplace and beloved stomping ground, Kotangora. With his photography lens as a witness and companion, he recounts an eye-opening road trip across the diverse landscapes of Kaduna, Abuja, Jos, Kebbi, Kwara State, and beyond, capturing rare moments of life’s vibrant moments. Immersing himself in varied cultures, savouring exotic cuisines, and beholding breathtaking vistas, Aliyu embraced a world beyond his imagination. Amidst the vicissitudes of the craft, the shimmering allure of capturing the ephemeral beauty through his camera lens became his refuge. However, the formidable challenges posed by the escalating costs of photography equipment, which threaten the livelihood of many, cast a shadow over his endeavours. “We pray for stability in the future,” he whispers, hopefully.

If he is currently immersing himself in the world of marketing as a diligent final-year student at the Federal College of Education, Kontagora’s Business Education Faculty—an institution affiliated with the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria—rather than exploring the realms of photography, it is with the intention of enhancing his business endeavours. Ever since the inception of Kraytivity Concepts back in 2019, he has conscientiously devoted himself to attending numerous photography upgrade courses and training sessions at least twice annually. This relentless pursuit of skill refinement has not only enabled him to sustain his relevance in the competitive field but also ensured that his work consistently garners the spotlight, illuminating his path to success.

Ever since the completion of his training under the expert tutelage of ZK Photography’s Isaac Saleh, Aliyu has, through Kraytivity Studios, proudly shepherded six passionate acolytes into the pastures of photography mastery. Currently, more than ten eager students are being shaped into adept lens-wielders. With steadfast determination, the 27-year-old envisions a radiant future where his business concern will bloom in various states of the federation, welcoming patrons with open arms. Embracing technology as a boon rather than a bane, he ardently pursues learning to remain at the zenith of photographic evolution. A success story emerges before his eyes, offering a vision achieved through an expedition in the realms of pixels and light.

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