Karl Lagerfield once said that what he likes about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever and impossible to reproduce. This passion and skill involved with capturing special moments is something UEA student Moji Adegbile knows all about and rightfully so considering she’s just been nominated for Student Photographer of the Year in the Guardian’s Student Media Awards 2014.
As one of only five people across the UK to be shortlisted in the category, it’s a pretty big deal, so it’s only natural for one to wonder what goes through a person’s mind when they hear such brilliant news. “It made for quite an afternoon actually”, Moji states when asked. “The first person to notify me of my nomination wasn’t a representative of The Guardian Media Group, it was in fact one of last year’s Concrete fashion editors, Ella Sharp. She sent me a Facebook message at 4 P.M. congratulating me on being nominated.
“I was at work; I’d had quite a stressful couple of days and had completely forgotten about even entering some media competition, so when she told me I could only describe myself as feeling dazed and confused for a good ten minutes. I remember just standing still. Some may have mistaken my expression for the thousand-yard stare. And then it finally hit me, I’d been nominated for a very reputable award for a hobby I took up in a state of panic. I’ve been flying ever since!”
Moji speaks so passionately about her snap-happy ways that I couldn’t help but become curious as to whether photography was something she’d always been involved with. Luckily she was more than happy to reminisce with me. “My first memories of wanting to dabble in photography are from secondary school. It was 2009 and all my close friends were getting DSLRs, it was the fashionable thing to buy at the time, alongside Longchamp bags. I remember wanting one but I couldn’t think of a good enough reason why I should get one”, she admits, and I feel a sense of déjà vu, as I too remember gazing longingly at the professional looking cameras my friends all received for birthdays and Christmases.
However unlike me, Moji finally caved and splashed out on what was probably, at the time, one of her most prized possessions. “I finally bought myself my first DSLR, on impulse. A combination of stress, panic and stupidity saw me spend my entire month’s allowance on Canon’s latest model at the time. I still remember the shock in my mother’s voice when I called to ask for more money the first week of that month. Following the impulse purchase I became that annoying friend who documented everything and thus began my journey in photography”.
So photography quickly became an important hobby for her, and as time progressed quickly became something more. But how easy was it to get started with? In my mind taking a photo doesn’t seem as if it requires vast amounts of work, but I’m not nominated for a photography award, so what do I know about it? Thankfully Moji was happy to enlighten me on the situation, and even managed to throw in some brilliant pop culture references as she did. “It really depends on what you want to achieve with your pictures”. She says thoughtfully, “when I started with photography I always knew I wanted it to be more than a situation of me just pointing and shooting. I didn’t want to be another girl with an expensive camera”.
So how exactly did she separate herself from the gaggle of expensive camera wielding photographer wannabes? “First thing I did was set my camera to manual mode and I read up about the ‘holy trinity’ of photography – ISO, shutter speed and aperture. Furthermore I’ve had to spend a kidney’s worth of money on photography equipment and programmes. You could compare it to buying your first Game Boy but having only Super Mario Land 2 to play with. It’s a fantastic game and it keeps you occupied for a while but then you wanted to play The Legend of Zelda and then you didn’t feel adequate unless you owned Pokémon Blue, Red, Yellow, Gold and Silver. That’s where the hobby gets you, you end up needing all the extras, and it’s just never enough.”
Joking aside, I discover there really is a lot of effort involved with photography in order to hit the nail on the head. “All fields of photography require you to have an idea of what you want in your frame as you’re shooting. At university I decided to focus on developing my skills as a sports photographer. I’ve always admired athleticism and felt I’d enjoy that area of photography, which I did. So I spent more money on a zoom lens, contacted Concrete and told them about my interest in capturing UEA teams on the field and thankfully they asked me to shoot UEA Rugby’s first game post-ban.
“Seeing how the photos came out I knew I’d hit my photo fun goldmine. Getting involved with sports photography meant that I was required to learn how to predict what was going to happen on the field before it even happened just so I could get the shot. I remember coming away from games having taken hundreds of photos from which I would only be truly happy with no more than 50 shots. So I would say the initial step of purchasing the camera is easy but depending on your goals the journey can feel like an uphill trek”.
It’s all sounding pretty intense to me, there’s so much going on and clearly a lot to learn. I’m not the best at organising my time, between coursework and Concrete I’m pretty much chock-a-block, so I can’t resist asking about her photography work and how much she’s been able to do so far. She animatedly begins to explain that she started to get really involved with more advanced photography at university: “There wasn’t really much time to fully explore shooting anywhere else other than for Concrete. I also didn’t feel I had enough experience or a large enough portfolio. When I first started out I really wanted to go into fashion photography. This was probably due to my exposure to the fashion industry seeing as my mum’s a women’s clothing and lingerie designer.
“My first paid job was actually for one of her brands. The shoot took place in Norwich over at Elm Hill and it was a fantastic leg up for me. Towards the end of my fourth year I started shooting events for various clubs and societies including the Hockey Club and the Pharmacy Society. Having moved to Nigeria however I’m hoping to go into documentary photography. There are so many stories to be told in this country and as you know, a picture says a thousand words”.
Truer words could not have been spoken, and by such a kind and talented person. Our conversation slowly draws to a close, but before we’re done I can’t resist asking another question. What would Moji photograph, if she could take a picture of anything or any place in the world? “That’s a very tough question”, she muses, lost in thought.
“My favourite photographs have been of social issues captured in an emotionally disarming light. I want to take images like that. I’m not too bothered about where because there are issues that need reporting all over the world but I would love to be at the forefront of a breaking or relevant story, armed with my camera and capturing photos that touch many”. She advises me to browse the internet for images of documentary photography to get a better idea of what she means, before finishing with what can only be described as the perfect quote to sum up our chat and her new outlook on her future: “I’ve joked about one day seeing my photos published by National Geographic, perhaps with this new confidence boost, why not?”