In 2017, when self-taught Nigerian documentary photographer Etinosa Yvonne longed to professionalize her work and find direction, she prayed.
“As a Christian, a woman of faith, that’s what I do,” she says.
She prayed on how to move forward, how to listen and how to see – how to transform her concern for human rights and social justice into meaningful images. She also prayed for guidance on her desire to highlight underreported social issues in a country where the aftermath of varying degrees of atrocities like violent conflict and the resulting mental health impact on the survivors like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are rarely acknowledged or discussed.
Previously, while working for a health organization, she’d become interested in the well-being of a couple she met. The wife had needed surgery for a serious medical condition from which she’d suffered for years. Etinosa felt a strong pull to follow the couple and capture their journey. They said yes. That was essentially her first photo story, though she did not realize it at the time.
“I didn’t know that what I was doing was a documentary,” she told me in a recent phone conversation from her home in Abuja.
Etinosa also wanted to capture and share her love of travel and culture (she began traveling solo in 2015 and has been to most of Nigeria’s 36 states) into images that celebrate Nigeria’s rich and diverse cultural traditions.
An open call on Facebook in 2018 led her to a photography mentorship program in Lagos. During the workshop, she learned what it meant to create a body of work.
“I thought, ‘Wow! I’ve never seen anything like this.’”
From there, Etinosa embarked on her first personal project, “It’s all in My Head.” The multimedia series of stunning and intense layered images with sound and text detailing the stories of victims of terrorism and extreme instance of conflict and cruelty in their own words, highlights the need for better mental health services and compassion in her country.
The project earned her a coveted spot as a World Press Photo 2020 6X6 Africa Talent. The project is part of an ongoing virtual exhibition called “Voices in the Wind” that is organized by the United Nations Humanitarian commission. It’s All In My Head is also currently on display in Egypt for the 2021 Cairotronica Electronic and Media Art Festival.
The eye should learn to listen before it looks.Robert frank
She continues to undertake a variety of endeavors, including commissioned work and projects like “Colors of the North,” “Nigeria at 60!,” and “Women’s March 2019,” among others.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Etinosa created “Protect Thyself,” a project inspired when she picked up a bird’s nest on a walk. At the time, there was a global shortage of protective equipment, such as masks. She considered what natural materials might be used to guard against the virus.
“Protect Thyself examines alternative ways in which humans can stay protected using age-old traditions and everyday objects.”
Now, Etinosa is considering what’s next.
After more than a year of deep self-reflection over the past difficult year, she says she’s still “finding out who I am” and is ready to continue her walk of faith in photography and documentary work wherever it leads.
She says she is thankful for every step of the journey and looks forward to what may come in the days and months ahead, at home and possibly abroad, through new ways of seeing – and listening.
“Photography has opened my eyes and my ears.”
A Life of Learning: Helpful Resources for Photography Education
As a self-taught photographer, Etinosa Yvonne has turned to various resources over the years, from online tutorials to Ted Talks. Here are a few of her recommendations.
- The Art of Photography
- Ted Talks Photography
- Adorama TV (YOUTUBE)
- School of Visual Arts
- LinkedIn Learning Photography
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gina Williams is a Portland, Oregon USA based journalist and poet. She covers photography and photographers internationally. Learn more about her and her work at GinaMarieWilliams.com and follow her on Instagram at @gina_williams_writes
Every year we release four quarterly printed editions of FRAMES Magazine. Each issue contains 112 pages printed on the highest quality 140g uncoated paper. You receive the magazine delivered straight to your doorstep. We feature both established and emerging photographers of different genres. We pay very close attention to new, visually striking, thought-provoking imagery, while respecting the long-lasting tradition of photography in its purest incarnation.
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