In INTERVIEW on October 25, 2010 at 8:27 am

Hushed tones fall over the room as guests take their seats. Legs are crossed, red-soled stilettos bob up and down as the lighting is dimmed and all eyes focus on the only visible light.  Nigerian photographer, Tyna Ezenma, readies herself at her tripod to capture the first model to take the runway. She is at Fashion Week in New York, September 2009, and with seemingly endless energy, she invokes the ability to virtually make time stand still. Her view of the world and how photography fits into it is quite poignant.

“The awareness of the importance of photography in the African society is so disappointing. Most people here have not come to realize that photography is an Art, and that people actually studied it as a course. As a female African in a profession dominated by men, I have to work extra hard to prove myself relevant,” remarks Ezenma. Her quest for excellence in this area has certainly been worth the sacrifice.

While in South Korea, relevance was not an issue especially when she had her first photography exhibition. She was the only female and the only black person in the group; this certainly made the experience special, she admits.

“As a female it has been difficult “squatting” at some events to take photographs.”  But being a minority has its advantages. When you find unique angles with which no other photographer might have thought about, you stand out. So the obstacles can become the sole inspiration for finding one’s niche.”

And many have taken note: Several accolades including three international photography awards in the U.S. as well as published works by the International Library of Photography. While in Korea for a year, her work was featured as part of a group exhibition in Ulsan, South Korea, in November of 2007.

Who inspires Ezenma, you may ask? There are too many to note here, but celebrity photographer Matthew Jordan Smith has special meaning to her. “I love his passion and creativity for photography.”

Ezenma, in her own right, has developed a unique style that demands a double-take. She adds: “To me, photography is an art of observation, it’s about finding something interesting in ordinary things, most importantly, the way I see things. I love playing around with light. Studying light has been one of the difficult challenges I’ve faced in photography.”  A quick study of her work tells you that this challenge has become one of the special nuances of her images.

A mellow-toned voice via phone confirms Ezenma’s humble spirit.  But do not be deceived, she does not mince words when expressing herself.  This grit, however, does not turn you off – it makes you want to know her more.  Just read her blog, or check out the entries on her Facebook page.  It seems almost as personal as sitting across the kitchen table from her.

She elaborates: “My mission is to continue to grow and develop as an artist, and person, using my photography in all genres, fashion, advertising, portraiture and landscape, as a medium for inspiration and a means to understand the world. I have no desire for self-aggrandizement. If you want to know more, just ask.”

One could deduce that it takes far more than talent or just passion to make a great photographer. It is about knowing thyself and the impact one wants to make in the world. Ezenma seems to have managed to amass both.

But wait. Being a globe-trotting photographer is not the only thing on Ezenma’s ‘To-do” list. In this life everyone must discover the things he or she was placed here to do. That discovery, aside from natural abilities, can take one on an unplanned journey for self.  Adopting a baby girl and opening up a motherless babies’ home are a few of the ways Ezenma would like to give back to society.  Starting a fashion line one day is also on the list. If anyone could accomplish such tasks, it is Ezenma. Her tenacity and focus are inspiring to say the least.

What is her loftiest goal as a professional photographer? Ezenma states: “I would like to be one of the most sought after photographers in the world, and would also like to be featured on CNN “Art of Life.”

So when asked who she would most like to photograph, Michelle Obama is Ezenma’s pick.  “She is so intelligent and beautiful.”

And as Ezenma’s craft continues to evolve and mature, the world may one day get to see just that. Tyna Ezenma lives in Lagos, Nigeria, with her husband and four little boys (Shawn, Joel, Kachi and Chinedu).

By Eboness Belin


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