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If you have read my last story on how I had to turn down my international admission into University of Nebraska, Lincoln, you will have known that the second most valuable lesson I learned from that experience was that “I am responsible for my own success“. In this post, I am going to show you how I began to take responsibility for my life immediately after I faced that setback.
When it dawned on me that going abroad was not going to work as at that time, I had no choice but to pick myself up, get dusted and re-strategize because no matter what happens life must continue. Already, I had missed my aptitude test, so I had to stay at home for the whole of the 2012/2013 Academic session. This, of course, was still part of my earlier plan to have at least a year break after high school before forwarding my studies.
During the one year I was to stay at home, I wanted to use it to rediscover and rebuild myself after all the stress of high school external exams. Neither was I going to stay idle because there is no such word in my dictionary.
I still had an eye for Architecture so I had to do everything to at least have an idea of what awaits me. From my study of the Course, I found out that besides thinking and planning spaces, Architects have a thing for visuals and graphics. I learnt that Photography could help me appreciate Aesthetics as well as capture memories of building which can serve as inspiration later on in my work. Immediately, I just knew what I had to do – learn and master Photography.
For the first time in my life, I had to become an apprentice. To some people, that might sound like a strange thing for an introverted “bookworm” to do. But having trained myself to be resilient and adaptable (an important and necessary attribute of an Entrepreneur), I did not have a hard time making the decision to do what it takes to acquire the Photography skill.
Finding a tutor was not a hard job either. Who else was better qualified than one Mr. Iboro Archibong? I had always admired his entrepreneurial spirit from a distance. I later found out that he was not only the best and most respected Photographer in Ikot Ekpene, he had gained some amount of authority and influence in the state as well. That alone made my apprenticeship a great wealth of valueless experience outside Photography itself. He is a very disciplined, focused and courageous person with a great sense of humor – which really appealed to me.
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”
— Elliott Erwitt
After payment of the tuition fees, I got started precisely around December 2012 for a 3-month apprenticeship contract. I got started immediately. Every morning, after dropping my mom off at school, I would shuttle to his house so we could go out for field jobs. I tried my best to be obedient and loyal in serving my boss. Sometimes, I would help to fetch water for the family using wheelbarrow while waiting for our outing time. Whenever I erred and he was irate, I would tender my unreserved apologies even when I was right. These apprentice experiences did a lot to shape my character. I had a sweet taste of what apprentices sent to “learn a trade” (maybe because they couldn’t catch up academically) went through. And believe me, though it was sometimes painful, I truly enjoyed it.
During the period of tutelage, I learned a lot about photography from this genius. He was/is so good that he will dominate the market in every occasion he went to. Whenever we arrived at a function, I could diagnose with my 6th sense what I call “the fear of Iby” in other Photographers and it made me feel proud and optimistic about our success. They knew that his hustling spirit, resilience, and determination was way beyond their comprehension. The quality of his pictures was simply incomparable even with the Nikon D40 Camera. When I asked him about the bigger, higher grades of cameras that the others were using, he would tell me, “Obot, look… This job is not really about the model of camera. A great tool in the hands of a bad operator equals poor results. With this camera, I can make 2x the amount of money they make.” I was a living witness to that.
“Obot you have to be serious with this business. You see, this camera you are handling can take you to anywhere in the world. With this camera, you can have access to the Government house and stand face to face with the Governor. You can COMMAND him to stand or sit well so as to give him a great shot and he will quickly obey. That is how powerful the Camera can make you.”
—- Mr. Iby (my boss)
It might interest you to know that he never allowed me to touch the camera for the first few weeks. I only learned how to operate the SELPHY® portable printer, print pictures and sell them to the people. It was here that I mastered “the art of selling” – outside the walls of a classroom. It was later on that I started to take shots with the camera and before long, my mom was able to acquire one for me. At the end of each day’s job, I would make account of all of the income to him and he’ll sometimes give me some pocket money.
With my motorcycle and camera bag, I was ready to conquer the world, create and preserve memories, make people smile and make my wallet fat.
In addition, I got to shed off a whole lot of the bad side of being a chronic introvert as I was forced by the nature of my job to meet and relate with complete strangers. It was here that lost my shyness and gained the courage to initiate and close business deals with anyone. As I watched and followed my boss, I grew my social life to great heights. Photography has endeared me to a whole lot of people. Time will fail me to narrate every one of my apprenticeship experience, but I believe you now have an idea of what the life of an entrepreneur looks like. At around April, I had to end our contract because my admission at University of Uyo was calling. Before sending me off, my boss gave me some words of advice and prayed for me.
My first Business card
As I mentioned earlier, the major reason for going into Photography was to get myself prepared for a successful career in Architecture. However, before I completed my tutelage, my goal was expanded. I was bitten by the “Entrepreneurship Bug”. What else did you expect after being taught by such a capitalistic boss? I realized that with my newly acquired skill, I could make a fortune in school. I was already dreaming of the extra pocket money I will be able to make with my camera and it made a lot of sense to me. Even before gaining my freedom, I began going out for independent job offers and believe me, a new me was born. I officially became an adult at age 17. For the first time in my life, I was able to experience the pains and joys of “making money”.
From that moment, I began to see and appreciate the commercial side of Photography. I got a name for my business: OBYLA FOTOKLAZIC with the motto, “Preserving Precious Memories”. I got a friend to design a business card for me and BOOM, I became a professional Photographer.
To cut a long story short, I want to say that acquiring the skill of photography has really helped me here in school. There used to be times when money was not forthcoming from home and I would be broke to the core. Instead of borrowing or begging, I will simply pick up my Photography kits and burst into wherever an occasion was going on and the rest is history.
Interestingly enough, while so many students were losing money on our Matriculation day, I was able to make close to N15,000. It sounds kind of awkward to be hustling on my Matric day, right? But as the Entrepreneur I had grown to become, I didn’t mind what people would say. I put my camera to work and it was worth it. As time went on, people began to know me both in and outside me department and sometimes had to turn down some jobs so that I could concentrate on my studies.
TODAY, as I launch my Photography Brand – OBYLA PHOTOKLAZIC – Preserving Precious Memories, I give all glory and honor to God for having helped me thus far to build my Entrepreneurial skills through Photography. I also want to acknowledge and appreciate my boss who made this possible and my sweet mummy who sponsored me.
A new chapter has just begun in my Photography Business and I can only say, “the best is yet to come.”