When it comes to putting together the True Laurels zine, from the start, I always wanted to put an emphasis on collaboration. In Volume 1, out of necessity, I snapped a lot of the photos but this time around I made sure to work with people who have a real passion for being behind the lens. A big help in making True Laurels Volume 2 happen is Olivia Obineme—a photographer and blogger living in Baltimore. I first met her while walking downtown in the early part of last year. She approached me and I remember being kind of flustered with how polite she was (LOL). She asked could she take a few photos of me for her blog Strangers With Style and I was down. I didn't see her again until the backend of summer when she stopped a friend of mine for the same reason. Since then we've stayed in touch and agreed to work together for the zine. Recently we chatted about her passion and I got to know her a lot better. Peep the conversation below.
To you, what is a photographer's responsibility?
Olivia Obineme: I'm not sure if it's a responsibility per se --perhaps that specifically for photojournalism. Regardless, I think when one captures something using a camera, one would hope to evoke something --a feeling--in those who view it. It's one way many people are able to express themselves. You know how they say pet owners and their pets have similar personalities? Or something of the sort. Anyway, it's like photography and the artist behind it. There are many photographers I know whose photography carries their essence.
What was your first camera and did you value it as much as your cameras now?
O.O: I mean, the first camera I ever had was a Polaroid ProCam. Still have it. Was pretty much a family camera, but I definitely made it my own. Funny how technology evolves and what becomes the latest trends. All of the original stuff. I own a DSLR now -Canon 70D, it's a relatively new purchase, actually. Still trying to get used to it. Felt much more comfortable borrowing my friend's 60D. My mind tends to go blank when I encounter similar, but new things sometimes. Weird.
Are you consciously thinking about taking a great photo while shooting or does that come after?
O.O: I'm still growing as a photographer. Sometimes, I feel I still need to shoot more and get more critiques in order to take on the title of 'photographer'. But many who have seen my work have said I have a good eye for things. So, I try to be in the moment as I'm shooting, keeping mind of some things seasoned photographers have told me to avoid. They see great potential, so that means you should all want to work with me. But seriously, I'm pretty chill on shoots, which allows for my subjects to be themselves and allows more of a creative flow. And, I was only semi-joking. Let's work together on something. It's a win-win!
What's the best photo you've ever taken and what separates it from the pack?
O.O: I don't know, to be honest. Sometimes after a couple of shoots, there's a photo that comes to mind --that stands out. Any favorite of mine usually is based on the whole experience. I can say that capturing the beauty and realness of Deana Haggag, has always been an all-time favorite of mine. I guess having one of the photos I took of her set as my desktop for the longest time, makes it one of my best? Everything about her, interacting with her, assisting her with styling, and being able to direct her during the shoot was sublime. Hoping to to capture her essence again, soon. There's a shot of Eze Jackson I took for my blog that's always stood out to me, too. Dude looked so cool, crown and all.
How important is music, if at all, to your creative process?
O.O: Music just opens up parts of me that I didn't even know existed and allows me to create with an open mind. I can listen to pretty much anything. I mean I do have limits. Sorry, Taylor Swift. Not about that life. And I'm also not the avid 'I know the title and musician of every song I've ever listened to" music type of person, either. I'm not even sure that people who know me the best (besides my family) know that I love classical music. I used to write poetry on a daily basis and the stuff that would manifest from this brain of mine when Mozart was turned up, would just be unbelievable. And then again, Erykah Badu would channel a whole different vibe for me; but pretty much, if my body is swaying or the beat triggers my brain, the creativity will be ever flowing. Oooh, African music is always on point for me. Could listen, dance and work to that all at the same time and still get stuff done. I'm Nigerian. I'll always find a beat to rock to, haha. I guess what I'm trying to say is, if whatever is playing allows me to focus on my work, on my thoughts, then it's fine in my book. I don't want to focus on the fact that Katy Perry is a firework. Catchy, but I get nowhere with that.
Have mobile apps helped you grow as a photographer?
O.O: Instagram. No, don't go checking out my account. It's not amazing. But, I think since I have been using the app, and have been seeing what others have captured, it has allowed me to see more when using my DSLR. Not sure if that makes sense. It's quite beautiful, some of the images many of these IG users capture in such a small space. I mean, that is for those who only use their phone cameras to shoot for IG.
Have you ever felt stuck in your progression? How did you pull yourself?
O.O: I feel like I have hit some obstacles, both personal and professional that have stalled my progression, but only temporarily. I try to find some inspiration. I love checking out local photographers' works. I love looking at Glenford Nunez's work. From sitting back and winding down to some Wendel Patrick, to checking out what other, I consider great locals are doing, helps. I look for vibrancy that will brighten my life and help me see things clearer. And at the same time, I'm rooting for the home team. If anything, Baltimore should be known for its self-starters, its self-motivating city slickers that grind it out each and every day. I was talking to a close friend of mine about this new age Baltimore I think is happening. It's the younger folks in this town that are the real grit of Baltimore and I can foresee those same young people taking over this city. Have I gone off on a tangent? I guess I like checking out the success of other folks in the city to help inspire and push me to keep going. Meditation, pulling myself away from the problem for a bit to just breathe and then go back in with a clearer mindset helps. Everyone gets stuck, but what you make of that situation is all that matters.