Damilola Elliott is an architect by training but his passion for photography developed in 1997 during a school project at university. The passion unfolded in 2006 when he decided to pursue photography as a career. The Creative Director and Lead Photographer at Damell Photography revealed why he left Architecture for the ‘flashy’ world of photography.
In a chat with LEADERSHIP Friday, he said, “I started photography unofficially in 1997 during a school project, but officially in 2006. I’ve always had creative and artistic traits in me, so it was time to fill out my JAMB form what I was going to study had to go in that direction. I didn’t want visual arts and photography wasn’t on the list of available courses.
“My next option was architecture. When we were in school, we got a street photography project. This project was the starting point of my love for photography. Over the years it became clear that photography would become my “profession”. At the time, being called “Mama Photographer” was not in vogue, especially when “Mama Architect” was a cuter option; So I had to cross very daunting terrain to convince my mother that this was what I really wanted to do.
“The transition was very difficult at first as I didn’t really understand the business side of things. I also had to learn a lot myself before I was allowed to follow some mentors. Their guidance (knowingly and unknowingly) made the next phase very easy to scale.”
He added that the services he currently offers range from portrait photography, wedding/event photography, architectural/real estate photography and industrial photography.
Speaking further about the challenges he faced personally and generally in Nigeria, he said: “In the early years when I embarked on this career path, buying photographic equipment in Nigeria was extremely difficult. We didn’t have local dealers, so everything had to be ordered from abroad.
“That was also in the era of near-zero internet services. For every purchase abroad we had to go to the bank and transfers with sort codes and all the added stress that comes with it weren’t the most encouraging of situations. One of the challenges today is still accepting the profession. Despite having a choice, there are some people who see photography as what you get into when you can’t find a “real” job. They describe it as “quick fix work”. The good thing is that this mindset isn’t the norm and is quickly being eroded,” Elliott explained.
Elliot went on to explain that photography is a very lucrative endeavor, especially when creating a work that will appeal to a large audience, adding that it usually leads to more business opportunities and increased revenue, allowing the practitioner to help others within the strengthen production chain.
Regarding the skills required to get into photography, he said, “The first thing I would say is be creative and open-minded. Next, you need to have a very good eye for detail…train your eyes to see what others can’t.”
Referring to the high-profile events and personalities he has worked on, he said, “One of our most standout events was documenting The Experience Lagos… arguably the largest gospel music concert in the world. We have been doing this since its inception in 2006.
“Over the years we’ve had the opportunity to create photos for government dignitaries, A-listers in the entertainment and corporate industries, among others. We have also had the privilege of documenting both social and business events outside of Nigeria.”
Over the years, Elliott has been able to expand from just one type of photography (weddings) to multiple genres. “This ensures that we are continually responsive to a greater variety of needs and fully committed,” he said.
When asked how he was able to balance career, business and family, Elliott said, “I’m fortunate to have a family that understands the intricacies of my job. ”
Looking at what he wants to achieve in the next few years and where he sees photography as an industry in Nigeria going in the near future, he said: “I don’t plan on retiring any time soon, so I see that I continue to document the special moments of life worldwide for a very long time.
“The photography industry in Nigeria is undoubtedly thriving. I see amazing Nigerian creatives and their work getting the international recognition they deserve.”
While offering some advice to aspiring and aspiring photographers, Elliot cautioned that since the profession is capital intensive, they need to understand the intricacies involved, he also urged them to hire mentors and keep improving because “creativity has no end.” .
The coveted photographer said, while disclosing how he was coping with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown that led to a complete halt to both outdoor and indoor events: “There is no doubt the Covid- 19 pandemic and lockdown has taken its toll on multiple aspects of daily life and business.
“The initial phase was quite tough to be honest, we didn’t know how long the lockdown would last or what to expect with this new virus at all. But as the saying goes: “Necessity is the mother of invention.
“We had to look inward to find solutions to the business shutdown. From the moment full lockdown was lifted to partial lockdown and restricted events taking place, we saw a need that required a solution. The restricted events required a drastic reduction in the number of physical guests in an enclosed space at any given time.
“This meant that for a funeral service, for example, the church, which would seat around 500 people, was reduced to around 100 people. With this development, many friends and family of the deceased could not be physically present at the funeral.
“To make sure they don’t miss out completely, we created the Hybrid Events service. This is how we (Damell Photography) positioned ourselves to record and broadcast the services live using technology and social media. This allowed more people to watch the ceremonies in real time on their mobile devices and TVs without having to be physically present at the Elliott.