UYD: In a line or two, please introduce yourself.
OE: My name is Otudeko Gbemileke Emmanuel or Gbemi for short and I am a Nigerian photographer. My lifelong goal is to become a world-class photographer and director of photography, using my gift to impact my world positively through my God-given ideas and stories
UYD: How did your passion for photography begin?
OE: First up, my story’s not like other kinds you usually hear from photographers. I actually hated being in photos and wasn’t a fan of saving memories. It wasn’t till I needed to submit my childhood pictures for my high school graduation that I realized I had nothing to be afraid of.
About a year later, my love for photography started. I found myself slowly becoming addicted to taking pictures. I no longer was shy to introduce myself to anyone holding a camera, to hold it or just to ask what brand they were using. I used all kind of phones to take pictures back then, before I got an actual camera. What I’d do was mess around with the settings and use available light to take good-looking shots. I eventually got my first camera which was a Fuji and it was like I won the lottery. The rest as they say is history.
As time went by, I started becoming curious about what professional photographers did differently to get awesome images. In the process, I started shadowing a professional photographer, Mr Olawale Olajide, who was a contract photographer for Forbes Africa and an acquaintance of a cousin of mine. And then, in the past months, my mentors have been Mr. Kayode Martins, who gives me the best advice, as well as my two buddies Kay of Kayn Photography and Femi of Caution Pictures. I’m also a committed student of YouTube school and my motto is “Keep learning till I’m better than my best and am the best at what I do.”
UYD: What’s the journey been like so far?
OE: It’s been awesome. The hard times weren’t hard exactly because I have learnt to channel challenges to benefit me as well as learn from my mistakes. My dad wasn’t in support of me going into photography from the start which made me very determined to prove myself because he can be very hard to convince. Thankfully I had people like my uncle Soji along the way too, who believed in my dreams and that gave me that boost I use to stay tenacious.
UYD: What do you enjoy taking photos of?
OE: Happy people, weddings, landscapes, sunsets, babies… the list is endless.
UYD: Tell us a bit about the Happy People project?
OE: The Happy People project is a campaign aimed at taken a total of 5000 portraits of people smiling in each country around the world, with each person sharing what truly makes him or her smile while facing challenges.
It’s a project is very dear to me because it was inspired by a personal experience. A while ago, I was feeling very depressed and it felt like the whole world was against me. I remember sitting down to write letters to my future self, asking if I would ever be happy. I even considered suicide at a point. But a turning point came when I discovered God for myself and decided to draw closer to him. I also started to feed off of the smiles of others. One smile from a person, not necessarily directed at me, made me smile and gradually made me want to be around happy people rather than hide in a corner. It also made me want to find true happiness which I eventually did. Now I am happy and no matter the situation I’ll never bring myself to that point again. When all seems to be going wrong, I pray and think of the future and how awesome my life will be. The bible says better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof…
UYD: Why is the Happy People Project important today and what sort of impact do you hope it’ll create around the world?
OE: It’s important because it is a movement aimed at fighting depression through our smiles. It is said that over 70% of the world’s population suffer from one or more forms of depression. A smile might not be all we need to make this world a better place but it’s a step in the right direction. A smile triggered my quest for finding true happiness and I’m sure it can and will inspire others to smile. We can’t inspire others without first being happy. No situation they say is peculiar to one person so when you can, share your story or testimony. You might just help that one person or save his life.
It’s my hope that through this campaign three things are spread across the globe: love, care, and that inner peace which when truly found can make a difference in our world today.
UYD: If I want to get involved by contributing a smile, what do I do?
OE: You can follow us on instagram. Also, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and location, and we’ll arrange for your lovely smile to be captured. A caption would be included with the photo, answering the question, “What makes you happy when all seems to be going wrong?”
UYD: In one line, how would you say you’re using your difference to make a difference?
OE: I am that light that the world needs me to be.