Ekene Mekwunye: My Love For Photography
Pictures have the power to makes us eat our cake and have it, as we enjoy, all over again, those feelings we had that moment when the picture was taken. It helps reduce the pain of separation as we look at the pictures of loved ones that are far from us or are gone to the land beyond. Each time we stare at those pictures on the wall or on our table at the office, we feel their presence around us , or remember those lovely times we had them in our arms.
As a film and TV director, it behoves on me to know a lot about the tools of my profession. One major tool that defines my profession is a camera, because without it, I don’t have a job. Though as a director, I don’t have to be the one using it… since a cameraman operates it. However, I have to give him the directions, so I need to know what it can achieve and what it can’t.
The advent of digital single-lens reflex cameras known as DSLR cameras has made it easier and cheaper to make films, because picture cameras that are smaller and cheaper have now been made to shoot good video qualities as well. So even if I buy a DSLR camera for the purpose of making videos, I would also use it to take pictures since it can serve that function as well. That is how this filmmaker got introduced to photography.
I love looking at life through the lens. It would always give you a different perspective that the naked eyes would never give you. That is not to say that the lens can see better than the human eye, as we are yet to see a camera or lens with the same pixel count or dynamic range as the human eye. But there’s a way it appears that gives an indescribable feeling.
There’s a saying that you can’t hold or stop time, but that’s exactly what we do with photography. You are holding a microsecond of history and keeping it still. It reminds me of the words of William Faulkner, an American writer and Nobel Prize laureate. “The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.” I find his words profound.
The craft of taking a good picture is another thing that interests me. You have to see the picture in your head before you take it. Which means you are working with two sets of eyes. Your inner eyes… your mind, and your optical eyes. Ansel Easton Adams, an American photographer once said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make one”. That explains my point, because you will have to see the beauty in the shot to create it. Some of the best shots have been taken in places that don’t look beautiful, but the photographer has to have an eye to bring out the ‘beauty in the ashes’. In the words of Matt Hardy “Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.”
There’s a saying that a picture is worth a thousand words and I can’t agree more. It saves you the stress of talking. I always tell me people “in what I do, I don’t tell people what happened, I show them what happened”. A good picture needs no interpretation, as you would not be there to do that when people see your pictures. I leave you with an anonymous quote, which says, “I always thought good photos were like good jokes. If you have to explain it, it just isn’t that good.”
Ekene Som Mekwunye is a Filmmaker and Photographer. He has worked for Mnet and MTV in the past before starting Riverside Productions which is responsible for creating shows like My Big Nigerian Wedding and DMC world DJ championship. He has a degree in Insurance from the University of Lagos and also studied filmmaking at NYFA Universal studios in Los Angeles. He is presently running an Executive MBA program at the Lagos Business school.