Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Photographic Drama of Survival

Emmanuel Iduma in conversation with Ray-Daniels Okeugo on his project for Invisible Borders

Foreman 1 - Jos
Foreman 2 - Abuja

Emmanuel: What is the overall context of your project?

Ray-Daniels: If you go back to remember the things old members of Invisible Borders told you, if you look at it, you find out that they were exhibiting some fear of the unknown. We heard a lot of things about Tchad, but you can tell by the experience we met in Tchad (even though there was an agitation when you pick up your camera) Tchad was more fun than the stories told about it. And look at Sudan, Sudan is beautiful and peaceful, and the people are accommodating. They tell you to feel at home, that you are one with them. So, using what we met here to compare with what we heard, they are two different things. In everything we do, everyone takes some precaution. In our daily dealings, I feel we exhibit some fears that are unnecessary. So, I use the hard-hat to illustrate it, because it is used in construction locations, and helmets are used on bikes. I use hard-hats and helmets to illustrate that fear of uncertainty that goes on through people’s mind in things we do.

Foreman 3  - Jos
Foreman 4 - Jos
It seems you speak about the universality of risk; risk is universal, and everybody is exposed to one form of risk or the other. Is this assumption correct? Do you think we should direct some attention to the presence of risk in our lives?

You are right when you say risk is universal. But I don’t think we should concentrate on risk because there is a certain amount of risk in everything we do. If you concentrate on it, it will distract you from whatever thing you are gunning for. I feel we should concentrate on our goals. It is riskier not to take a risk.

Foreman 8 - Gamboru-Ngala
Foreman 10 - N'djamena
 That’s profound, and it leads to a second consideration. You know, in our world, and in all these places we’ve been travelling through, we can look for an element of survival. I think that when people begin to just live their lives on the assumption that it is more riskier not to take a risk, they are basically saying, “when I am in the world, living is about survival.” Whether or not we are in war zones or conflict situations or whatever form of risk the media tries to hyperbolize, the point is that we are, as humans, always in a quest for survival, and we have pledged our lives to survive. I think that is also important in the sense of what you are working on. Do you agree with this?

Definitely, I agree. I feel those who are running away from taking risks are not prepared to survive, and they are existing and not living. If you take risks, those risks would lead to your survival. You find out that when you came here, you just survived those fears that the media and those that heard from the media elaborated. I consider that taking the risk of entering into these crises zones lead to our survival.

Foreman 11 - N'djamena
Finally, in your project there is some element of drama. It is interesting to see how you have been able to fuse your acting background into your photography career. Can you let me in on how you have proceeded with defining your subject and getting your subject to agree to be your character in this (photographic) movie of risk and survival you are staging?

Two things led to how I presented my ideas – my character and my profession. My character (I play a lot) and my other profession (I am an actor). I have been in some (Invisible Borders) presentation where works were shown. When it came to my work, you see the otherwise quiet audience laughing. This is because I try to dramatize in my work. Art, I believe, is all about having fun. Actors say that acting is all about having fun and being paid for having fun. Presenting my ideas should not be in a manner that make people feel as though they are attending a funeral. After laughing over what you saw, you ask yourself what does this mean, and you get the message, and that’s the reason why I dramatize my ideas. If you look at some of the situations in my work, you see that the images speak – how would someone making up wear a helmet? What is the person running away from? Watch out for more of my works. My project would be on for the next 20 or 30 years, because people cannot stop living. The project will get into all forms of life, and I will keep dramatizing it. I hope that younger photographers will pick up from where I stop.

I think this a convenient way to stop. I look forward to the exhilaration and introspection that will come from looking at your images. Hopefully, the project will not end with this trip, but will extend throughout your photography career. 

Foreman 13 - N'djamena


Anonymous said...

Nice, but the opening context was not necessary. There is more to talk about without deviating to some personal facts you are not sure of.

Anonymous said...

You have to show the unity in your team and don't paint others as loosers or chicken hearted.
IB is a good project and you guys have to show it off as laudable to the rest of the world.
I understand that this is the 3rd edition, some people started it with you and if they are not there, please respect their decisions.
Big up guys!

Uche Okpa-Iroha said...

You didn't have to start an interview like that.It's a slight on others. You were there right from 2009 and you know what we all went through even without funding and traveling very dangerous and unknown routes. But we made it to Bamako and Dakar safe and sound.

Refresh your memories back to the incident at the Bamako Bus garage in 2009 and remember who were the last members standing when the locals were antagonized.

I need not remind you that I lost my wedding ring in that incident.

All the same, your photos are good.

Anonymous said...

The Mighty and Strong "7" please give some respect to the "less strong" and "chicken heart" other members. I believe they were there right from the beginning when it all started and have given their best too.
Use your blog well and don't throw stones at others who are not on the trip.

Carl, Enfield, London

Ray Daniels Okeugo said...

Thanks to all your comments but please try and artistically understand my concept and don't misinterpret it,the concept was conceived long before this year's trip even before the whole split,just made reference to the situation. all the same your perception is appreciated.

Oluwaseyi Obe said...

Hey Daniel! Well done. Great job overall. Like Emeka said, you were simply expressing yourself and giving meaning to your work. It is normal in Communication to be misunderstood. The concept of "Noise" and "barriers to effective communication" are salient here. I am happy that you took nothing personal. I equally appreciate Uche's maturity and courage. I wish all the people hiding under the "Anonymous" tag and attacking Daniel could own up to their comments and opinions, because everyone is welcome. And every opinion is good as long as you do not try to impose it on others. Cheers.

Oluwaseyi Obe said...

Emeka, where are all the filles parisiennes that came to Lagos (Yabatech) in 2007 with Monsieur Tosani? Ombeline, Jennifer, Yasmina, Sophie, Nathalie, etc might just be interested in joining the IB trip one of these days. I think that beyond crossing land borders, we should begin to think about crossing oceans, air spaces, continents and skin colours. Maybe Total, Goethe Insititute or Alliance française would be interested. I can't wait for the next big (IB) thing!

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