Running a Photography agency of my own has always been my dream since I was twelve. I love to tell stories with pictures. I can recall how my mum made us visit the studio for photo sessions on every special occasion.
One evening when I asked my mom why she always wanted us to take photos. She explained in her usual enthusiastic tone that she does that to create amazing memories with her family. I quite agree with her because they have become my most cherished memories.
Mum has never missed a year for family photoshoot in the 25 years of my existence. She called me on Saturday morning reminding me of the family photoshoot scheduled for the next Thursday. Her call cut my sleep short. I had a long night working on some rebranding ideas for my company. I want to serve the 1%; the crème de la crème…that set of clienteles which even the big photography brands lobby to get.
With the numerous appointments needing my attention during the day, and then the TGIF hang out with my friends, I just couldn’t work on the ideas earlier. I was still in bed when my phone rang. I thought the ringtone was music in dreamland. When the phone rang the first time, I adjusted my head to the other side on my pillow to enjoy the sleep better. Alas, the second ring jolted me to reality. I felt a bang in my head. It must be a hangover. Evelyn, Henry, Tope and Maxwell have a way of dragging me to the club for some fun. And compelled me to take some shots that ended up in me downing five glasses of martini cocktail. Oh well, to them Eunice is uptight and a workaholic. I appreciate having them around once in a while though.
I stretched my hand to pick up my phone on the drawer beside my bed only to discover it was my mum. I wasn’t expecting any call so early from any client. The reason why I was initially hesitant and trying to clear my head from the hangover. The irritating persistence of the caller made me pick up and oh, it was mum.
“Eunice, don’t tell me you are still in bed at this time of the day, or you don’t know what the time is?” She spoke with that familiar annoying mother tone of ‘you shouldn’t still be in bed when I am awake’. Mom forgets that I am a grown woman living in my rented apartment. I imagined the smack with a pillow which mom would have given me after barging into my room while speaking in high tones.
I checked the gold-plated wall clock hanging above the door frame of my self-contained apartment. Getting a good apartment in this part of Lagos is like searching for a needle in a crowded space. I successfully got this apartment in Yaba, for three hundred and fifty thousand naira after six torturous months of searching. I am sure many Lagosians have experienced this ordeal at some point.
It was twenty minutes past ten. Now I know why my mum would have been peeved. “Mummy, good morning, I had to work at night, so I slept really late. And of course, anyone who sleeps late at night should be expected to wake up late.” I managed to explain while yawning.
“Anyway, I can’t blame you. I wonder who sleeps at this hour at age 25 except the one who has insisted on remaining single.” She picks this particular topic anytime she feels offended.
“Mum, I’m sorry,” I said as my only hope to stay out of early morning nags on not being married.
“It would be a pleasure to meet your boyfriend on Thursday at the family photoshoot.” I could feel an iota of excitement from her voice while confidently saying what is not real. Before I could mention that there is no man in my life except Henry who thinks I am too formal and Maxwell who would not stop picking on me, guilt-tripping me on being too busy to date, she hung up.
Photography has helped me understand what passion meant. What it means to chase one’s dream despite the odds. Photography enlivens me. When I hold the camera, I feel like Ethan Hunt of the movie Mission Impossible.
Photography fuels me with hope when I am sullen and despondent. I feel one with existence. When I think about the flash of a camera, it reminds me that someday, the truth about my existence would reveal itself in the light. When I look into the screen of my digital camera, it reminds me that there is always a better picture and version of myself, it doesn’t matter if I zoom or even if it’s a portrait. Thinking about the red button to take pictures taught me that a step to taking action matters because it would always bring a result whether good or bad.
I remember that Tuesday morning when I clocked 21. I was sitting at the edge of my bed in my family house in Victoria Island. Don’t get it twisted, my parents aren’t exactly the wealthy kinds, but hard workers. I dare say, if they weren’t consistent in their endeavours, we would have been drowning in penury. Father works with an oil company as a partner in Port Harcourt, he is such an admirable businessman who believes in sacrificing his intelligence and strength to put food on the table for his family, and my Ijebu Mother sells Jewelry at one of the shopping malls in Lekki. She, on the other hand, loves to be the best representative of motherhood.
Mrs Funmilayo Smith -my mum, has always been the first since I was little to walk into my room on my birthday and sing with her melodious voice- she told me singing was her hobby while growing up and though she hoped to be a sensational singer at the time, her parents couldn’t support her dreams due to their financial constraints. After singing, mum would hold my hands and say words of prayers until she breaks into sobs. According to her, they are tears of joy because she had me after six years of being without a child including the oppositions from her in-laws. She explained that she will stay up late at night crying and praying for a miracle. It affected her banking career at the Heritage Bank in Ikorodu. She was laid off on the grounds of lack of concentration and continuous error.
After the sweet birthday serenade, concluded with prayers, mum gave me a surprise gift of a yellow gown which she bought in Dubai with the kind help of her jewellery supplier Steve. She told me while presenting the gown that Steve took her to one of the malls in Dubai when she described to him my petite size and light skin tone. It thought to myself that Steve had an eye for really good wears because the gown fitted my shape when I tested it.
Getting dressed was quick that morning, because of my anxiousness to unwrap the gift. I picked up my wallet and I headed to my dad’s living room which is hallowed white with monochrome furnishings of white and grey. It’s a large room that could comfortably swallow 25 people without breaking a sweat. Engineer Adebayo Smith, my dad gave an order ten years ago in his baritone voice, “I want you all to sit and talk in my own living room anytime I am around” he asserted, “and I don’t think there should be any excuse for not adhering to this, is that taken?”. He asked as though he was expecting an answer.
“Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you Eunice, Happy Birthday to you…” my siblings and parents chorused. Jude, my immediate younger brother and Mofeoluwa, our prince charming shouted: “hip hip hip” to which I jumped ecstatically shouting “Hurray”. I was even more excited about seeing my dad on my birthday. It was the icing on my cake I’d say. Dad in the last twenty years is either on a business trip or has a presentation or meetings.
I noticed Mofeoluwa was holding a narrow piece of cloth while they were singing but didn’t consider it much until mummy said to him in Yoruba, “oya Mofe, se kini yen fun.” And before I could turn to mum to ask what was happening, Mofe had ordered me in his tiny voice that deafens my ears anytime he comes to my room to report Jude of being unkind to him or for stealing his meat.
“Aunty Eunice, I am not as tall as you are, so please bend down so I can tie this thing on time o” he moved closer, stood slightly on the tip of his toes and wrapping the cloth around my eyes to make a knot at the back of my head. While Jude was tussling me to the left side of the green couch, I could hear a hush sound from the background which sounded like my dad’s. This time, I could feel my heart racing as though it wants to jump out through my mouth.
“Birthday girl, you can remove that thing from your face now and see what we have here” my mum with an excited tone. I gently removed the cloth and what I saw startled me for a moment as my mouth made an ‘O’ shape.
“Oh mine, gosh! I have the best family anyone could ever think of! I am so so happy!” I said, being lost for words, I continued in tears, “Mum, Dad, you bought me a complete camera. With all the gadgets. This day is the happiest day of my life.” I screamed on my knees thanking my parents.
“Let the music begin,” Jude said in a voice that sounds like the miniature of my Dad’s, no wonder they are inseparable I thought.
“Yes! It’s my birthday fam!” I jumped off my feet in disbelief. “Somebody should wake me!” I thought.
I continued in that excitement with the support I got from my mother when I told her I wanted to enrol in a photography school. I knew she gave me the approval because I was already in my third year in the Lagos State University where I studied Public Administration. My father, a disciplinarian insisted on not enrolling me in a private university, for the reason which was best known to him.
I thought my love for photography would continue unperturbed after my Youth Service at the Ministry of Education in Lagos State Secretariat until my father spoke to me one Sunday morning during breakfast in one of his even but business-like tones, “My Princess, I want you to know that as the first child of my family, I have the best in store for you but know one thing, if you are not making good money, you are not making sense.”
Many months later, I was shaken to my core when my father revisited the same matter this very time saying, “Eunice Smith, if you think you’ve grown up to an age when you won’t adhere to my orders, then it means you are no more one of the Smith’s heirs.” He yelled at me, slapping the white tile with his left slippers. I never expected him to be at the corridor. I went mute as he continued, “Oh so you thought I was joking when I said you have to make good money for this family. Or did you think I sent you to that school, spending so much on you to ensure you succeed in that course for fun? For your information madam photographer,” he continued “you are my first heir and I wouldn’t go out to the market looking for someone to sustain the family’s business.”
This time, the joy of having had the best photoshoot since I became an expert had left my soul empty as my mouth watered in dismay and my lips wandering for the right words.
As if my dad hasn’t said enough, he assertively said, “Smith Junior, let me give you two simple options and listen well for your own good. It is either you follow me to the office on Monday morning and I introduce you as the new Head of Communications of Smith Oil or you vacate my house effective immediately, do your photography and never come my path again”.
I have not seen my father in two years and the next Thursday, I would be seeing him. How am I supposed to act? The prodigal first child who refused to join her father’s business has the effrontery of walking into his house for a family photo shoot which she doesn’t belong to anymore.
“Life has thrown everything at me. Life has made me drown in the ocean of knotty decisions. It has also shown me the value of leaving what you thought you cherished for what matters. I could have given up in the street of Lagos and run to the arms of my father but it is worth the sacrifice, I am a champion and no longer a slave to my dream. But then again, I miss my family.” I thought.
My thought was snapped by a knock on the door. It was Evelyn. I made a sigh, “just the person I needed to talk to.”
“I need a boyfriend fast!” I told Evelyn.