Sometime in 2001, Andrew Esiebo was asked by a friend what he wanted as a gift. “A camera”, he replied. And so Eseibo (1978) got a camera and started to teach himself photography. Photography, like music, fashion, and the arts in general aren’t things most of us grew up hearing encouraged as “proper” professions, and it was the same with Andrew growing up in Nigeria. Nonetheless, camera in hand in his early twenties, Andrew began to pursue his dream. “But I quickly got stuck, because the ones that did earn money with it, did so by doing commercial work: weddings, portraits and such. That didn’t really inspire me, so I started browsing the internet to get in touch with foreign photographers and look at photography books to get inspired.”

Nigeria on his mind

Andrew began to chronicle the rapid development of urban Nigeria, especially Lagos (which is urbanizing like no man’s business), as well as the rich culture and heritage of Nigeria’s largest city Ibadan. As a photographer, he is primarily concerned with the lives of ordinary Africans. “I’m interested in simple things that happen around me. That’s why for a series like ‘Pool Betting’ I photographed the trend of football pool betting amongst older men; for ‘God is Alive’ I record religious spaces spread throughout the country to demonstrate how Nigerians express their own brand of praise; and in ‘Nigeria on My Mind’ I bundle our cultural heritage, ethnic diversity and geographic beauty of my country”.

Local gamblers gather at the Oje football pool house in Ibadan, Nigeria ©Andrew Esiebo

Local gamblers gather at the Oje football pool house in Ibadan, Nigeria ©Andrew Esiebo

Akinode Adekole, a retired teacher and the agent of Oje pool house in Ibadan, cross-checking outcomes of football results from previous bets, a daily morning ritual. ©Andrew Esiebo

Akinode Adekole, a retired teacher and the agent of Oje pool house in Ibadan, cross-checking outcomes of football results from previous bets, a daily morning ritual. ©Andrew Esiebo

©Andrew Esiebo

©Andrew Esiebo

Adekole on his way to join other gamblers to view a live satellite telecast of an England premiership league match. ©Andrew Esiebo

Adekole on his way to join other gamblers to view a live satellite telecast of an England premiership league match. ©Andrew Esiebo

The most exciting and nerve-racking part of pool betting. ©Andrew Esiebo

The most exciting and nerve-racking part of pool betting. ©Andrew Esiebo

©Andrew Esiebo

©Andrew Esiebo

Taiwo Agami, a regular contributor to the football pool. Although he is blind, Agami is an avid football supporter and has an impressive knowledge of English and European leagues. Armed with his transistor radio, he listens to  live coverage of a match on which he has placed a bet. ©Andrew Esiebo

Taiwo Agami, a regular contributor to the football pool. Although he is blind, Agami is an avid football supporter and has an impressive knowledge of English and European leagues. Armed with his transistor radio, he listens to live coverage of a match on which he has placed a bet. ©Andrew Esiebo

Some of his other work includes capturing the bustling Lagos nightlife and associated bouncers, appropriating football in unconventional environments, and the story of Sunny Omini, an ex-football star turned missionary.

Untitled. ©Andrew Esiebo

Untitled. ©Andrew Esiebo

Untitled. ©Andrew Esiebo

Untitled. ©Andrew Esiebo

Heavy stuff

“Living Positive” is also a single-subject series. “In South Africa I followed Thoko Ngubeni, a black, lesbian with HIV who has had to fight all kinds of discrimination and stigmitisation. She was rejected by her family and friends, and was at one point on the verge of death, but she turned her life around, using all of her talent and resources to make a better life for herself and others. She founded a women’s support group called Mafithobelae, and organises public meetings to educate local people on issues relating to HIV and Aids, provides access to testing and medication, and works tirelessly to combat the stigma associated with the virus.”

Thoko Ngubeni in her bedroom at her house in Mpumalanga. Thoko is a singer, lesbian and HIV positive activist who works as a social worker in her township. ©Andrew Esiebo

Thoko Ngubeni in her bedroom at her house in Mpumalanga. Thoko is a singer, lesbian and HIV positive activist who works as a social worker in her township. ©Andrew Esiebo

Thoko Ngubeni walks to a community clinic with a friend in Mpumalanga. ©Andrew Esiebo

Thoko Ngubeni walks to a community clinic with a friend in Mpumalanga. ©Andrew Esiebo

Thoko talks to members of her community at a clinic in Mpumalanga. ©Andrew Esiebo

Thoko talks to members of her community at a clinic in Mpumalanga. ©Andrew Esiebo

Thoko kisses an elderly community member at her home in Mpumalanga. The elder woman is suspected to have HIV. As such, Thoko and her support group members pay regular visit to her to monitor her health. ©Andrew Esiebo

Thoko kisses an elderly community member at her home in Mpumalanga. The elder woman is suspected to have HIV. As such, Thoko and her support group members pay regular visit to her to monitor her health. ©Andrew Esiebo

Thoko, singer, social worker, activist. ©Andrew Esiebo

Thoko, singer, social worker, activist. ©Andrew Esiebo

“In an untitled, on-going portrait series I photograph resilient African gays who challenge the stereotypical representation of LGBTQs in African cultures.”

With international attention in his work growing in the last ten years, Andrew started exploring new creative territories and integrating multimedia, as he does in his series ‘Barbara Encounter’, about a Zambian sex worker, and ‘Living Queer African’, about a homosexuals student from Cameroon trying to make a new life for himself in France.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3VY5y-EFDk#t=11

Barbershops

His latest work, however, returns him to lighter subject matter: barbershops. For ‘Pride’ he traveled through seven African countries, visiting cities mainly, to portray urban aesthetics and hairstyles, and the people that make all of that possible, barbers. “They were actually surprised that it was a fellow African portraying them, not an American or European. Everybody here knows about it, but nobody took the time to go deeper into the social function of barbers. It was the first time an African did it, but the barbers understood the importance of the project and said they would go the extra mile to support me.”

Mali. ©Andrew Esiebo

Mali. ©Andrew Esiebo

Ivory Coast. ©Andrew Esiebo

Ivory Coast. ©Andrew Esiebo

Ghana. ©Andrew Esiebo

Ghana. ©Andrew Esiebo

Liberia. ©Andrew Esiebo

Liberia. ©Andrew Esiebo

Eseibo says many photographers ignore or fail to notice such subjects, especially if they come from ‘outside’ and don’t know what’s going on in the society. “Until now, the story of our continent has been told by non-Africans. For example, every time they come to Lagos, they want to go the slums. Why not expand? Now that we have the tools and skills, I feel responsible to fill in that gap.”

World Cup

Andrew’s life as a photographer is a full and busy one. He was one of the lucky few selected for the Road to Twenty Ten project, the idea of which was to form an all-African dream team of 16 journalists and photographers to provide alternative stories from the World Cup in South Africa. Before that he had a number of artistic residencies in Paris, London and South Korea. He is also the initiator and co-organizer of ‘My Eye, My World’, a participatory photography workshop for socially-excluded children in Nigeria, and a member of the Lagos-based photography collective BlackBox. His work has been exhibited all over the world and published in books, magazines and websites. Check out his portfolio here. You can also keep up with his work via Facebook.

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Ntsbesing Dimpe from Hamskraal, South Africa. I always liked to do different exercises by myself, and then I joined the netball team before coming into soccer. After meeting the grannies I felt I had an interest for soccer. So I joined them and my kids were supportive, because they also liked soccer, more than the other sports I was doing. My son is also a soccer coach in a primary school in Sandton. So he was very excited when I did this. ©Andrew Esiebo

Ntsbesing Dimpe from Hamskraal, South Africa. I always liked to do different exercises by myself, and then I joined the netball team before coming into soccer. After meeting the grannies I felt I had an interest for soccer. So I joined them and my kids were supportive, because they also liked soccer, more than the other sports I was doing. My son is also a soccer coach in a primary school in Sandton. So he was very excited when I did this. ©Andrew Esiebo

Doris Thahani, 51 years old. “I love soccer because it decreases my high blood level, my family likes soccer too and they are supportive in what I’m doing. At first I did not have any fear of what may happen to me as a soccer player. I did not think that I would hurt myself. My teammates and I encourage each other to continue playing soccer. Soccer makes me happy and stops me thinking about the problems that I have.Playing soccer has helped me socialise and I’m able to network with other women at my age.” ©Andrew Esiebo

Doris Thahani, 51 years old. “I love soccer because it decreases my high blood level, my family likes soccer too and they are supportive in what I’m doing. At first I did not have any fear of what may happen to me as a soccer player. I did not think that I would hurt myself. My teammates and I encourage each other to continue playing soccer. Soccer makes me happy and stops me thinking about the problems that I have.Playing soccer has helped me socialise and I’m able to network with other women at my age.” ©Andrew Esiebo

Women’s sad faces often complement African stories of famine, poverty and violence. Hence Alter gogo challenges gender stereotypes as well the role and image attributed to women, in particular in their old age. The Grand mothers’ regalia, their proud postures in the soccer field along with the charm of their intimate spaces and loves create a powerful socio-cultural scenario in which soccer is the means and the ultimate expression of a new gender and generation identity. ©Andrew Esiebo

Women’s sad faces often complement African stories of famine, poverty and violence. Hence Alter gogo challenges gender stereotypes as well the role and image attributed to women, in particular in their old age. The Grand mothers’ regalia, their proud postures in the soccer field along with the charm of their intimate spaces and loves create a powerful socio-cultural scenario in which soccer is the means and the ultimate expression of a new gender and generation identity. ©Andrew Esiebo

Hybriding Religion. ©Andrew Esiebo

Hybriding Religion. ©Andrew Esiebo

Hybriding Religion. ©Andrew Esiebo

Hybriding Religion. ©Andrew Esiebo

Hybriding Religion. ©Andrew Esiebo

Hybriding Religion. ©Andrew Esiebo

Hybriding Religion. ©Andrew Esiebo

Hybriding Religion. ©Andrew Esiebo