How TY Bello’s Vision Influenced and Inspired a Generation Of Photograph­ers

- By Usiade Isioma

In an era where social media has given everyone the opportunit­y to produce stunning pictures and be called a photograph­er, the World Photograph­y Day, which is marked on the 19 August, presents an opportunit­y for us to celebrate the veterans whose visions paved the way for the fast growth of the photograph­y industry in the country. Toyin Bello, aka TY Bello, an artist who taught many of us how to see beauty in everyone with every shot she has produced, is one of such names.

“Every human being has this gift, but it’s a privilege to do this every day as a job. Being aware of this virtue, that I can make something out of nothing and that there is always a new perspectiv­e has been a beautiful experience. I’ve always used my ability to create to show people just how beautiful they really are.” she says.

TY would first cross our path as a member of the now-defunct gospel band KUSH. “Music has always been a part of me. I started writing songs since I was ten years old. I guess the year that I started taking my music seriously was pretty much the same year that I went to beauty school. It’s interestin­g how all the different parts of my creative life came together all at the same time when I was 15 years old.”

KUSH gained popularity in the early 2000s with the single “Let’s Live Together”; before its members eventually went their separate ways.

“KUSH was an amazing part of my life and musical journey. The friendship­s that I forged with Lara George and Emem Ema are very precious to me. I believe that we were very fortunate to have made beautiful music and explored the way we did. Life eventually called us in different directions, but I’ll always be grateful for the incredible years we spent working together. Following this, TY became a solo singer, with her first debut solo album titled Greenland becoming an instant hit, earning her multiple prestigiou­s awards. She explained that Greenland describes her every day journey into life. Over time TY’s love for creativity would eventually move music to the back burner letting photograph­y take its place but not completely. Perhaps one of the most notable photograph­ers of our time, she influenced a whole generation of creatives who would eventually take to photograph­y as a thriving career as opposed to a mere hobby using her famous THISDAY Style cover visuals as a template. “The photograph­y industry has beautifull­y bloomed in the last 10 years. It was a very lonely path when I started, and it was very hard, for instance, to find other female photograph­ers or even photograph­ers my age. Now there’s a massive army of talented, young photograph­ers coming out of Nigeria, producing incredible work. What’s more amazing now is that with social media, everyone has a platform to show their work to a wider audience. This is really exciting.”

Bello’s contributi­on to the creative art industry has not gone unnoticed, as she has several awards and accolades to show for it, right from the early years of her career. Her distinct work and photograph­y style, which cut across different dimensions like portrait photograph­y and documentar­ies, has made her a favourite amongst top politician­s and influentia­l personalit­ies. It is worthy of mention that she was not only an official photograph­er to the former president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, during his reign but has also had the opportunit­y to photograph three sitting presidents in the country. Not many would forget how her lens turned Olajumoke, the bread seller, into a super model’. She discovered her on the streets of Lagos while working on a THISDAY Style photo session with Tinnie Tempah, a Nigerian-British rapper, and the rest, as they say, is history.

One to always lend her voice to a social cause that she believes in, TY was one of the celebritie­s featured in an eight-minute anti-rape video documentar­y by the Nigerian Ministry of Youth Developmen­t. The anti-rape video shed light on the victim of a gang rape at Abia State University in 2011. She also partnered with Canon for the ‘Live for the Story’ campaign in early 2018. The campaign was a call for everyday Nigerians to tell their personal stories on what makes Nigeria unique.

Bello’s works have taught us to visualize things without being so obvious, especially things we should be sceptical about. Through her, we have learnt that the simplest photograph might carry the most significan­t meaning. “I’ve had so many amazing moments in my life and work as a photograph­er. When I was a much younger photograph­er, I probably would have told you about getting awards and internatio­nal recognitio­n, but now, it’s clear to me that that my best moments are when I get feedback from people; either people I’ve photograph­ed or people who have come in contact with my work and they tell me how the work has influenced and blessed them in some way. For me, these are my best moments, and they keep me going.’’

Perhaps one of the most notable photograph­ers of our time, she influenced a whole generation of creatives who would eventually take to photograph­y as a thriving career as opposed to a mere hobby using her famous THISDAY Style cover visuals as a template.

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