This week we debut Trope Stories, a video conversation with our network of photographers and an examination of their work. Our first episode checks in with London photographer Ope Odueyungbo, the creative force behind Parallel Lines. Host Terry Maday and Ope talk Black Lives Matter, his photographic journey, and how he maintains his unrelenting hope and positivity.
Please check out our brand-new YouTube Channel to see Ope’s podcast and all future videos from Trope. If you prefer to listen, the audio version is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify.
Producer Lucy Hamidzadeh checked in with Ope this week to talk about the making of the podcast and how his Nigerian family is faring; a bit of their conversation follows:
Ope, we already know quite a bit about you from previous interviews, your solo book Parallel Lines, your work in Trope London and Trope Hong Kong, and most recently a conversation with Terry Maday for our brand-new podcast, Trope Stories! All of this is a terrific accomplishment for a photographer still in his 20s! When you stop to take it all in and think about what you’ve achieved, how does all of this feel?
I’d be lying if didn't say it made me feel good about myself and the work I put out. I’ve gone through periods in the past where I’ve doubted myself and the confidence I have in my own work. Some of it still creeps up from time to time. But when I stop and think of everything I’ve achieved, it immediately puts me in a place of happiness, as well as keeps me motivated to push on.
What was it like talking to Terry for Trope Stories, and being in front of the camera?
It was a pleasure speaking to Terry, he’s a really easy-going guy! Very clear with his questions and thankfully didn't put me on the spot with any. I’m not always the best person in front of camera; I very much prefer to be behind it! But I was at ease in this case and felt the conversation went really well.
What can we expect from your interview?
We talked on quite a few different topics, but overall you can expect total honesty and (I hope) some form of inspiration for anyone who takes the time to view it.
What is one remarkable memory about this last year: seeing your work and your book in print, Trope’s London gallery exhibition, the TV appearances, newspaper mentions – and what makes that memory particularly special?
The experience as a whole was remarkable and will forever stay with me. But one of the stand-out moments was when I first picked up a hard copy of my book; the realisation kicked in that this is happening for real. I knew that everything I’d done within this industry, everyone I’d met, had led me to that moment and so much more could come from it. The possibilities were truly endless – and they still are.
What would you tell a 15-year-old schoolboy Ope?
Be bold, be brave, and try not to worry too much about what others think of you. Self-confidence is key, and you shouldn't allow anybody to make you shy away from who you're called to be. The years go by so quickly. It will be better to have more lessons learnt than regrets or opportunities missed.
Even since you recorded your interview with Terry, we find ourselves with more unrest around the world – more rules and restrictions in the UK and protests, anger and tragedy and in Nigeria, which we know is close to your heart. How do you distance yourself from reality when you feel it’s too much?
Usually I tend to stay indoors and read a book. I also keep myself from watching the news, or try to stay off social media for a while. I do believe it’s important to take a break if you feel things are getting too much, but at the same time it’s vital to be aware of what’s going on in the world.
It’s horrible what’s currently going on in Nigeria. The whole nation is in serious need of a turnaround –particularly those in power. It’s absolutely heart-breaking to see so many suffering, just for wanting to be heard. My prayers are with everyone affected by these ongoing tragedies.
What do you do to keep yourself sane, motivated and going?
Prayer and meditation are definitely key factors in keeping me going, as well as keeping the faith that hard times aren’t permanent and small changes made by each and every individual can lead to making the world a slightly better place.
On the subject of Nigeria, you touch on how it felt to meet your grandmother for the first time and what it was like visiting the birthplace of your parents in your podcast. It’s pretty special that she features in your book. We’d just like to ask: how is your grandma doing in Nigeria, and how has she been doing throughout this year?
Not the best situation to be in. It’s been difficult for everybody this year. Thankfully, my grandmother has been doing well amongst all the current unrest.
How about plans to return in the future?
Most definitely I would like to go back at some point in the future, but no plans to do so anytime soon, as it wouldn't be wise with the current situation and the pandemic.
As it was your first trip there, I imagine there was so much to take in and get accustomed to. If you do return (and we hope you do), do you think you’ll capture it through your lens with a different eye? Or a different perspective? Or, perhaps, you have a story in mind that you’d like to tell/show?
I do hope to return and if so, I think I’d feel a little more at ease with my surroundings. That being said, I’d likely capture a lot more images from a personal perspective. It’d be nice to do a mini-series on the day-to-day of a local elder, or the social activities of the younger generation.
Screens are currently our windows to the world; we see what’s happening on the outside while we’re on lockdown or amidst tighter restrictions. When we spoke to you back in March for our ‘Finding Comfort in Creativity’ feature, I don’t think any of us thought that 6 months later we’d still be living through such an anxious time. What have you missed the most this year?
Definitely the travel for work and social aspect of photography, it’s all very different now. I’m hoping things do get back to normal!
What’s the first place that you think of travelling to shoot when it’s safe to do so?
Cape Town, South Africa – it’s been on my list for a while, and I’ve always wanted to experience and document the area and its people.
Many of us would say it’s been a blessing to have social media especially this year. Would you agree?
Yes, 100%. Like everything else, social media has its positive and negative factors. I choose to focus more on the positives, and it has been a blessing to see positive changes and encouraging posts from individuals all over the world. It’s also a tool I use to inspire through my own works and create awareness for different issues. There’s a lot of things I wouldn't be aware of if not for social media, but at the same time, I do encourage taking breaks from it if needs be.
You’ve been part of the photography community on Instagram for a number of years. Instagram has just celebrated 10 years – what does that feel like? Did you think you’d still be sharing images today?
I jumped on the Instagram hype back in December 2010, so it’s almost been 10 years for me. Fair to say A LOT has changed from what it was, and what I was using it for back then. I never thought I’d still be on it after all these years, considering I used to post a lot of random nonsense (which I’m sure is still on my feed). But I feel proud and very grateful to still be actively sharing my work, and to be part of a great community where I’ve made friends for life. It’s also been a massive privilege to see the progression of many others whose work I began following from early on.
And, finally, any plans or projects for the near future that we can keep our eyes out for?
Don’t think I can name any as yet. I had a couple projects scheduled for earlier this year, but due to the Covid-19 situation, they’ve been moved to next year. Both are currently 50/50, but I’m hoping we can sign off on them very soon. As for me personally, I’m a little hesitant about making plans with the rate of restrictions coming in, so nothing just yet - but who knows, anything can happen.
Ope's book Parallel Lines is available here.
Ope's prints are available for sale here.