The First Time I Saw My Book Was a Moment

Lucy Hamidzadeh and Tobi Shinobi talk about Tobi's solo book, Equilibrium… Equilibrium is the culmination of years of work, meticulously researching interesting locations and buildings in cities all over the globe and tirelessly waking up incredibly early to visit these spots to get them at their best light and angle. It requires dedication and passion; as well as an obsessive attention to detail and an acute fascination with the geometry of our world.

What is one remarkable memory about the seeing your book printed, and what reasons make that memory particularly special? The first time I saw my book and held it was a moment. To have something tangible to look at makes it all ‘feel real’. In this digital era, we so rarely print our work, so to see and to hold a curated body of work is a novel feeling that I won’t soon forget.

What was most important when curating the images that can be found your book? The most important thing for me to show was range and variety. I did not tense to put everything that I’ve ever done into this one book for various reasons. Sam had given me good advice at the outset that you should treat this exercise as though this isn’t the only book I’ll ever produce and I followed the assignment. My critics would like to reduce my work by labelling it as just symmetry. I really wanted there to be a diverse range of shots to keep the audience interested from start to finish.

Tobi Shinobi, Trope Publishing Co

Your architectural photographs embalm the hidden details of the buildings you’ve encountered; texture or a structure that people look at every day but never really see. What do you look for when you photograph? What should a building have to attract the attention of your lens? It’s a little hard to say sometimes. It can be really different things but it’s like a feeling. You know it when you see it. I can shoot older or newer buildings, night or day, I just know it when I see it. I love leading lines, perspectives, clean compositions, I’d rather clean something up in real life than use photoshop. On multiple occasions I’ve spent up to an hour rearranging outdoor settings, moving trashcans, or flooring to make sure that I got a cleaner image. Clean lines, strong composition, angles finagled.

As a photographer and an artist, how do you achieve the balance in sequencing your work? Making sure the pieces are similar enough to follow a pattern, but unique enough? I think my choices in subject matter and my editing style ensure that each piece looks as though it was taken by the same person. Little signatures in terms of colours, details, composition, the appropriate use of certain techniques all helps to add a thread from one piece to the next while the variety in locations provides some spice.

Tobi Shinobi, Trope Publishing Co

How would you like people who view your work to feel? Does it change with every image, or is there an overarching message you’d like to convey through your photographs? I love photography as a means of communication. I really want people to see what I see as I often feel misunderstood. I’m trying to share my perspective and maybe that person looking at my work will understand me a bit better. Ultimately, I want to inspire people especially those who really need it.

Can you talk about your creative process? What are three things you think about every time you create? How much time is spent head-scratching over concepts and how much time is spent just going for it? Not sure I have three things that I can point to specifically but I have definitely started giving a lot more consideration to the ‘Why?’ My time with an agency has made me question the reasons behind my choices when it comes to my ideas. Especially the long form concepts. This also informs the way I take photos. I am much more selective in the shots I take and the projects that I take on as I’m trying to work smarter rather than just harder. Some ideas take years before I get to execute them the way I want them and some come out with minimal planning but they only get shared with people if I’m happy they meet the standards that I’m happy with. Photography is a fast medium and it forces us to be creative every day. It’s a way for people to express their emotions and feelings, and to give visibility to issues. To make a change. Photographs can be the voice of a generation.

Tobi Shinobi, Trope Publishing Co

How would you describe your voice and express yourself through your camera lens? As someone who used to do law I often get asked the question about the change from the legal profession to photography. People often point out the differences and just how big of a change it must’ve been. To those people I say that my time in the legal profession actually has shaped the photographer that I am today. Reason being there our principles which I have gained from my time in law that I have transferred over to photography. One of the key principles relates to having the best argument with advocating on behalf of clients. I was encouraged to consider many arguments in order to make mine the strongest argument. When moving to photography I took this principle and changed it into perspective so in order to have the best perspective I need to consider a number of perspectives and so that’s why perspective plays a large part in my photography. As time has gone on I have felt the need to consider other people’s perspectives, in the more general sense and now it is important for me to use the platform that I have built to share the perspective of those who do not have that same privilege. I can’t tell you the amount of times that I have had people tell me they don’t want me to bring politics into my work and that they are just here to see photos, but that’s not me that’s not what I’m about. I’m going to continue to post what I want and what I feel is appropriate because that’s what I feel is the right thing to do.

How does photography allow you to see the world around you? Photography is an art form that is easy to pick up at hard to master. I think some people also underestimate its power to capture a snapshot in time. Good photography can be a great way to story tell. Photography has allowed me to travel the world meet some really interesting people, to push myself and to change my life. It’s funny because I almost didn’t pick up a camera. If a series of fortunate events hadn’t occurred I probably wouldn’t have moved to Chicago, changed my whole career, left my family and friends, have a published book or so many other things. Photography has done so much for me and so I’m keen to share it with as many people who want it.