Popular Ladipo auto spare parts market in Lagos was the focus of photographer, Seun Otolorin, when his exhibition titled Ladipo: gods of Machines opened at Didi Museum, Victoria Island, Lagos. The market has been a centre of conflict between the landowners (omoniles) and the leadership of the market in recent years.
Better known as Seun O, his bio describes him as a documentary photographer. It was also a multidisciplinary exhibition, with the photographer explaining that it “is to celebrate the audacity, resourcefulness, creativity and craftsmanship of workers in the market.”
Traders in Ladipo Market are shown carrying out different activities, either moving engines on trolleys or dismantling parts offloaded from trucks; they are both black and white and colour photographs. Seun O, who said he started his photography career in London, commended the market workers of Ladipo for “creating opportunities for many people to earn a living and contributing to the growth of the economy.”
Also included in the show was the sound of activities from the Ladipo Market scene. He added, “I wanted to relay the experience of Ladipo Market to other people who haven’t been there before through the exhibition of this project titled Ladipo: gods of Machines, an audio-visual exhibition. This is a project that glorifies the industrious nature of the people of Ladipo.”
The artist also showed some houses in the Ladipo Market that are so badly kept; some look like they may collapse any moment, going by their precarious nature. Also on display were photographs of the poor state of the environment generally. But the artist argued, “The people in authority should regulate and make the environment more conducive to do business.”
On the inspiration behind the exhibition, Otolorin said it started last year when he had reason to buy something in the market. “I have been hearing about Ladipo Market, but I didn’t know exactly how it looked like. Last year, I went there to buy a car engine, and I couldn’t believe what I saw. So, I thought the need to celebrate hard work.”
He, however, did not start work until six months ago. He spoke on the challenges of moving around the market and taking the pictures, and explained that it could not have happened without the consent of the leadership of the market. “After explaining the project to the market leaders, they said they liked the idea and gave me all the support I wanted. The moment the people got informed about what I wanted, they allowed me to take their pictures while working.”
He added that the terrain is a difficult one to take photograph. In his 10 years of photography, Seun O said he has participated in many group exhibitions, noting that the Ladipo project was his first major exhibition, both here and abroad.
His personal and commissioned work combines to make a varied and creative body of work. Seun O said he has worked with a number of local and multi-national organisations, as well as, covering top social events.
According to him, “I developed my journalistic style of photography while growing up in England. I would leave home in the morning and get back at night, taking photos of anything I found interesting, especially human interactions on the streets of London. That was how I developed my penchant for documentary photography.”
He said he had been keen on doing a photo documentary on a subject in Lagos, which would have relevance to society but opposed to subjects he had done before.
“On my first visit to Ladipo Market, I knew this was it,” he enthused. “This is a market that caters to millions of car owners and users beyond Lagos State, a market with significant economic contributions. It is a unique environment, with people of an enterprising ilk, a particular skilled set and talent. I felt this energy in the market that no other market in Lagos has.”