If you ask any of the professional photographers in Nigeria, the Don Barbers, Tam Fioforis, Sunmi Smart-Coles, Jide Adeniyi-Jones’, who the leading authority on children photography is, one name is likely to come up – Segun Taylor. That will be spot on.
A select number of guests were privileged to see some of Taylor’s incomparable shoots on and about children recently in Lagos. By the way, Taylor is a woman because her first name – Segun – is likely to mislead readers since that gender in Yoruba etymology is rarely named Segun.
As guests filed in to the well-lit, white-painted hall at National Museum, Onikan, where the exhibition took place, nearly all the 36 photos confirmed Taylor’s place as far as photographing children is concerned.
In various moods, different places and time, Taylor revealed to the audience what some people already know about children. Take “Innocence 1,” for instance. A tot is looking direct into the lens. The wide-awake eyes of the subject cannot fail to rivet your attention. It is as if one is looking deep into the soul of the child, the plain, non-scheming and guileless nature that we associate with children.
“Cook Time” is another eye catcher for the fact that many of us in our younger years played chef with milk tins. In the photo, a young girl squats before three stones on which a small can rests possibly filled with water, grass and sand. She is busy stirring her concoction and not minding who is looking. As if simulating a professional chef in a five-star hotel, the girl has a headgear balanced on her head.
Taylor’s exhibit touches on countless aspects of children, what they do, where and how they live, their emotions and even relations with adults. In another shot titled “Mother’s Love” – a rural area no doubt – a woman is stretching her hand with food to a child sitting before her while another adult, hands akimbo, watches with keen interest.
Apart from her fascination with children, Taylor insists that those in rural areas are “my special interest. I was amazed to discover what they go through. Everything we take for granted here in urban areas is, for them, strange and new.”
The photographer herself had nothing to do with rustic life while growing up. She was born into the famous JIC Taylor family in Lagos, with illustrious names like John Idowu Conrad Taylor, first Chief Justice of Lagos State. For her education, Taylor was a pioneer student, and head girl, of Maryland Comprehensive School, Lagos.
Following the footsteps of those born into famous families in the fifties or before, Taylor was packed off to London, where she continued her education and qualified as a television producer and director. Still in London, she switched to photography specializing in still life, portrait and scenery. Back in Nigeria, she worked as a photojournalist with Quality and Classique magazines – both of them since out of print.
The exhibition at National Museum is her third. But she has had series of solos and groups since 1982 when her works were displayed at Night Gallery Earls Court in London. There was another at The British Council, Lagos, in 1997. Two years ago, she had one-tagged “Yesteryears,” at the same venue as last week’s.
The last exhibit was also tagged ‘Yesteryears.’ Among the displays were ‘The Builders,’ ‘We Wrestle,’ ‘Seesaw,’ ‘The Butcher,’ etc.
Some of the guests around were mostly family and friends. There was Adewale Maja-Pearce, a writer, Anne Asuquoh, a longtime friend of the artist, was special guest. The chairperson, Mrs. Frances Enwereuzor, was unavoidably absent. She sent a representative.
On why the show focused on rural areas mainly, Tayloy says, “I have always been drawn to the plight of people which has now made me concentrate on documentaries, giving me a sense of purpose and satisfaction.”
Watching the displays that day, with the instrumentals of Bosa Nova music exciting the brain, anyone will readily conclude that just as Mabel Segun and Afleshkachi Adimora-Ezeigbo are the top of the range writers on children’s literature in Nigeria, Taylor is taking the lead in immortalizing kiddies with her camera.