Nigerians living abroad, whether in Hollywood, Paris, London or Milan, are breaking barriers in the movies, music, fashion industries and sports, too. Many of them have etched their names in gold. The story of Jason Ogbazi is no different. In a few years, he has transited from the art studio to the runway, along the line, becoming a famous photographer and a model for international labels. MARK EHIDIAME JOHN speaks with him.
My name is Jason. Jason is actually ‘Son of God’. If you pronounce it the way it should, it becomes Jah son — the son of Jah — that is, Jesus from the Greek mythology. You know our names have a lot to do with what we are and the way we act out our destinies. I mean, look at the acting president, Goodluck Jonathan, and how he has managed to get to where he is now. He is Goodluck and he has had good luck in his political career, I’m not saying I’m Jesus Christ, I don’t even know how to pray, but because I have great belief in God, certain things just come to me naturally.
So, as a painter, how did you get into modeling?
Well, while I was in London, I used to go to the gym a lot to keep shape. So, when I was working out in the gym one day, somebody approached me, asking if I would like to model. And I answered in the affirmative, yeah! They organised a photo shoot with a major photographer called Darren Paul. So, he shot my first portfolio and sent them out to a lot of modeling agencies and eventually, I got hung up with one, BMA Models, in the outskirts of London. So, everyday they send me articles, to cast a particular product in fashion line or something; that was how I started modeling. I did a lot of fashion campaigns for companies such as London fashion, Adidas, Guess Jeans and Costa Coffee among others.
What about the photography...?
In retrospect, I think the whole photography thing just came natural to me, you know at a point I decided that I will not model anymore; I will rather be behind the cameras, that’s how my whole photography career started. With some training and advice, I started. I have worked with top photographers in England such as Paul and a whole lot of fashion photographers in London.
What is your area of specialisation?
I do creative photography. It is the kind of photography, where we pick different pieces of photographs to create something beautiful. I’m somebody, who likes to be original in what I do; I started adding my own originality, so, whenever you see my photographs, you know it’s me.
What was your experience as a student in England?
I was a normal Nigerian youth living in London and trying to make it. You know, going to school and working in some of the offices and then, somewhere along the line, this modeling thing started to happen and somehow, my life had a shift in focus. It got a major shift that took me towards art, art is all I could think of, is all I could see and everything about me became art, you know I couldn’t do anything else but art! I mean I sleep and live art, I can’t imagine a day without doing art.
Has photography been rewarding?
Of course, it’s been very rewarding, but I guess in Nigeria here, if you’re a mediocre, you won’t get anywhere. You have to do top photographs for advertising, billboards or working for large companies to make big money. But just shooting normal people won’t give you the money. Well, if it were abroad, you could make so much money with that but here, it’s not so. You cannot really sell your photographs for good money because importance are not attached to it apart from the learned and exposed ones who know the real value of photography. My customers are mostly people, who have traveled wide and see what photography is, they can pay big buck for paintings and photographs.