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Monday, July 1, 2013

#TheInterview: Ellisoft’s creative photographer Joseph Elliott

Quirky, interested, straight-shooting photographer Joseph Elliott is most likely better know in the industry, to friends and designers as Ellisoft – the name of his photography company, which is based in Lagos but also operates in Abuja. Travelling between two cities constantly one would think the man behind the lens has done it all and it keen to work from one base, but as we chat with Ellisoft, we start to find a brand that is excited by the work it produces and is always looking for the next great moment. Inspired by the world around him, we hope this interview will inspire you to go out there and stylishly follow your dreams.

Joseph, thank you so much for your time. To jump right into it, tell us what is a photographer?
A photographer is a person who takes photographs. A professional photographer is a person who earns income from photography. An amateur photographer takes pictures for pleasure.

Is photography something anyone can go into or do you need to have a certain creative calling for it?
I believe, and this is a personal opinion, that Photography is definitely something that anyone can get into. Definitely being creative can give you an edge but there's a difference between being a creative photographer and being a successful photographer.

Tell us about Ellisoft, the photography agency?
Ellisoft photography is my business. The name came about from a nickname that I had in school. My friends used to call me Ellisoft because apparently I was supposed to start my own software business and put Microsoft out of business but hey plans change. My business is tailored more towards people and event photography; people encompassing portraits and fashion, events being mostly weddings.

How much of your portfolio is built on fashion photography?
I personally believe that you have to market yourself differently for each industry so when I went about building my business, I knew that I'd need to have a separate portfolio for each industry. I also have plans for having completely different websites for each facet of the business.

Is it an area you see the brand really encompassing and pushing more of?
Not really. My business is really very young so I don't think that I'm at that stage where I can get to be choosy. Fashion photography is not exactly my forte. It just happens to be something I am apparently good at. And as with all things in life, you've gotta play to your strengths.

As Joseph Elliott, the photographer behind Ellisoft, what made you go into photography?
I was window-shopping with my friend, and every time we go window shopping I always stop by the electronics section and check out the latest 'toys' on sale. I'm a gadget freak by the way. So we were browsing and then they had the Nikon D3100 on sale for NGN90,000 (That’s approximately $600). Before that time, I was always of the belief that DSLRs cost an arm and a leg so when I saw the camera I was like WOW. So I went home (NO I did not purchase it there and then; I am not a compulsive shopper) and did my research and ended up buying a Canon 550D. After that I just started taking pictures. Basically that was it.

What was your very first professional photographic assignment?
Well after I got my camera, I took it everywhere and photographed everything. My friends, my colleagues, my clients (I was working for an audit firm at the time). So one day one of my colleagues asked me if I could cover her wedding introduction and How much I would do it for and I was like NGN20,000 and she was cool with it. During the whole ceremony my nerves were completely rattled but at the end of the day she loved her images. So afterwards, I thought to myself, people actually like my pictures and they are willing to pay me for it.

What do you think, as a photographer, makes you possibly better than your peers in the industry in Nigeria?
I don't think as a photographer, I'm better than my peers. But I honestly try as much as possible not to compare myself to other photographers. I built my business around marketing myself as an individual. Basically I do me, and I do my work. I also believe that you don't have to be the best photographer to have the a successful photography business

What's the best advice you've received while pursuing your photography career?
Use what you have until it can be used anymore. Market who you are and what you've got and you'll succeed.

And what's your worst?
Buying a specific lens (Canon 85 1.2 L) would drastically improve your pictures so much that the orders would just start flooding in.

What inspires you to do the work that you do?
I love photography. Plain and simple. A photograph is a memory of an idea, an event, a feeling and being able to capture that is priceless.

What is it about fashion photography that excites you?
I like fashion photography because there are no rules. You can be as crazy and demented as you want and it can still work.

Which fashion photographers do you follow? Who is currently making waves in your opinion and why?
I follow a couple of photographers Obi Somto, Tope Horpland to name a few. I however draw most of my inspiration from international photographers. I love Lindsay Adler. I think her work is amazing and I love her personal aesthetic. I love Robert Harrington and what he does with small flashes. Frank Doorhof; the images he creates are simply stunning.

Being exposed to fashion from a different perspective, what is your opinion on menswear in Nigeria?
I think menswear in Nigeria is very subtle. I don't think that they're not pushing boundaries, which is understandable because the average Nigerian man doesn't want to rock the boat as far as fashion is concerned.

Whose work is currently both interesting and relevant, in your opinion, for Naija guys?
I don't really follow a lot of trends in the fashion industry so I wouldn't be able to tell you. I leave all that to my bestie. He's a stylist so he's the one who's always telling me who's hot and who's not.

How creative is the photography of menswear in Nigeria, as maybe compared to the rest of Africa?
I don't think male photography whether male fashion or commercial is particularly creative in Nigeria. Hopefully I'll be able to change that.

Which fashion magazines are you interested in working with and why?
GQ, Esquire, Vogue. Why? Cos It's free to dream. So if you have to dream, dream big.

Do you have a specific moment in your career so far that is the most memorable?
I'm just glad for the chance to have this amazing career so I cherish every moment. Good, bad and fugly.

Which Nigerian menswear brands are you buying, wearing, and why?
I wear my best friends brand Chikezie Daniel Couture mostly. Style isn't my forte. My approach to wardrobe is very laid back, casual yet bringing sexy back.

Which mens fashion designers in Nigeria are you keen to collaborate with?
Uhm! Is that a trick question?

What are your Top 3 Wardrobe Essentials for every man?
GetBeadUp! bead bracelets by Chikezie Daniel Couture (never leave home without one)
Blazers are a boys second best friend
If you can pull it off, purple pants will make heads turn

Your Top 3 Fashion Tips for guys?
When in doubt, you can never go wrong with black and white
Glam your wrist
Less is obviously more

What’s your best piece of advice for any emerging fashion photographers?
Do you. Do what you want to do. As long as you're not harming anyone, then let your creativity shine. Also Don't fall into the trap of thinking you need this piece of equipment or that piece of gear. All you need is yourself, your camera and a whole bunch of creativity, determination and resourcefulness and you can make it happen.

What's next for Ellisoft?
Well I'm currently working on creating a category on my blog ( to provide free education for emerging photographers. With tips on gear choices, tricks of the trade, behind-the scene videos (hosted on Youtube) of photo shoots and all that. I'm a firm believer in free education so I'd very much like to teach. 

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