To commemorate World Photography Day, we spoke to photographer Fortune on his craft and what it's like being Davido's go-to photographer.
For many who are always in awe of Davido’s dazzling personality communicated through his colorful images via social media updates, one person makes that possible. Fortunate Umunname, popularly known as Fortune, has consistently fulfilled the responsibility of portraying the various moods of the most followed Nigerian celebrity.
With each photo, Fortune appears to be in sync with the international superstar. A sophisticated quality affixes to his compelling images, telling the diverse nature of the person Davido: sometimes in his opulent state, or his merrymaking feels or his affecting lightness of being.
“Each photo I take of David, I always try to push myself, always wanting to do better,” Fortune says of his experience with Davido. “What I’m doing is more like documenting him so each picture always tells a story.”
Finding his way into the industry by capturing moments for Reminisce, Ehiz, his work would catch the attention of DMW head, Banko in 2016. Five years later, Fortune’s portfolio boasts of works for Davido, Popcaan, Burna Boy, Wizkid, Lil Baby plus a sprawling cast of the industry bigwigs.
Here, he talks about his come-up story, with bits of stories, experiences he’s learned from Davido, and how he’s getting better.
Tell us, how did your interest in photography begin?
Photography was something I picked up during my creative journey. In the past, I used to be a graphic designer at a print house in Owerri. But one day, a photographer visited the place I worked. I was intrigued so I asked if I could use it. He questioned if I knew how to hold it. With confidence, I said yes. I then held the camera but wasn’t holding it the right way so the guy kind of laughed at me. That event made me take photography as a challenge and develop a drive to learn all its aspects and be good at it. What also helped me become better at photography at the beginning was that I wanted to do it differently, separate from the regular kind of photography that’s been done.
People who’ve worked with Davido have different stories on how they met him? How did you meet him?
First of all, Banko has been like an elder brother to me. It started in 2016 when I moved back to Lagos from Owerri. As I told you, I’m an artist, like one who does arts, so I did this branded logo pouch thing for Davido, I wanted to give it to him. Luckily, a friend of mine, Yola, who was an associate of DJ Olu, was also part of the whole DMW crew. I told him my plan, and he helped arrange for me to meet Banko. On the day I was to meet them, Davido was busy, so he wasn't around to receive my present then, Banko was the person that was going to receive it on his behalf. So Banko and I talked and from there, it’s been on another level. From there on, Banko gave me updates on events DMW had. I went to video shoots, took pictures that year at the 30BG concert, and I was the photographer who took that famed photo of Wizkid and Davido hugging at the show. Recognition from different quarters, months later, I officially joined the team.
What do you think convinced Davido to choose you as his personal photographer?
When Banko came back to Nigeria, he needed a photographer to work with Davido. So I was the go-to guy; I felt I was the best guy for the gig because of the amount of effort I had invested in my vision. Banko had seen the work I’d put in, and he felt ‘okay if we give this guy the opportunity to do this, give him this equipment, mobilize him, he can do better. And after being empowered, I improved on my work and I kept learning. And also, it’s just this insane love for making sure I reach the standard in which I’ve been expected to deliver. Just trying to put your work first and let your work do the talking. That’s what probably convinced Davido.
How many years have you been working with Davido?
What is it like being his personal photographer? Traveling and interacting with him? How is it for you?
For me, it’s a blessing, and I’m grateful to David for the opportunity over the years. One important lesson I’ve picked up from Davido is learning to treat people equally and better. For David, no matter the race, no matter the standard, no matter the culture, Davido treats people well.
You’ve been with Davido for quite some time now; what’s that one thing you admire about him?
Since David is one of the influential artists pushing the genre forward, one of the things I respect about him and I feel other artists need to adopt is never forget where you’re coming from. David is one person with accurate knowledge of what he wants and how he will get it. You can’t convince him of something he’s not ready to work with. David can be here now he has a variety of things to do. He’s in Lagos today, [he’s] going to be in L.A. tomorrow to shoot a video, and probably has to be in London the following week. The structure in which he operates is inspiring. High-level organisation, and I feel creatives can learn from how he does it. Organizing your time and planning how much time you spend on each work.
From a distance, from what Davido’s followers see on IG, it's always a fun time with him. But are there any difficulties that come with working with Davido?
I’ll say every day is a challenge, and you just have to stay focused on the positives. I mean, the most interesting thing about the job is becoming self-aware. You’re not just there for fun; while you’re having fun, you still have to do the work. For me, the challenge is trying to put the work before yourself, letting your work come first before you. I feel, as a creative, that’s what everyone has to focus on more. Some people prefer their mental health to their creative work, while others prefer the process of their work to their mental health.
Let’s talk about one of Afrobeats' most memorable nights, DavidoAtTheO2. You were there capturing moments; can you let us in on the moments.
It’s just the thing that comes with working with people who actually have a vision, even though you have yours too. And also looking at the things that can be achieved when creatives come together to think and work. Before the show, there was a photographer with experience in shooting at the O2. So before I travelled to London to document the concert, I had sent him a DM asking him for tips. He was like ‘move around, observe from different perspectives’. We were just talking and he told me what to do [and] how to look for the best angle possible. A week after we moved to London in preparation for the show, I went with the crew to see [what] the place looked like. So while he was performing that night, I already knew what to do. I just had to move around to take the best pictures of him.
For you, what’s your favorite Davido song?
It’s hard to choose because David has a lot of gbedu. But I’ll go for “One Milli”.
Why “One Milli”?
Because everything about that project is a hundred. “One Milli” is from A Good Time and when they shot the video, I was involved in overseeing the project’s creative process. The video also took the video of the year, shoutout to Director K. So watching myself involved in that project, I was like “oooh, this is the way it’s been done.”
What should we look forward to from you, particularly as the year is coming to an end? Is there anything you’re working on, are you on any project? Tell us.
A lot. I just started a company. Gracelle production company. It’s a company that gives artists and talents the opportunity to create and explore different fields, different categories of their creative work. Our main work centers on video shoots, graphic design, photography and various contents. We have creatives coming in to create with us and we have lot of projects we’re about to put out. The vision behind it is to have several creatives from photographers, artists, directors come together to ideate and produce quality work.
Image Credits: Instagram/@fortunateummuname