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Photographer from Africa carves out new life in Sarnia

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Cathy Dobson

An engaging photograph doesn’t just record a moment in time; it tells a story, says Oluwasegun “Bisi” Alawode, a recent Lambton College grad who just mounted his second photo exhibition.

“My work is about the beauty or excellence of the people in my photos. That gives it meaning and that’s what I love,” says the 27-year-old.

Alawode has completed a two-year digital photography course, a program he learned about while living in his native Nigeria.

In 2013, he and his wife, Tito, had just married and wanted the adventure of seeing the world and furthering their education. They left their family in Lagos, Nigeria, population 30 million, and moved half way around the world to Sarnia, Ontario, population 72,000.

That choice was influenced by an emigration consultant who happened to be a Lambton College grad and recommended his alma mater.

Alawode earned an electrical engineering degree in Nigeria but discovered that photography inspired him more.

“I had started a photography business in Lagos,” he said. “But I wanted more. I wanted to travel the world. I wanted to focus on photography and attain a level of academic excellence.”

Not only did the couple take a leap of faith by moving to Canada, they made a big investment. International photography students pay more than $13,000 a year in tuition at the college.

Teacher Lois Nantais says she recognized immediately that Alawode was an extraordinary student, driven to take on extra work and projects.

“Bisi (pronounced B.C.) trusts his heart,” she said. “He is hungry to learn.”

Nantais, a psychology teacher, is part of a group called Lambton College Connections, which fosters friendship and positive experience.  When she decided to pursue a project called Humans of Lambton and model it after the Internet sensation known as Humans of New York, she approached Alawode.

The idea was to photograph college employees and write short pieces to introduce them to one another.

The result was a big success, says Nantais. “People liked the project and we loved doing it.”

Last September, she asked Alawode if he wanted to expand the concept, with lengthy interviews of 78 employees, their photos and profiles exhibited at www.mylambton.ca/LC2/Humans_of_Lambton/.

“I said to Lois that judging from the responses we’d had, there’s a need to showcase the people at the college and help them know one another,” said Alawode.  “Lambton College is a big place. You can see a co-worker every day and not know them.”

Humans of Lambton includes “custodians to Xerox people to campus store employees to the president, and all points in between,” said Nantais. “We chose people who really contribute to our larger community. We wanted to find out their motivation and who they were.”

She wrote the profiles and Alawode supplied the photos. Twenty-nine were chosen for the Humans of Lambton photo show currently on view at the college’s Student Administrative Council (SAC) lounge. It’s open to the public until Aug. 1.

Alawode has also started his own photography business specializing in weddings and portraits. He can be contacted by visiting www.bisialawode.com or calling 226-886-2105.

Do you know of someone or something contributing to Sarnia’s cultural fabric?  Contact Cathy Dobson at 226-932-0985 or [email protected].

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