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I BUILT MULTI-MILLION NAIRA STUDIO WITH ONE CAMERA

By NBF News
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Ibadin
Mattson Ibadin, CEO of Mattson Creations, is a photographer. An encounter with him tells you he's a photographer par excellence. As an orphan, he survived by trapping rabbits and selling them. He also had to trek to neighbouring villages to sell yams.

With the assistance of his senior sister, he completed his secondary education and subsequently proceeded to the University of Lagos for his bachelor's degree. He was also a photographer at that period.

Any undergraduate at the University of Lagos some years back would definitely know Mr. Motion Pictures as his customers loved to describe him. With his slender physique and camera hanging on his neck, he beckoned to students for patronage and when it was time for lectures he rushed to the Faculty of Arts. The quality of his photographs speaks volume in terms of originality and creativity.

Today, his is another success story as he runs a thriving studio off Admiralty Way at Lekki Phase 1. In this interview with Sunday Sun, he recalls his experience, the challenges, his travails and ultimately his success. Excerpts:

Why did you choose photography as a profession?
In secondary school, some of my friends were photographers and they bought motorcycles from their proceeds in the village. I said to myself, I might buy a car from photography and I decided to give it a shot. You know why I like photography? When you are getting married you need a photographer. When people are crying they need a photographer.

I love meeting people and whenever I'm at a conference, because I'm with a camera I can talk to people. In this business you can make a lot of friends and enemies. When you are good you have friends. I don't advertise, but the quality of my job promotes my business. There's nowhere I drop my job that I will not have customers. People say you have this, you cannot tell the world?

Precisely, my journey into photography started at the University of Lagos 14 years ago. Anybody that passes through the University of Lagos would know Mattson because I used to take motion pictures in those days. I started with one camera at the Arts block; people called me Mr. Motion Pictures in those days.

When you are going to class I zoomed in with my canon camera, take the photographs of students and take photographs of my class, aerial view of UNILAG and because of this the school's authority gave me another shop in the same school. If you go to the University of Lagos today, I have another shop there; it is called Mattson Creation, opposite Jaja Hall.

I own that shop up till now, people are there working. From UNILAG, I went to Adeniran Ogunsanya, where I actually started my studio. I was there for eight years, and from there I moved to Lekki Phase 1. I have been in Lekki for the past five years. Close to Sound City. From there I moved to this Mattson edifice a year ago. What you see here is a product of the vision I had about 14 years ago.

This place is massive, is it just for photography?

In America, a photography shop in Miami is bigger than ShopRite. Therein you find photographic equipment. Here, we train photographers, we also have in-house make-up artists, we have modeling department here, we teach prospective models how to catwalk, we also have wardrobe assistant and director of photography. These are the people that direct the way you smile, the way you pose and the way you look, this is why this place is called state-of-the-art photo studio. You can only find this type in Miami or Florida.

Any formal training in photography?
I went to London School of Photography. I did a lot of training abroad and I have traveled far and wide relating with photographers all over the world. The word Mattson is derived from my name, Matthew, Creations is derived from creativity. I could have called it Mattson Creativity. I could also have called it Matthew Creativity. When I was at Hedgeware doing Media Communication, everybody was in the same business, what makes you stand out is the ability to be creative.

There should be an element of added value in whatever you do. For me to be in business I have to be creative. Some people come here and ask if I live upstairs. I said no, and they are amazed. Everybody can take pictures, what makes you different from another person is your ability to be creative.

Re-branding Nigeria with photography
Nobody is going to re-brand this country for us. We need to rebrand it. CNN will not tell you the good side of Nigeria. We have to promote our brand. Photography is not just going to the studio to pose and pay one naira. If Alli Baba can re-brand Nigerian comedy, somebody has to rebrand photography. I want to bring colour into the industry. If you are the type that loves photography, this is the place for you.

Could you tell us any success story - from one canon camera to multi-million naira photo equipment?

I remember those days when I was at UNILAG, I was taking 2 x 7 copies for N150 as far back as 14 years ago. If you go to UNILAG now, they are taking one copy for N150. I pulled out when I wanted to pull out. I didn't stay there too long. When I made my money I went to Surulere, Adeniran Ogunsanya.

The greatest challenge is the fact that people are still there taking pictures for N100 or N150. But I tell people that everybody can't be your customer. One thing I know is that Nigerians like quality things. If you give them quality things wherever you are they will follow you. And creativity is the added value of what I do that makes me different from other people. In America, there are billionaires who made their money from photography.

Photography gives you a foresight. The kind of home you want to live in future is about visual, it's like a dream. I want to live in Banana Island, people live there, I want to have my photo studio in Banana Island. There is no policy that governs intellectual creativity. For example, if I take a picture of a billboard, you pay me N100, the printer who will print that job you will pay N500 million to print the job all over the federation, who has the right to that photograph?

It's the photographer. That is why they are very rich abroad, because they recognise intellectual proper and the right of usage of photographs, that is the big battle we are facing in Nigeria. That is why you see those who own advertising agencies living in VGC and Lekki Phase I, while you have the photographers living in Surulere and Mushin, because their works are not protected, they don't have an association to fight for their rights. Somebody has to achieve this.

How's your growing up days?
I grew up in Ishan. I had my primary and secondary school at Ishan and I attended the University of Lagos. I tell people, never you blame anybody for your misfortunes, don't blame the government, don't blame your parents, and don't blame your friends. Just blame yourself that you have not done enough for your life. When I have achieved what I want to achieve, I will write a story about my life.

What's your dream for photography in Nigeria?
My dream is that when you give birth to your son or daughter as a millionaire or billionaire, you will say I want my first son or first daughter to be a photographer. This is just the beginning of my campaign.

In Nigeria, we have Art galleries, not photo galleries. People want to buy pictures, but there is nowhere they can go to buy pictorials. People do calenders in their offices, they cannot see photographs to buy, they have to search the Internet and goggle for pictures. This is a place where you can buy pictorials.

What are the signs of a good photo studio?
Do you have in-house make-up artist, wardrobe assistant, do you have director of photography, is your studio homely, entertaining and a relaxed place for clients and workers? These are the things we have on board. These are the things that make us different from other photographers. Here, we do follow up of our clients. For instance, we come to your house when your wife is pregnant and take your pictures, we take your pictures too and that of the children as they are growing up, we come to your house yearly to document the photographs of those children as they are growing up.

We call it managing database of an individual. For companies, people have passed through that company, do you know them? No, do you have their pictures? No, so what we do for organisations is that we help them to document the pictorial of their staff, so that at the end of the day there will be a series of history. I have found out that in Nigeria, there is no way we can actually develop Africa without thinking of where we were, where we are coming from and where we are going. Photograph gives you the privilege to talk less.

Vision for Mattson
I want to see Mattson as a household name. I want to see people go to school and say I want to study photography instead of medicine, physics, chemistry; until I achieve this I will not rest.