[3 Minute Read]
Ever think your career started way before your first job? Like all the doodles in your notebook and custom tee's you pushed out of your dorm room really prepped you for something fire. Shakiru Bola Okoya has been creating for as long as he could remember. Primarily known as "Bola" or moniker "Primo," Okoya has been in the photography game about 6 years strong. On the journey to discovering his craft, Okoya has impacted Trenton, NJ through pop-up galleries, photo walks, and projects like #HashtagGROW and #TrentonNatives, that shed a positive light on New Jersey's overlooked capital. We caught up with the Jersey native about his journey to creative expression and understanding his talent.
How are you changing the face of media?
I heard somewhere that without storytellers there's no story. As a photographer, the visual representation of these stories is typically where I begin my creative process. As a millennial Nigerian-American man, I can only tell a story from my perspective through lenses altered by experiences and circumstances. On the topic of media, I believe my contribution comes in the form of documenting and positively representing my hometown Trenton, NJ that is overlooked or constantly depicted in a bad light.
I live in Trenton, NJ, which is in Central Jersey, but that is a conversation for another time. I feel like we are often overlooked as the capital of New Jersey and find it a constant struggle to shine a positive light on this city. There are many great talents that reside here and surrounding areas and I’ve taken it upon myself to continually provide a platform for my creative peers to express themselves. Whether it be through the photowalks I’ve held in the city or showcasing artist through the Six Oh Nine Project pop-up galleries, I find every experience rewarding because I know there's amazing talent that needs to be seen.
When did you realize your work had an impact on the culture?
That’s something I still have a hard time conceptualizing. I love to create and come up with new ways to tell stories that I feel need to be seen and heard. When I started my journey as a photographer it was really only to take cool pictures. I had no intentions of impacting anyone or receiving any notoriety as a shooter. I think being able to inspire people continues to be one of the most rewarding things I've gained.
What's been the biggest you've overcome as a photographer?
I think the biggest thing to overcome as a photographer and creative in general are the expectations. We often create and release work with the expectation that our art will be received in a certain way. I had to come to terms with the fact that not everyone will love my work and send fire emojis when I post on the gram. Everything is not for everyone. I’m not the most abstract photographer, but my work showcases my range of color and tone.
What do you want the people to know about you and what you represent in this industry?
I am a self-taught photographer and committed myself to learning from fellow shooters and artist in other disciplines. As a creative, feeling the pressure to keep up with the Internet can be overwhelming. However, I am coming to understand that sometimes it's best to be still and reflect on our progress. You cannot always rush the process; there are many truths to be discovered. My journey is far from over.