There’s a saying that “a picture says a thousand words,” and photographers often use their photos as a doorway into other worlds or an escape from reality.
Photographs can tell unknown truths and convey emotions without speech. It’s why people seek out some of the best and most talented photographers to capture the stories of their lives. One of those talented photographers is a Trent’s very own Isioma Mafiana, or as many call him, Isi.
Much like other talented photographers such as Emeka Okereke, Lakin Ogunbanwo and George Osodi, Mafiana was born raised in Nigeria until the age of 12. Relocating to Oman for seven years and eventually moving to Canada, Mafiana found his way to Trent by chance. While applying to school and focusing on more art-centric and big name schools, he eventually chose Trent.“Turns out it was one of the best decisions I made,” he said on his choice to come here. While here at Trent he has covered several events at the campus and in the Peterborough community. Mafiana shot at the Glow Party that takes place during Introductory Seminar Week, the annual East vs West Bank hockey game, as well as events for both South Asians Association at Trent (SAAT) and the TCSA.
Photography has been a part of his life from a young age, starting with his father’s love for capturing family moments. Mafiana reminisced about those days saying, “We owned several point and shoot cameras that we used frequently, in church, restaurants, in the house or on trips. And it was a photoshoot to my dad always!”
His own photography debut didn’t happen until his family’s move to Oman. Yet it was a photo of Michael Jordan that really drew him towards the art of taking pictures. When asked about what intrigued him about the photo, Mafiana replied:
“To people around me it was just a poster of Michael Jordan, but to me it was a call to capture sincere moments that could not be fabricated and to strike an emotional chord on the viewer of the photo.”
Some of his favourite photographers who have inspired and continue to inspire him over the years are Chris Burkard, Blair Getz Mezibov, Platon, and Peggy Sirota.
Another photographer is also a local Trent student named Elijah Gwayumba, “although,” Mafiana jokingly added, “I don’t think he knows that.” He also stated that “These people just take photos that make me go back and back again to review the work, critique it, and make me improve myself.”
He also applies that critical lens when he himself is being photographed, and like many other photographers Mafiana talked about the mix of reactions he has to being in front of the camera rather than behind it.
Many students at Trent have worked with and been photographed by Mafiana around campus and one of those students is Scott Maufront, who has nothing but great things to say about the experience, “He is an easy character to be around, and always goes out of his way to make you comfortable. It’s usually a pretty seamless process as he is always organized, professional, on top of logistics, and has a keen attention to detail.” Scott also added that “he possess exceptional technical ability having mastered his equipment, which helps enable his creativity. He can be decisive, knowing what poses, angles, and locations are work well and are flattering.”
Maryam Rashid also commented on her experience, “I went in thinking that it was going to be me helping a friend and that I was going to get new pictures for Instagram, but I didn’t expect to get emotional during the shoot. Isi asked some questions that I thought were very intimate and I didn’t think I was going to respond to the shoot the way I did. The shoot really taught me a lot about myself.”
Mafiana is now currently working on a project which showcases the diversity of the black community at Trent. Through photos Mafiana will showcase the complexities of being black and moving through the Trent campus.
“The project is a photo collection of the black community at Trent and the start to not just a movement for black people but other ethnicities around Trent. The project came about because of the whole racial issue that is happening in the states, the fear moving forward with a new president that has a slightly different view on important issues,” Mafiana explained. For him, this project is important and needed, because he believes “there needs to be some topics cleared up with people in general when viewing black people, be it African or Caribbean. There needs to be a dialogue between not just people on campus but also people in the community and to me that is very important.”
Trent is often seen as a “white campus,” and for many years that has been true, but with an increase in international students and having programs that appeal to a wide range of people, Trent’s diversity has grown. Projects like the one Mafiana is doing showcase how diverse each community within the Trent fabric is. Being Nigerian, Mafiana often feels like his struggles on campus have more to do with the difference in culture and traditions.
“The hope is that when you read the extracts that the subject shared, people will understand that our struggles of being black are there but we are also struggling with identity, aspiring to better, or even just have a different take on how we view life.” Through this project, Mafiana also hopes that it will lead to more dialogue between black and non-black students, for people to not be afraid to engage and build relationships.
“A big thing to learn is just because we identify as black doesn’t mean that we are not African, Caribbean, Aboriginal or just Canadians, same as everyone else.”