Afolabi Sotunde

Afolabi Sotunde

Abuja, Nigeria
Lagos, Nigeria
“Help tell the story responsibly.”


General news, breaking news, sports, humanitarian issues

One Shot

. Dadabili, Nigeria. Reuters/Afolabi Sotunde
Crude oil spills from a pipeline in Dadabili, Niger state.
“While covering the 2011 presidential election, I saw smoke from burning fossil fuel. I asked the driver to turn the car around to investigate. The smoke was decreasing and crude floated on water. The images I took fell flat. Then out of nowhere an object fell into the water with a splash, giving me a shot of oil separating from water in mid-air. Pure serendipity.”


My earliest memory of photography is when I took pictures at a friend’s wedding in 1992.

I am self-taught as a photographer, learning by trial and error.

My first assignment was actually as a wedding photographer in the 1990s. Using my Pentax ME Super and Unomat flash, the wedding pictures came out well and the clients were very pleased. That encouraged me to persevere with photography.

The assignment that left the biggest mark on me was the burial in 2007 of Nigerian peacekeepers killed in Sudan brought back to the military cemetery in Abuja.

Among the people buried that day was a Nigerian officer called Danjuma Madaki. He had a 6-year-old daughter who came with the mother for the burial. Sitting on her mother’s lap in the front row of seats at the burial ground, Madaki’s daughter picked up a handkerchief to wipe the teardrops from her mother’s face while she was also crying.

I found this child’s care for her mother amid her own grief so touching that I wasn’t able to continue shooting. I had to remove myself from the scene for a while to get myself together before returning to finish the day’s assignment. The image was among the photos of the day around the world in The New York Times.

The future for photojournalism is to use creative, multimedia reporting and find other ways of engaging people.

What’s my advice to a photojournalist starting out now? Be fair to everyone in your reporting, just state the facts in pictures.