Wani Olatunde

The theme of change continues, and my next guest is no stranger to it. Wani  Olatunde is a wedding and portrait  photographer based in Lagos, Nigeria. Not even into her 40s, Wani has had more than one major transformation and come up it would seem, grander than before.  This is what she had to say:

TDK Tell me about your early life?

I was born in Liberia, West Africa but grew up in Lagos, Nigeria. We moved to England when I was 12 years old where I attended school and university.  

TDK Do you recall how you felt having moved from Nigeria to England? Did you want this change?

WO It was scary – I  found out we were moving and not just going for a trip just before we travelled, so it was a lot to take in. Also discovering that my dad wouldn’t be coming with us as he was working in Nigeria. was a bit of a shock. It took about a year to settle in and find my rhythm. 

TDK. Having studied Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Sheffield University – how did the change to banking come about?

WO I only went into Engineering because my dad said I couldn’t do Psychology, which I really wanted to study – I liked Maths and Physics, so EE seemed like the obvious choice. But one semester in and I knew I never wanted to be an Engineer. After my 3 years, the thought of having to go into the world and become an engineer petrified me, so I applied for the Masters and did a banking internship during summer. I worked hard and got offered a full time position at the end of the program and after my Masters, I never looked back – lol. 

TDKI noticed that you also worked for Teathers. ( Icelandic Bank) did you see that crash coming?

WO I don’t think anyone saw us becoming civil servants in a matter of days. It was all quite surreal. 

TDK How did you prepare for the transition from the UK to being a newly married lady working in Lagos, Nigeria?

WO I had no idea how different Lagos would be as I hadn’t been back too often in the 15 years or so since we left, so I didn’t really prepare. It was more like a baptism of fire when I arrived in Lagos and learning to adjust to a new lifestyle. I always tell expats or repats that it takes about a year to settle down in Lagos – it’s a whole different mindset to get used to. 

TDKHow did the move into photography come about?

WO Like most photographers, it started as a hobby. I noticed that everyone in Lagos including my bosses in the bank all had side hustles and so I figured I could make photography mine. I did it for a couple of years on the side but when my first son was born, work made it difficult for me to be the type of mother I wanted to be so it was an easy decision to leave banking and pursue my passion while I looked after my son. Of course, I was fortunate that my husband supported this decision and I could afford to take the cut in pay – not everyone has that option. 

TDK Do you have 1 defining change/ moment that had an impact of your outlook on life?

WO Haha – I actually do. My crossroad! I was in South Africa for a year as part of a rotation program in the bank and my SA boss asked me to stay and for reasons I won’t go into here, I decided to go back to London to my old team. We actually had no idea how bad things were over there in London – this was 2008 – where the banking world basically fell apart and so I moved back to London. I was made redundant a week later, joined Landsbanki after a few weeks of looking and was made redundant 3 weeks later and then moved to Lagos a few months later. I do often wonder where I would have ended up if I had just stayed in SA – I guess I’ll never know. I have to believe and I actually do believe that everything that happens in my life is for a reason and I choose to have faith in God’s plan for my life – He sees the big picture while I only ever see a tiny piece at a time. So I guess it doesn’t really matter what choice I made at the end of the day as I’m right where I’m supposed to be. 🙂 

TDK. What is the biggest kick you get out of being a photographer?  Do the highs from that ever compare to that you may have had as a banker?

WO I love making people happy with my pictures – when clients talk about how amazing they look and felt or how people are going on about their pictures – that makes me very happy and makes all the hard work worth it. I love capturing beautiful moments and capturing people in ways they haven’t seen or thought about themselves. I like to help people, women specifically, connect with their inner beauty / diva / goddess. I love when people get emotional over my photography – then I truly feel like I have accomplished what I set out to. Lol – No, the highs do not compare to banking. Photography is my gift and my absolute passion. I am truly blessed to have discovered it when I did.  

TDK Do you keep a journal?

WO Not really – I used to but never really been consistent. 

TDK. What does change mean to you?

Something different – a new beginning. Not always welcome but sometimes very necessary. 

TDK What are you reading that I should be reading?

WO Essentialism by Greg McKeown – I read that a while back but I do recommend it to everyone. I struggle with finding balance – trying to be wife, mother and photographer and also carve out time for Wani, the person. I constantly feel like I’m failing in all departments and if only time would stop for like a week, I would be able to catch up on my life. So I found it a very interesting and helpful read in terms of learning how to simplify my life, being ok with saying “No” and choosing what I spend my limited time on. 

TDK Who do you know that I should know.

WO Lol – my two sons, Eli and Levi. They are sunshine in little people form. I thank God for them every single day and there is no dark cloud that they can’t help me break through. I am truly blessed to be their mother. 


Wani’s work can be seen on instagram  @waniolatundephotog.

You can contact her at wani@waniolatunde.com

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