This Popular Photographer Talks About Dealing With Racism In Dublin

Timi Ogunyemi spent his childhood living around the world but now Dublin is home. He tells us about his experience living in Ireland's capital city.

Proud To Be A Dubliner

‘Two and a half years ago I was made an Irish citizen. I know its sounds quite cheesy but to be recognised as you know, you are one of us in every way, well that was like the high point of a journey,’ says Timi Ogunyemi.

Ogunyemi is twenty-eight and indicative of his generation, that is he has several job titles. On his about me section of his website he describes himself as an influencer, consultant and scholar. He is the editor of the award winning blog Picture This Dublin which has led to brands courting him to promote their businesses. He is a performance improvement consultant at Ernst and Young and he’s a full time business student at Dublin Institute of Technology.

 It was his girlfriend’s gift of a BMX that led to Picture This Dublin. He was tired of the monotony of taking the same route to his job at the time so when he got his two wheels he started to explore, ‘I would cycle different routes and I found really interesting things that I would just post to Facebook and a mate told me to set up a Facebook page and I thought, why not!’ The page eventually lead to a collective of friends sharing photos under the Picture This Dublin banner, it’s also led to a huge following on Instagram.

He’s modest about it’s popularity, ‘it’s a hobby and any connections that have come out of it is a bonus, such as when Canon took us up on a helicopter! At the end of the day there are a lot of people doing something similar so maybe it’s a personality thing that people see coming through the photos.’

Standing Out

Ogunyemi dazzles. His clothes are bursting with loud colour yet he speaks with a soft smiling Dublin accent. His words are thoughtful and his vocabulary is expansive. You can tell that he’s a deep thinker.

‘I spent way too much time trying to fit in. Now, I’m happy to do whatever makes me happy on the inside. The change in style happened the first time I moved out the family house.’ He moved out when he was nineteen. ‘I went through a phase of wearing green everyday, my whole wardrobe was green, I can’t remember why but when I look back at it and the pictures, I can see now that I looked a bit ridiculous! It was my first time being myself. The first time I had any modicum of self worth.’ He laughs and adds, ‘I don’t want to fit in.’

The Negative Side Of Dublin

‘I was walking my dog through Phoenix Park. I remember that it was a Sunday. There was this guy on his phone wearing a Manchester Utd jersey, I support Man U too, I really like football, we actually just won a game that day,’ he pauses to gather his thoughts. ‘I wasn’t bothering him you know? He just started screaming expletives at me at the top of his lungs. He proceeded to tell the person on the phone that he was with this cotton picking whatever and he had to call him back. He then started shouting at me really aggressively to go back to cotton picking whatever. Then he starts walking towards me and I had to pick my little dog up because you know he might of kicked it. In my head I was thinking, dude we support the same team!’

He goes on to say that ‘in total I’ve had six maybe seven bad experiences, it’s not that common. Being of Dublin and living in Dublin is just one big positive experience,’ he smiles. What’s striking about that statement is how he quickly overrides the nastiness of some people with his utter love for the city as a whole. He is truly captivated by Dublin as his photos and words about Ireland’s capital reinforce.

He’s a very resilient man and his attitude towards racist and anti-social behaviour is commendable but six to seven bad experiences should be seen as too much, it’s saddening to hear examples of hostility like that. Is it too much to expect more tolerance from Dublin?

Timi34

Nigerian Roots

The meaning of his last name is a precursor to his present relationship with his Nigerian roots. Ogunyemi means born of the God of thunder while his full name, Oluwatimilehin means God (the Christian one) is supporting him from behind. It highlights the contrast of histories, a tribal God joined up with a Christian God.

‘When I think of Lagos, I think of the traffic jams! Here is a walk in the park so people shouldn’t worry about them so much. I think of a cacophony of colour within that chaos, it’s like walking into a Terry Pratchett novel. I love the colour, the food, the smells and the weather.’ But at the same time he could never imagine living there, ‘Ireland just legalised gay marriage but in Nigeria it’s criminal just to be homosexual! Things like that and the corruption just remind why I couldn’t live there.’

Growing up Ogunyemi got to live around the world due to his father’s job as a pilot. ‘When I was thirteen we living in Bangladesh. I don’t really remember much about it apart from the smells and colours and at that age I should but the thing is, as an African family you hang out with other Africans. Many people are a bit too precious about holding on to their culture which is fine, I completely agree to some aspects of that but if you’re going to so many different places and living with so many different people you need to assimilate some of that into you.’

He’s spent nearly half his life in Ireland, ‘as far as I’m concerned I’m a Dubliner.’ It leads back to his earlier philosophy of not wanting to fit in. He’s not a loner, he has many African and Irish friends. In a lot of ways he’s a diplomat between the two worlds that he frequently visits. ‘The African community in Dublin is huge. Perhaps because I don’t have the same belief structure it can be conflicting for me. For Africa Day they asked me to be the official spokesman, I made it clear to the organisers that when people think of me they don’t think of an African. I wanted to be straight up with them that I don’t have the same ties to the African Community because I don’t go to church on Sundays, I don’t go to their parties. They were really honest with me too and told me that they were looking for someone to bridge the gap. I never really thought of that until they vocalised it with me and then it felt like a perfect fit.’

 

Anxiety

As mentioned earlier he is of a busy generation that works on several projects simultaneously. ‘I need to stop being anxious of the things that are happening. I’m at a stage that there are so many things that are coming thick and fast that I’m almost scared that I will miss an opportunity or I’ll jump the gun too quickly.’ With all the new potential comes a burden of expectation that makes taking time off a commodity. He’s aware of the risk that comes with that but right now he’s too driven to stay still.

Ogunyemi is excited about his future and overwhelmed at times with his present. He is a mass of contrasts and he likes it that way. He sees Dublin as his muse and she sees him as her champion.

 

You can check out Picture This Dublin here.

Learn more about Timi here.

See Timi Ogumyemi's Gallery

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