Telling Stories with Moyo Oyelola

Photography is one of the many “tools” that the Nigerian born creative has in his arsenal. He often crosses over to a myriad of what he calls a “tool-set” to solve the problems he encounters as a UI/UX designer. However Story-Telling is at the center of it all, “it’s about taking a step back and really thinking about the problem and then what you can use to make it different”  he adds. Shots011 met up with Moyo to hear his thoughts on South Africa, photography and South Africa’s broader creative culture, and his creative process.


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Processed with VSCO with se3 preset

Shots011: Please tell us a little about your history and background?


Moyo Oyelola: I was born in Nigeria and we moved to the United States, Austin Texas, when I was seven. I am a creative, a story teller, multi-media, UI/UX design, branding, furniture making, conferences, it’s a huge spectrum. However, everything just comes down to telling stories, how to create an experience and how do you make it all actionable.


Shots011: Your creativity spans across many art forms, what is your approach to the creative process?


MO: Creativity to me is a tool set and a mind-set used to create a solution to something, whether it’s how to create a bridge to how to make a movie. It’s about taking a step back and really thinking about the problem, how to solve it, and what you can use to make it different.


At the end of the day, there are no new ideas, just different interpretations of an idea, so it’s knowing where to borrow and find influences from. Mixing all that together to provide something that is different, that is new, and hopefully something sustainable as a creative solution.


Shots011: With all the art forms you cross over, how do you take that, turn into value and monetize it?


MO: We live in a digital world; I contract as a UI/UX designer for a company back home. That’s not the most creative or artistic way, but at least it’s one way. In terms of photography I had my first exhibition back home and I was able to sell prints, so it can be as simple as that. I also do art direction for conferences, so that’s a few ways I have monetized my experiences by being able to stitch everything together. I can also build you a table, and if you want it I can sell it to you.


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Processed with VSCO with se3 preset


Shots011: How important is collaboration to a Creative’s career?


MO: Absolutely Important! The concept of collaboration might be new to some people because they are so used to it being about “me, my name and I have to be the one that shines from it.” They do not understand the force behind collaboration even if it isn’t the biggest and brightest thing at the moment.


I think to me it’s about getting there together, even if there’s someone who is more successful at the moment, it’s about sending the elevator down to bring everyone up. I believe I am going to change the world; I am not necessarily going to come up with a cure for aids, neither am I going to help, everyone, but I can help someone. I always want to work with people of the same mentality that if we all play our part and help one person, that can have a viral effect.


Shots011: How huge of a role has the internet and social media played in your career?


MO: I am in Johannesburg, but I have a network of people in the states and other parts of the world. They can see my work, interact with my work, I can evoke feelings on the other side of the world. Social media does a play a huge factor. I can show you pictures of Johannesburg, Cape Town or wherever, however there is still nothing like the real life experience at the end of the day. Social media does provide a little bit of a tease evoking some kind of interest. It helps create conversations and that’s important for me. I tell stories as I go.


Shots011: How is photography different from all the other media you use?


MO: I think for me it’s based on what I am doing and photography best solves that problem. So one of the things that happened earlier this year is that we created this video and posted it up on Instagram and we didn’t receive that much engagement with it. It was really because of network speeds and access to the internet in other parts of the African Continent, are really behind, yes they will catch up, but they are still behind.


So photography lends itself better, because it loads faster and if it’s a strong visual it speaks a lot. Video is going to be the premium thing for sure, but currently it’s still very difficult to do because of the ability to consume and access it.


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Shots011: This is your second time in South Africa, how have you found the photography and broader creative culture?


MO: I think it’s great. It’s all new and fresh for me. All its multiple layers that are all combining to add up to what it is today. I am just taking it all in, whether it’s the strike for #feesmustfall or everyday life. I am just taking it all in at the same time.


Shots011: You’re scheduled to give a master class at Umuzi Photo Club, how did that happen and what’s the master class about?


MO: It all speaks to collaboration, putting yourself out there, wanting to learn and meet people. That is what this trip has been about. A good friend of mine knows Andrew, who runs Umuzi, and suggested that I speak to him, it was simple as that. I think there is something to be said about putting yourself out there and asking for whatever you want and meeting new people.


I think I will be touching on story-telling from all mediums, from building something to creating a photo, and some of the ways I do it.


Shots011: You’re in S.A for a few more days, what’s next for Moyo?


MO: On Sunday I plan creating and exhibiting with a few people.  In the middle of it I am trying to figure out as much as possible. Working within limitations since I do not know where everything is. I have to ask around.


When I get home its thanksgiving holiday then another exhibition in December. Now that I have learned about telling stories here, I am telling these stories back home, planting seeds for the future to hopefully return in the next few months.


These 10 questions originally came from a French series, “Bouillon des Culture” hosted by Bernard Pivot. They’re better known as the questions that James Lipton asks every guest at the end of “Inside the Actor’s Studio”.  Their addition to this questionnaire is to get to know a bit more about Moyo the person, instead of the artist, a bit more about Moyo outside photography.


What is your favorite word?

It’s a phrase, No Worries


What is your least favorite word?

I do not have a least favorite word, but I hate sentences that aren’t affirmative, like “I Can’t.”


What turns you on creatively?

The unknown, and what’s possible.


What turns you off?

Unnecessary people who get in the way of the creative process.


What is your favorite curse word?



What sound or noise do you love?

When I get a notification that there is money coming in my account.


What sound or noise do you hate?

I don’t like loud volumes in general.


What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I don’t know, I just want to live. So if you find me making coffee two years from now I’ll do it. But I think if I wasn’t doing this I would be a mixture of industrial or interior design.


What profession would you not like to do?

Oh I can tell you for sure. So I wanted to be an engineer when I started school. It took me three months to jump ship. I have nothing against it, it’s just the process of creating, which is what I love and wanted built, but not necessarily in that manner!


If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Well-Done my Son, Well-done!



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