The Humans of Lagos


Humans of Lagos offers a glimpse at daily life in the West African mega city

by Ashley Okwuosa

In the recent abundance of social media pages and campaigns that focus on portraying a more extensive image of Africa, Lagos is one of the many cities that have been photographed and put on display. Not only because of its towering architecture and vast expanse of water, but also because of how well this resilient, rousing and restorative city capture the essence of Nigeria. Like New York, Lagos is viewed as less of a place and more of a feeling; the rambunctiousness of the yellow Danfo buses or the leafy trees that shade the milk colored house in Ikoyi evoke as much emotion as the people do.

Home to 17 million people and counting, the people of Lagos, or Lagosians as they have been dubbed, are some of the most captivating people in the world and there’s a man whose mission it is to make sure everyone knows this, one picture at a time. Tochi Ani, the photographer and curator behind the immensely successful Instagram page, Humans of Lagos isn’t very open to revealing information about himself or the page that has over 10,000 people talking.

“It [Humans of Lagos] was inspired by Humans Of New York, I've always had it in mind to start the Lagos version of HONY but I kept postponing. I eventually started in January of 2015 after a series of events that occurred in my life. I'll leave out the details out for now, but then, I needed a distraction.” Ani says over online chat.

Like its New York counterpart, the page is a colorful look at the lives of everyday Lagosians, it features an image of a different Lagos city resident accompanied by a short anecdote about the subjects life. Ani tends to aim his lens at the middle class or sometimes, lower middle class citizens from industrial neighborhoods like Surulere and Yaba, a choice he claims is not intentional but rather a result of who responds to his advances. The subjects reveal to him their hopes, dreams and even disappointments in the matter-of-fact way that Lagosians are known to approach everything. According to Ani, whose subjects range from schoolteachers to bus drivers and even little children, the people he approaches aren’t prompted to reveal a particularly interesting tidbit about their lives, that is something they offer up on their own. “People are always willing to share but no one cares enough to ask or listen.”