created by Smoke and Tales

Smoke & Tales meets up with London based photographer Folaju Oyegbesan to discuss his online project, ‘Coffee with..’

“..and then my friend passed away”

Sitting opposite me, laying the burden of these words down is London based photographer, Folaju Oyegbesan. Moments earlier, we had walked through the front door of Freestate Coffee, a popular joint near Holborn station.

The passion behind Folaju’s work comes from documenting the mechanics of real life, and how the world around him works. His exhibition, THE WAIT – which you can see featured in our Tales section – is currently on a four-month residency at The Timberyard Old Street. But, today, over a Latte and Flat White, we are here to discuss his online portrait project, “Coffee with…

The series is a project that means a lot to him. In equal measure a labour of love as it is work. The project sees Folaju take a friend for coffee, as he documents both their conversations in writing, as well as capturing their time together through a series of portraits. When in this day and age, a good Instagram feed is all a photographer needs to get validation, the obvious place to start our conversation is, why bother?

“When I started photography, I constantly found that I was too busy to meet up with my friends in a meaningful way. The project is about reconnecting with people, and making sure it is a real connection.” When he speaks of the project, he speaks at the effortless pace of one who has found both joy and meaning in their craft.

The conversation around our generation’s level of connectedness is one that is constantly ongoing. Many of us appreciate the ease in which we can stay updated with developments in the lives of the friends we know we see too little, but we also know the fault often lies within ourselves for using the fast pace of city life as an excuse to only meet up at events, and not making space for proper interactions. So what changed things for Folaju? “I was always too busy, and then a friend passed away in 2009” he says, and it suddenly hit home to him how many conversations they never had. “You are only as busy as you want to be.”

In conversation with Folaju, you quickly notice he places great importance on the value of relationships, and of people’s time. Something he regrets not doing himself. The second to last time he saw his friend before she passed “they barely spoke” because he was annoyed at her over something so mundane he now laughs about it.

“When I follow someone on Instagram, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Snapchat, when they post stuff on a daily basis, it gives you that illusion that they are in your lives when they are not” He is quick to point out that we are all guilty of this. Allowing the constant hustle of city life to cause us to miss the moments that matter most in our friends lives. “Its easy to think you know what’s going on in someone’s life in 140 characters, in a status, or a photo album” he says, sitting up as he makes the point.

Without knowing Folaju, it is easy to assume that he is another soldier fighting the fight against social media, but that just isn’t the case. A user of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and tumblr, he understands the benefits on a personal, as well as a professional level of social media better than most. He speaks of “the amazing feeling” when someone on a different continent reaches his work and are able to communicate their appreciation for what he does via what are now almost effortless mediums.

A one-hour meeting has now turned into two, and we move on to the topic of depression. Society at large bemoans the lack of discussion surrounding this topic as very few step forward to talk about their own experiences. If we think about, many of us do not give ourselves the opportunity to properly spot the signs of depression within our friends.

“Being around you, and being in your life are too different things” he says. “Nobody likes to be vulnerable, nobody posts their fears online, That one-on-one conversation gives you the intimacy to find out what is really going on in someones life”.

To him, its more than just trying to entertain a friend over a drink. It’s about making a concerted effort to create a space “that opens your eyes” to what your friends are going through, good and bad. The interactions give him an opportunity to “leave an impression on my friends”, he says, and, just as importantly, allows them to do the same for him.

The project is a personal endeavour for Folaju. It is clear documenting it, in some way, adds a degree of importance to the interaction. It is something of real value that most, not only in this city, but also in every far reach should adopt.

You don’t need a camera, or even a cup of coffee. Just a friend.

You can check out his series ‘Coffee with..’ here:

Folaju Oyegbesan is a London based photographer.

t: @geekysneaks