As I walk in to the cafe to meet documentary photographer, Yagazie Emezi, I have high expectations of us getting along solely because of what I perceive to be her real life persona, based primarily on her Instagram feed. I am anxious because I am projecting. A part of me is bracing for disappointment because no one is really like their online persona. Right? It’s easy to assume that you can have enough in common with a stranger over the internet when they say things that you feel you would say, or express in a way that you might express. You expect a simpatico relationship instantly. Oftentimes meeting such personalities, IRL, is a stark reminder that the internet is really a place of – mostly – fiction or at least a heightened reality and the people are merely products of a carefully curated online persona. But with Yagazie, it’s different.

There’s perhaps also an element of aspiration to meeting someone like Yagazie who comes across as incredibly honest, greatly unabashed, charming, beautiful and free. That last adjective being the dream. Her laughs seem fuller, her experiences are a bitter contrast to our more mundane lives (have you recently been at sea photographing the inspection and later, arrest of an illegal fishing vessel in Liberia? No? Exactly).

Looking through Emezi’s already rich portfolio is like immersing yourself in a world that is so alien to yours. It evokes feelings of envy but also, perhaps, slight anxiety. Are those moments as raw and as frightening as they seem? I wonder. “For me the scariest moment is the moment before I actually start taking pictures. I describe it as stage fright: where there’s so much anxiety in getting from point A to B. B being the place I need to be for the pictures. I have a lot of social anxiety. I nod in relatability. Social anxiety is my jam. She shares a telling story about an experience in Liberia where she felt so overcome by her anxiety that she just cried. “I was doing a project in West Point, which is a slum there, and I’m used to being in the slum but for some reason the process of just getting there is like nerve wrecking for me. I think it’s growing up in Aba, I really do not like walking the street, I’ve been conditioned to people calling out, looking and that just really unsettles me for whatever reason.“My flatmate asked if I was ready to go and I started crying. It was just that level of insane anxiety where she actually had to walk me outside of the road to get a keke. Then I reached the slum and was fine because in a lot of situations I don’t go into spaces unaware.

Click HERE to read the full story and more in our July/August Issue.

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