Nuptials in Nigeria [Part III: Traditional Yoruba Ceremony!]// Adventures of a Destination Wedding Photographer

“Nuptials in Nigeria” is a series of first accounts from an American photographer and inspiration/travel writer Travis Levius.   This was his 1st time on the African continent to photograph an exciting 2-day destination wedding in Lagos, Nigeria. 

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{WEDDING DAY 1 OF 2}

After months of planning and preparing from the States, the time had finally come– the traditional Yoruba engagement/wedding of Busola & Ola!  Surprisingly, I was more excited than nervous to photograph this lively ceremony- much of the songs and speech would be in the traditional Yoruba language, and I was completely foreign to the customs that a Yoruba engagement entailed.  But everything came together wonderfully, reminding me why I’m so passionate about capturing multicultural weddings all over the globe.  This is Day One of two days’ worth of wedding ceremonies (the grand “Main Wedding” photos will debut next in Part IV!)

Let’s Begin!


The ceremony begins with Ola’s (the groom) deliberate, dance-happy entrance towards the main area, surrounded by a jubilant entourage of drummers, his groomsmen and other important guests.

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As a gesture of respect, a Yoruba groom lays prostrate on the ground in front of the bride’s parents and elders to ask for her hand in marriage.  The groomsmen/close friends were to lay prostrate as well, but because of morning rain, there was only (dry) space for the groom.

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The celebration continues after family’s acceptance.  Similar to what is seen throughout the ceremony, there was singing, music and the placement of Naira bills on the “special” person of that moment.

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Soon after, the bride and her bridesmaids/important guests emerges.  Busola (the bride) looked stunning in her traditional Nigerian wedding ensemble as the group danced and sang towards the ceremony area.

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The bride kneels before her family as they give her their blessing and counsel.

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The bride’s mother places the veil back on the bride, for the groom’s father to unveil his new daughter-in-law.

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More celebration!  The bride’s group dances around her in a circle, followed by a prayer for a blissful marriage.

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A wedding letter (placed in the plaque shown below) is read to the guests and then celebrated.

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There is a ring exchange- something that many Nigerians who choose to have a traditional and Western wedding, such as this couple, do twice!

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The bride comes together with her and the groom’s parents.

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Guests make their way to the center of the ceremony to offer Naira bills

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After the formalities have ended, the groom and bride meet and greet all of the family members on each side.

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The bride returns with a new outfit as she dances and mingles with the guests.

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I thoroughly enjoyed (and learned much) capturing this traditional ceremony in Lagos, Nigeria.  The colors, energy and revelry of it all was such a rush; however, this was a small-scale production compared to the wedding extravaganza (of 800+ guests!) that would occur 2 days later.  Check back on MisterLevius.com for the super exciting “Part IV: The Main Wedding”!!

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Nuptials in Nigeria [Part II: First Impressions]// Adventures of a Destination Wedding Photographer

“Nuptials in Nigeria” is a series of first accounts from an American photographer and inspiration/travel writer Travis Levius.   This was his 1st time on the African continent to photograph an exciting 2-day destination wedding in Lagos, Nigeria. 

IMG_8461via: Instagram, @misterlevius

I felt saved from my unnerving Lagos airport experience once I met my gracious host- the bride’s older brother- outside the terminal. For most, an hour-long ride from any airport doesn’t exactly elicit excitement…but oh my.

THE THRILL RIDE

Sleep was scarce on the 11-hour red-eye flight from New York City, but my 1st ride through mainland Lagos trumped all underlying bits of fatigue. Under the temperate morning sun, I remember passing by ripe coconut trees and dense shrubbery; roaming, lean chickens; dated and at times derelict low-rise homes and buildings; people walking without the presence of sidewalks (there were open-faced irrigation ditches along the side road, seen throughout the city, that people would simply walk alongside). Just 10 minutes into my ride, what I expected from this modern African megalopolis of 20+ million was quite different from reality.

The ride became more fascinating once we got on Lagos’s infamous highways. I’ve already heard about the bad traffic, which doesn’t mean much to me as I lived in Atlanta. What people did not tell me were the throngs of men and women who would walk/run across the busy highways as if they were city streets…meter-high cement partitions in their path and all. You should have seen the initial shock on my face, trying to imagine Atlanta pedestrians crossing six lanes of two-way traffic on I-85. Unfathomable. The irony: there’s plenty of well-placed pedestrian bridges along the highway that people could use to hop sides safely. I’m guessing the stairs and extra walk to the bridges proved too inconvenient for some?

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Traffic jams proved advantageous for the on-foot entrepreneurs, selling anything from fruit to cell phone chargers. I also found the occasional clusters of beggars walking in between cars or sitting in the middle of the partitions. The city’s status as the land of the “haves and the have-nots” was quite clear just an hour into my visit.

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The people who quip, “If you can drive in New York, you can drive anywhere” have clearly never been in Lagos. Going from Point A to B here is full of close-calls, abrupt lane changing and widely ignored driving rules. Pedestrian right-of-way in Lagos is an imaginary idea; walkers simply get out-the-way. What’s also worth a mention: people honk for everything here. Continue reading

Nuptials in Nigeria [Part I: The Arrival]//Adventures of a Destination Wedding Photographer

“Nuptials in Nigeria” is a series of first accounts from an American photographer and inspiration/travel writer Travis Levius.   This was his 1st time on the African continent to photograph an exciting 2-day destination wedding in Lagos, Nigeria. 

IMG_8457via: Instagram, @misterlevius

Pre-Departure

Booking this destination wedding in Nigeria was a two-fold dream come true. I made it a goal late last year to travel to 3 new continents and to start doing international weddings. This would be my first time setting foot on the African continent, all while taking a huge leap in my wedding photography career. Most American photographers who perform out-of-country weddings usually shoot in Mexico and the Caribbean- close to home yet sufficiently exotic for most couples. This particular wedding, however- about 5,200 miles southeast from the U.S. Eastern Coast- is out there. How will I fare in this side of the world?

I felt both excited and afraid as the time to leave from JFK approached. As a traveler only used to Westernized frontiers (Canada, Western Europe, Australia), needing to take so many precautions did cause a bit of worry. A vaccine shot here…a “live culture” pill there…pills to continue taking after the trip ends…

These worries were not helped by multiple Nigerian expats consistently telling me to never walk the streets alone in Lagos, to take super care of one’s things, to only drink bottled water, to only eat cooked food, to keep an astute eye out for hustlers, to wear no jewelry, don’t take my camera out unless it’s for the wedding, etc. Geez, will I be able to actually enjoy this Lagos trip between the dire health hazards and alarming number of swindlers?

The Arrival

Before you read any further, I’d ask to remove all anticipation of the clichéd emotional-black-American’s-first-time-touching-ground-in-Africa narrative.

I wasn’t emotional once I walked outside Murtala Muhammed Int’l Airport’s doors and breathed the warm Nigerian air that morning- I was annoyed. I was already the target to 3 “helpful” airport staff members (or look-alikes) before setting foot outside to meet my host family. One uniformed guy hovering around the luggage claim area offered to bring a luggage cart to me for $10 (it was 15 feet behind me and it cost about a buck to check out, I later realized). “No thanks, I’m good,” I reply. “I am here to help you,” the older guy says, lifting up his employee or ID badge as if that makes him look more honest. Once I passed customs and finished using the restroom, one man sitting outside of the public restroom tries to casually smooth talk me into to paying/tipping him once I walked out.

I guess what my Nigerian friends warned me about was completely true.

The two were not outdone by the one uniformed young man who latched to me immediately after passing the customs area, soliciting offers for minutes like some tenacious gnat, after much polite insistence to cease doing so. At one point, he recited the same script as the other guy: “I am here to help you, look at my badge.” Ugh. He even followed me inside the damn bathroom to “hold my bags” as I relieve myself, even as I tried to shoo him away. I gave up ignoring him and decided to take his offer in placing a phone call to locate my host, the bride’s brother. It was a 45 second phone call at best. “If you have $10, that would be good,” the guy says. For a 45-second phone call and 7 minutes of unsolicited annoyance? “I’m not giving you $10, I’ll give you $4 but that’s it,” I replied firmly. He finally distanced himself soon after I went outside, and I was left in peace (for the most part) until the bride’s brother came to get me from the airport’s pick-up area.

Thankfully, the not-so-great-experiences never went beyond the airport, and my first hour-long ride through mainland Lagos that morning kickstarted all the intrigue and excitement I was wishing for.

**Much More to Share in Part II!*

The New MisterLevius.com: 3 Things to Know

While my website is getting its facelift, I want to share 3 major changes you will see over time:

A Brand New Focus: Travel

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Inspiration is nice…inspiration and going global are even better.

I realized over the years how enriching it’s been to pursue and live an international life. Most merely wish to travel and don’t know how- or worse, mentally confer this privilege to the rich. While purpose and passion will always be a priority, I’m making more room to advocate the joys of the global-driven life.

 A Brand New Photography Path: Destination Weddings

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Consider me the Celebrity/Fashion Photographer Gone Bridal.

I’ve worn many hats since I touched my first DSLR 5 years ago and finally found my niche. I want to do work that is meaningful, dynamic and allows me to travel the world and meet fascinating people. Destination wedding photography provides this opportunity more than any other, and will remain my chief path for years to come.

A (Not-So) Brand New Purpose

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I have a secret I’ve kept for years that I’ll finally share today:

Photography is not my main career focus.

Yes, my from-pocket-camera-to-Fashion-Week-and-beyond-in-just-a-year journey proves my photographic talents…yes, I still love shooting and will use my story to continually inspire others.

But that’s the thing: I want to inspire people, period.

Continue reading

I’m Baaaaack.

Hello, again

(How do you reconnect with your love after leaving abruptly for two years??)

Gather all the typical excuses of a deserted blog—

Life is getting in the way…

It is so time-consuming…

There’s nothing happening worth posting…

It didn’t take off the way I wanted it to…

…and you’d be correct about my own plight.

I stepped away from my public portal of inspiration and began searching for my next steps.

How can I maximize my purpose in this world? What are these ongoing lessons trying to show me?

I’ve been vigorously penning (er, typing) my inner and outer journeys for my own viewing purposes ever since. While my private entries have helped me tremendously, I could not help but feel a little selfish keeping it all to myself.

Now, with a sharper vision, a new angle and plenty of experiences and insights, I’m re-introducing MisterLevius.com to the world.

Woo-hoo!

I’m doing this new thing where I begin putting myself out there, even when I don’t feel “ready”; therefore, the changes to the site will be gradual. What’s changing, you say? Make sure you return and view tomorrow’s post to find out.

Just know it’ll be grand ;)

If you’ve never seen this site before, I welcome you. If you’ve been a loyal reader since I started in 2010 (I’m looking at you Yasmeen!), please tap my hand for taking so long.

I’m on an exciting new leg of my journey…and I finally feel ready to bring others along for the ride.

Stay Tuned!

(p.s.: Do you like my brand-new website header?!)

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–Travis Levius

Excursions: Kelly Wearstler Resort 2013 Collection

All images by Travis Levius.  All rights reserved.

Last week, I had the pleasure to attend Kelly Wearstler’s Exclusive Blogger Cocktail Event in Chelsea, celebrating the L.A.-based designer’s new Resort 2013 Collection.  Before being debriefed on the collection’s inspiration, my initial thoughts were “chaos, busy, bold”…later realizing that this was the designer’s intended reaction.

Designer Kelly Wearstler pictured above (center).

Kelly’s work is a colorful, frolicking exploration of essence vs. abstract: reserved for the fearless, forbidden for the faint of heart.  Though the rack of graphic, vibrant separates whetted my appetite, the live model demonstration truly tapped me into Kelly’s genius vision.

Inspired by the clothes and the amazing balcony view of Midtown, I took the models outdoors for an impromptu shoot.  Putting the clothes in context with the urban jungle was exhilarating, and it is clear that multi-talented  Kelly Wearstler (who is also a jewelry and modern furniture designer) is truly one to watch.

Special thanks to the lovely models and to HL Group for the event invite.