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Omaha Magazine

One Frame at a Time: How Abiola Kosoko Rendered Success

Feb 24, 2023 10:15AM ● By Kim Carpenter
Abiola Kosoko

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

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One night during the summer of 2005, Abiola Kosoko spent 22 consecutive hours learning the ins and outs of Adobe Photoshop. He had just graduated from Mount Michael Benedictine High School and had been accepted at Creighton University, where he planned to focus on graphic design and Spanish. 

Yet, Kosovo’s interests were multi-faceted. 

“I really wanted to become good at Photoshop. I wanted to edit my own photos, create logos, and be able to create basically whatever I visualized,” he shared on his website. “I am not too good with pen and paper, so I wanted the computer to become my medium.”

Almost 20 years later, Kosoko, now 35, has achieved that goal and much more besides. The graphic designer, photographer, freelancer, and occasional DJ sat down with Omaha Magazine before leaving for Wyoming, where he would be taking headshots for FNBO’s latest branch. Kosoko landed the plumb position as the bank’s full-time photographer in December 2021 while bolstering his freelance portfolio with projects for Children’s Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, ESPN, Flatwater Free Press, Michelob Ultra, and Terence Bud Crawford, among others.
That list speaks to Kosoko’s success—and how hard he’s worked to achieve it.

He credits his father and older brother, Dayo, for inculcating a deep love of photography during his early years. 

“Our dad got us interested. He was always taking pictures,” the multimedia specialist recounted. “Anytime we’d go to D.C. to visit family, he’d be snapping photos.”

Kosoko determined to follow a career in graphic design following college graduation, though the creative processes inherent in photography held strong appeal. He fiddled with images taken with a Nikon Coolpix camera, and watched tutorials on YouTube, to master the photo editing process. 

“I learned how to manipulate edit for design,” he said. 

Kosoko eventually purchased a Sony A7 camera, which often run over $2,500—a hefty purchase that demonstrated his commitment to the craft. 

“You can spend a lot on lenses and gear,” he shared. “Photography adds up, and it’s not cheap. For three to five years, I used only one camera body and one lens.” 

He did not, however let the paucity of specialized equipment limit him. 

“I did so much with them,” he said. “I photographed two fights with Bud Crawford. That was next level.”

While learning the finer points of photography on his own, Kosoko’s degree in graphic design served him well. He did marketing and design work for Creighton’s Health Sciences Multicultural and Community Affairs department and served as the director of marketing and recruitment for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands, before making the leap to First National. 

Regardless of the positions he’s held, he always found himself returning to images—taking them, editing them, manipulating them—and in 2012, he took the plunge into the unpredictable world of freelancing. He named the business Demo Lives—a play on the word ‘demo’ as well as his middle name, Ademola.

“I just wanted to be a photographer full time, but I wasn’t prepared for it,” he confessed. 
The contracts he garnered weren’t enough to make ends meet, and the equipment required to do jobs at an elite level proved too costly. 

“It was really tough,” Kosoko reflected. “It was a humbling experience. But it was also a good exploratory experience. I never want to go through 2012 again.”

During this period, Kosoko learned what kind of photography he didn’t want to do. Focusing on taking generic static portraits of school students and families was less than rewarding. Instead, he prefers creating portraits with a narrative quality that inform the viewer about the subject.

“It’s not just about taking a photo,” Kosoko explained. “It’s about building a relationship. I like telling stories through pictures. It’s like reading; you process the story through the photo. I like to ask people what they want to capture, and I love setting the scene around people and their environments, so you have an idea of who they are.”

Kevin Kabore, a digital creator with Noddle Companies, first met Kosoko in 2020 while a student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and briefly interned with him prior to COVID lockdowns. Kosoko was impressed by the young man’s work and continued to mentor him–and eventually collaborated together on a number of projects.

“I really think Abiola is a trendsetter,” Kabore observed. “He’s not only navigating to overcome challenges, but he’s doing it at such a high level. And he’s better than anyone I know at making everyday people who don’t like to be photographed smile. Whether it’s for a headshot or an event, he sees and is able to capture the beauty in the person.”

Two years ago, Kosovo’s tireless dedication and distinctive approach finally made it possible to do what he loves full-time.

He feels living in Omaha was a major factor in making that transition. His first attempt at full-time photography had involved working in places like Los Angeles, D.C., and New York City. But Omaha was where he was able to make his dream reality.

“There, a lot of the jobs were about who you know. Omaha is really easy to come to and build a sustainable career. I left, but I feel better in Omaha, and I can still do national jobs. That’s why I’m happy being here.” 

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Photo by Bills Sitzmann.

This article originally appeared in the March/April 2023 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

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