Inspiring Inclusion Through Photography: The Story of Opeyemi Afolabi

Celebrating International Women’s Day and its powerful 2024 theme “Inspiring Inclusion”, Gazmadu Education spotlights phenomenal creative entrepreneurs like Opeyemi Afolabi, the founder of Hildermara Rose Studio. 

Through her photography business, Opeyemi is on a passionate mission to celebrate the overlooked beauty and emotional depth in the lives of children, mothers, and families across all backgrounds.  Her inspiring journey exemplifies how creative visionaries can be catalysts for positive change.

Inspiring Inclusion Through My Photography


Opeyemi believes solely that every single person’s story is precious and deserves to be celebrated through beautiful, emotionally resonant visuals. This is what fuels her drive to capture the authentic joys, struggles, and emotional truths that make each individual and family unit unequivocally unique.

With patience, empathy, and an intuitive eye for meaningful details, Opeyemi aims to highlight the inherent beauty, innocence, and resilience that exist across all backgrounds. 

Her portraits transcend surface appearances to unveil the raw humanity within each subject. Whether it’s the giggles of children at play, the fierce strength behind a mother’s nurturing gaze, or the deep familial bonds fortified through shared values and experiences – Opeyemi’s creative mission is to capture these powerful yet underrepresented narratives through an inclusive, celebratory lens.

Overcoming Barriers as a Woman Creative

Being a woman in the Nigerian photography industry hasn’t always been easy,” Opeyemi acknowledges. “Right from the start, I faced some men challenging me, saying I couldn’t be a professional photographer, that it was just a ‘phase’ and I would ‘fizzle out’ soon.”

Despite her growing portfolio of stunning, emotionally resonant imagery, skepticism lingered. “Even after delivering exceptional work, some clients remained skeptical about hiring me simply because I was a woman,” Opeyemi recalls. “But when they saw the results, the story changed.”

Balancing work and family life presented another hurdle. “As a mum, it was difficult managing the needs of my business and my family,” Opeyemi admits, highlighting the challenges of dividing her attention between “my husband and son.”

However, Opeyemi never let these obstacles deter her. “I found incredible support from other talented women creatives,” she emphasizes,  “like photographer Ovia Reflex, Enoshowo Eworo from Captured by Adesua’s Art of Photography program, and most importantly, business coach Yagazie Eguare’s Profitable Creative Business Program.”

These connections provided more than just support; they offered a safe space to thrive. “Their encouraging mentorships, specialized training opportunities, and simply having a strong community of like-minded female visionaries to lean on,” Opeyemi explains, “empowered me to stay true to my authentic voice and vision.”

The “Roses Among Thorns” Project

Opeyemi’s “Roses Among Thorns” project captured the raw stories of three women with sickle cell disease. Through powerful portraits and heartfelt stories, she raised awareness, promoted inclusivity, and gave a voice to this often-overlooked community. This project exemplifies her commitment to amplifying diverse narratives and fostering authentic representation through her art.

The subjects – a 65-year-old grandmother, an award-winning CEO, and a mother of three – openly shared their unique struggles and triumphs in defying societal limitations. 

By bravely rendering their stories through an empowering, inclusive lens, “Roses Among Thorns” provided a powerful platform for the sickle cell community’s diverse narratives to be truly seen and heard. The intimate portrayals emphasized their irrepressible inner strength and humanity beyond just being defined by their condition.

Watch the Project Video

The Female Creative’s Perspective

As a woman creative, Opeyemi understands the immense value of bringing traditionally underrepresented perspectives and lived experiences into artistic narratives. She feels that female photographers and storytellers offer a uniquely nurturing, intuitive emotional awareness that allows them to connect with subjects on a deeper level.

From her journey as a mother, Opeyemi Afolabi has developed a profound appreciation for the inherent strength, beauty, and emotional richness surrounding experiences like pregnancy, childbirth, and raising children. This wisdom grounds her in capturing the uninhibited joys and boundless curiosity of childhood with tenderness and care. Her portraits don’t just freeze smiles, but encapsulate each child’s vibrant spirit.

Lifting While Climbing: Opeyemi’s Story

Inspired by the talent and dedication of women like Yagazie Eguare, Ty Bello, Kelly Brown, and Ana Brandt, Opeyemi has built an impressive career in photography. However, her journey wouldn’t have been possible without the incredible support network she’s cultivated.

“Surprisingly, most of my mentors have been women,” Opeyemi reveals. She credits Ovia Reflex with providing invaluable technical training through one-on-one sessions, and Captured by Adesua’s “Art of Photography” program for honing her skills further.

Yet, the most transformative experience came from Yagazie Eguare’s “Profitable Creative Business Program.” “Yagazie truly opened my eyes to the business side of photography,” Opeyemi emphasizes. “Your passion alone won’t keep you in business for long. Learning the business is key to making a lasting impact.”

Opeyemi recognizes the power of community. “Find women further along in their journeys, and don’t be afraid to ask for mentorship,” she advises. “Build genuine relationships, share your struggles, and have each other’s backs. When we collaborate instead of compete, that’s when we can truly inspire change together.”

This collaborative spirit extends beyond her own network. Opeyemi actively invests in the next generation after training over 50 women in newborn and child photography through Gazmadu Education’s International Women’s Day program for 2023.


Opeyemi Afolabi - CEO Hildermara Rose

Opeyemi’s journey exemplifies the power of perseverance, community, and self-belief. By embracing continuous learning, cultivating a supportive network, and nurturing her unique voice, she has not only carved a successful path for herself but also become a champion for inclusivity in the creative space.

Her story serves as a beacon of inspiration, urging aspiring women photographers to believe in themselves, hone their craft, and find their place in the world, leaving a lasting impact through the power of their art.


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