I first met Sunmi Smart-Cole as a starry-eyed young newspaper reporter in 1991. The event was one of the countless conferences at The then Nicon Noga Hilton Hotel in Abuja. Abuja was just emerging then and it was a destination of choice for “luxury” conferences, AGMs and other events. The government of the day was almost desperate to get people to buy into the Abuja dream and it did everything to bring functions to the city. I sat in my corner of the congress hall and watched this pro of pro photographers at work. He was calm and very sure of himself. He was clearly a cut above the other photo-journalists who were swarming all over the place.
Sunmi Smart-Cole’s photography equipment seemed to be an extension of his body and I must have wondered how that could be. Before that time I always looked forward to his eye-catching photography in the Guardian on Sunday. Something about his work spoke to the dormant artiste in me and I longed to be able to see the world through his lens. I would see him again at several other such meetings in the next couple of years until I dropped out of active journalism. Regrettably though, I never went up to him to request an autograph. I was too timid in those days. I was priviledged to be at the public presentation of one of his works back in the early ’90s and my respect and admiration for the man quadrupled after going through the book.
Sunmi Smart-Cole is a man of many parts, music, architecture, journalism, gardening etc. In a way I like to think that I am like Sunmi Smart-Cole, gifted in several areas. But I think that is as far as the comparison goes, for now at least. Today, I admire and respect Sunmi-Smart-Cole for the consummate professional he is and for his ability to make a success of his many gifts and talents. His type is rare