Tolani Alli Biography

Tolani Alli is an acclaimed documentary photographer whose images and stories have been featured on BBC News, World Press, The Guardian (U.K), Bella Naija and more. She was recently commissioned as a freelance photographer by The Guardian (UK) on a special report on the oil spill in the Niger Delta . Additionally, Tolani was the first African enrolled in the debut of World Press Photo Noor Images and Danish School of Photojournalism/Media Documentary Program, which she completed with honors.

Tolani Alli is the SA Photography to The President in The Office of The Vice President and the Personal Photographer to The Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbanjo SAN, at The Nigerian Government.

Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo appointed Tolani Alli as his official photographer in 2019.

Tolani Alli, the daughter of the immediate past Secretary to the Oyo State Government, Alhaji Olalekan Alli, is the second official Photographer to the Nigerian Presidency with Bayo Omoboriowo who is President Muhammadu Buhari’s official photographer.

Tolani came to prominence as a photographer to the Governor of Oyo, one of Nigeria’s most notable states. While this role has historically had limited female representation, she battles hard to push for more gender equality and prides herself as a proponent of equity in her profession.

She is the first ever female documentary photographer to Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State and the first to occupy such role in Nigeria. Having stopped pursuing a medical degree to fulfill her love for photography.

As the Personal Documentary Photographer to the Governor, Tolani Alli documented the daily activities, process, behind the scenes and happenings of the Oyo State Governor, Published and curated a photography and picture book for Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s 2016 year.
During her appointment, she exhibited key photographs at various exhibitions worldwide and also documented and showcased Nigeria’s historic campaign in 2015 which resulted to a change in power.

A distinguished alumni of The University of Michigan, she credits her photography journey to a chance interest in a camera after watching an Aston Kutcher cannon commercial while battling a grave illness. As her true passion for photography emerged, she transformed from being medical school bound to becoming obsessed with photography and telling stories with her lens.

Between September 2013 and December 2014, Tolani Alli worked as a Software and Hardware Technician at Apple in the United States. Before her employment at Apple, she worked as a Health Specialist in Genesee County, Michigan. 

There she conducted research on health disparities and unhealthy eating habits of Genesee County residents for a comprehensive plan to help prevent obesity, participated in committees to maintain effective healthcare programs in Genesee county and planned and executed Get Out and Move event in coordination with local businesses and organizations resulting in attendance that exceeded 3,000 people.

She also worked as an IT Technician and Public Safety Patrol Officer at the University of Michigan-Flint and Senior Photographer at Illusions Imagery.

In an interview with the Guardian, Tolani Alli, who started photography at age 18, when asked what she wants to achieve with her chosen career, her response was: 

 "The drive is to always be better. I want to tell the world stories that will evoke emotion. I want people to laugh, cry and sing because that one shot- told them a million words."

"But I will never rest with that one shot. It will never be just one shot. No matter how good, how great, how spectacular it is, I will make the next one better. I will take the world on a journey that ends when I end. But in the end, I want my name to read; ‘Tolani Alli: The woman with the hat that changed the game’".

Tolani popularly known as 'the hat' has the late Legendary American basketball player Kobe Bryant as her role model.

Tolani Alli continues to be a trailblazer and unapologetic in redefining what it means to be Nigeria, American, African and global citizen. In delivering the keynote presentation at The World Renowned Fearless Photographers Conference In Split, Croatia, she challenged the crowd to opening up itself to a new African narrative and showing the importance of photography in doing so. Her bold and visionary approach leaves little explanation as to why she was recently named in the top 30 of 100 of most influential young-Nigerians.