Pius Utomi Ekpei, one of Nigeria's topflight photojournalist was born at Ebu Town, Oshimili South Local Government Area of Delta State in Nigeria. Early in life, his interest in drawing and oil painting indicated a strong direction of his future endeavor. His march to professional and academic excellence in photojournalism began with his training at the Kenn Professional Studio, Apapa in 1976. He attended Apapa Baptist School, Apapa and Nigerian Model High School, Idi Oro both in Lagos, for his General Certificate for Education, Ordinary and Advanced Levels. He attended the Nigerian Institute of Journalism in Lagos and obtained a diploma in journalism. He studied photojournalism at the University of Missouri, School of Journalism, Columbia Missouri, the USA in 1989. Ekpei holds Bachelor of Arts (Hons) degree in English (1997-02), Master degree in Public and International Affairs (2005-2007), Master in English Literature (2008-2009) from the University of Lagos, and Postgraduate Diploma in Theology, 2011. He started his career as a photojournalist with Daily Times in 1982 and later joined the Guardian newspaper in 1986, where his potentials and photojournalistic skills manifested with his catchy and timeless pictures.
His brilliant career culminated in his being chosen as the Willie Vicoy Reuter Fellow in 1989. The prestigious award placed him on record as the first African recipient of the international fellowship in photojournalism and the third at the inception of the award in 1987. His job experience include his career as a staff photographer with the Columbia Missourian, USA in 1989; freelance for Reuters (1989-1990); photo editor, The Sunday Magazine (1990-1992); editor, photography, The Independent Weekly (1992-1996); and head, photo for the international press Agence France Presse (AFP) responsible for Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana.
Ekpei, a veteran of the industry for over three decades has travelled far and wide either as an artist photographer or as a photojournalist. His works as vividly as the events occured are seen from his coverage of the Liberian War in 2003, FIFA 2006 World Cup in Germany, FIFA 2018 World Cup in Russia, Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria, and the uneasiness in Niger Delta. His rich portfolio in other aspects of photography portray his mastery of the craft. Following his maiden one-man exhibition “Just As We Are” in 1989, he has had several solo and group exhibitions both at home and abroad. This includes University of Missouri yearly workshop exhibition at Northwest Missouri State University, Maryville, USA (1989); Fourth Havana Biennial, Cuba (1991); “Land and Water”, a joint exhibition with Italian Ezio Quiresi at the Istituto di Cultura (1993); Contemporary Nigeria Art exhibition at WIPO headquarters in Geneva (1995) etc. He is a consultant to local and international institutions.
Author of the book “Just As We Are” and published by Academic Press in 1989, Ekpei has collaborated with renowned authors in various publications. Apart from his works that has featured prominently in several local and international newspapers, magazines, periodicals and journals, he is listed in reputable compendiums in art and journalism, such as the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art Library, African Contemporary Art (1994 and 1996 editions), Media World Year Book, etc. He is a recipient of several awards, some of which are the Willie Vicoy Reuter Fellowship (1989), Highly Commended, Commonwealth Photographic Awards (2007), Runners-up (African Zone) FiftyCrows Fund for Documentary Photography, San-Francisco (2003), etc. He is a member of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, and enjoys listening to good music.