Photography, a powerful visual communication tool is pouncing back and taking its place in the century of global convergence and super-speed big data transfer.
Kenya is strategic and geographically positioned to photography opportunities in the region and through out African among them indigenous culture and practices, conflicts, disasters, development projects.
Growing from decades when photography commanded little respect in Kenya, the industry is now employing professionals on fulltime capacities in various photography specialisations.
It is a passion lovers would easily take up on part-time for fun and in fact to earn living.
Speaking recently during a World Press Photo (WPPh) workshop in Nairobi, seasoned news and documentary photographers, news agency editors, development organization leaders and magazine editor said photography industry in Africa is rising and Kenyan-based professional photographers are in demand and in best position to tell unique stories from within the continent.
“Development organizations NGOs, photography agencies, both print and broadcast media as well as online outlets are looking out for local photographers who understand the African context that include culture and language to visually document stories,” said International Committee of the Red Cross Regional Spokesman Jason Straziuso, one of the panelist.
The two-day workshop hosted at Pawa254 also delved into photojournalism practice in Kenya, photo essays and storytelling, photojournalism ethics, portraiture in news and documentary photography. This extended to roundtable discussion on future of photojournalism in East Africa
World Press Photo, a non-profit organization based in the Netherlands supporting professional photojournalists and hosts annual photography contests exhibited the best photos submitted for this year’s competition outside the National Archives in Nairobi. The exhibition is part of the foundation’s series of activities across the world.
Other panelists were the AFP East Africa Chief Photographer Carl de Souza, Yummy and Nomad Magazine Managing Editor Michelle Slater, Freelance Photojournalist Tony Karumba, The Standard Group Head of Photography Jacob Otieno, Nichole Sobecki, and Peter DiCampo.
Sobecki is a photographer and filmmaker based in Nairobi. She began her career in Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria, focusing on regional issues related to identity, conflict, and human rights.
DiCampo is a cofounder of ‘Everyday Africa Project’ seeking to deconstruct a dialogue on international development and perceptions of Africa. He is an advocate for localized storytelling.
According to the Yammy Manager Michelle Slater, the magazine has found it hard getting stock pictures from the African setting that come handy in illustrating stories and building contact and authenticity among Kenyan audiences.
“We use a lot of stock images, which is normal in the lifestyle magazines, but mainstream stock agencies do not have picture from an African setting and modeled by Africans.”
— Michelle Slater
She added: “There is a huge gap in the market for local food photographers, those are the opportunities photographers should look for. I recall of an image a local photograph took, we shared on Yummy Facebook page and immediately, it attracted over 4,000 likes.”
News, documentary and commercial photography are open platforms photographer can easily penetrate either through assignment commissioning or pitching. These include media outlets, development organizations, government agencies, NGOs, institutions and companies.
According to de Souza, news photography however, demands commitment and continuous learning.
“Decisive moments to make award-winning pictures come unexpected, news photographers carry their cameras at all times, news operations calls for time sensitive personalities,” noted Mr. Jacob Otieno who oversees Standard Group’s team of over 35 photojournalists.
Jacob covered Kenya’s traumatic transition from one-party to multiparty rule in the early 1990’s with some of his images of the violent police crackdowns adding to pressure that eventually ended one-party rule in Kenya. In 1998 he photographed the bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi by al Quaeda affiliated terrorists.
“The eye forgets, pictures never forget,” quotes Tony Karumba, a freelance photojournalist who has covered several conflicts including the aftermath in Afghanistan’s Kandahar region, southern Somalia and it’s breakaway regions, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as well as the post-election violence in Kenya.
Media Editors are looking out for best talent who can provide them with fresh and intrinsic content.
“You need to be feeding your brain every day with imagery to develop your eye and find out what you’re really interested and passionate about. That’s how you get better,” said de Souza, adding that a photographer is as good as their last picture.
He notes that the dynamic visual storytelling techniques now calls for rounded professional with audio-visuals skills, photography, editing, newswriting, interviewing as well as research skills.
“In a portfolio I like to see variety, that a photographer can find themselves in many different situations and still do a good job,” de-Souza concludes.