Interview: Commercial Photography in Africa

The difference between an entrepreneur and your average person is that entrepreneurs are students of the world. I am doing a lot of meditation and learning about not just business but society to arm myself with the skills I need to adapt to the few changes of the pandemic.

NAIROBI, Kenya, July 1, 2020/-- In our eighteenth edition of Kikao, we are lucky to have an acclaimed photographer with a diverse, distributed portfolio of work. An artivist at heart, Gikonyo talks about shooting for Africa, Intellectual Protection rights, coping with the Corona pandemic and writing.

Let Kikao begin...

[Question 1] Gikonyo welcome to Kikao. Who are you?

My name is James Gikonyo and I am the Vice-chairperson of the Photographers Association of Kenya. Professionally, I am a freelance photographer and digital marketer. I focus on portrait, corporate and fine art photographer while using other skills such as writing and social media marketing to create content for SMEs online.

[Question 2] As a reputable commercial photographer who has traversed the continent; what is unique with shooting in Africa and for Africa?

Africa has a lot of untold stories and also struggles with a reputation as the ‘dark continent.’ One of my biggest motivations is changing the status quo by telling not just positive stories but also creating a stamp of Africa into pop culture through fine art.

[Question 3] IP rights protection, copyright, acknowledgment and owning your work. Why is this so crucial in this business?

In the age of social media, one of the biggest challenges is owning one’s work because many platforms including Facebook and Instagram actually have interesting terms and conditions when it comes to copyright and commercial use of photos posted. This is very fundamental because it means that if I do not protect my work, an agency somewhere in the Western world can easily use my images without my knowledge. I have learnt a lot from the Kenya Copyright Board on how to avoid such cases and also respond to other social media users stealing my work.

[Question 4] Artivism; can photography be a killer tool for direct action?

One of the biggest influences of my fine art is social change which in a big way is modern activism. People online consume more photos than any other data so you can imagine the level of influence photos can have in sending a message and creating a voice about particular societal issues such as corruption an police brutality. Black Lives Matter is one movement that has shaken the world by use of photos alone.

[Question 5] You work thrives on social proximity, how has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted on it?

Like all other businesses, photography is about adapting to change. Despite the fact that business has gone low, my team and I have been rethinking and working on our business structure to ensure that we can still provide solutions to our clients with as little mobility as possible. It has been tough but we have created a temporary studio solution and have also invested a little into stock photography.

[Question 6] You’re also proficient in writing and poetry. Mind to share?

I have always loved telling stories from a young age. Writing and poetry were my first forms of expression. I always try and create voices for those who cannot speak for themselves in a world filled with fear and silence. My writing is pro-feminist on social media and I also work on short stories. I hope to publish an anthology soon and my dream is not only to be a Commonwealth Short Story prize winner but also garner the Caine Prize for African Writers. I actually participate on the latter annually.

[Question 7] A new decade and the world is settling for the new normal. How are you planning for this?

The difference between an entrepreneur and your average person is that entrepreneurs are students of the world. I am doing a lot of meditation and learning about not just business but society to arm myself with the skills I need to adapt to the few changes of the pandemic. For example, the government is in need of a lot of content towards creating awareness on public safety so this of the projects I am working on. In essence, we take one day at a time and hope for the very best.

The written interview was compiled by Phineahs Munene – Co-founder of Wazo Moja for James Gikonyo – of Lenses Dontlie

Distributed by Wazo Moja on behalf of Lenses Dontlie

SOURCE

Lenses Dontlie