Writing With Light: The Art of Picture Taking

I recently made my way over to Kuona Trust in Hurlingham to check out the Writing With Light launch. This is an exhibition by 12 upcoming photographers who just finished a 14 week photography workshop facilitated by pro photographer Sylvia Gichia. This was workshop intended to improve the skills of upcoming photographers, and help them improve their individual styles.

I arrived about half an hour into the start of the exhibition and there were already quite a number of people there. After greeting a few people I immediately went to check out the gallery of pictures. As you enter the exhibition there is a small room with a TV set up in one corner which was playing slides of photos of the photographers during the workshop. This made the photographers stories and journeys come alive as you see the different activities they took part in to get to their debut exhibition. Hanging from the ceiling on rolls of film were pictures of the photographers; each picture with accompanying brief story of the photographer, what the workshop meant to them and why they did it. This gave the exhibition an effective personal touch and made me understand where each photographer was at in their journey.

In the main exhibition area the pictures had been arranged along the walls, and featured an assortment of different styles of photography. On the walls was also a sketch of a roll of film which flowed from one side of the room to the other, showing that like rollercoaster tracks the journey for these photographers was an exciting one. The first picture was a particularly striking one by Juan Morales. It eerily resembled a picture of the World Trade Center on fire, but in the description Juan made it clear “NOT a recreation of 9/11.” Obviously I don’t believe him, but the photo as it says on the description is of the “Senate & Chamber office building as seen Behind the Pantheon flame.” From the spooky pictures, to ones of calm like “Beautiful Sunset” by Clifford Agumbi there was a lot of yellow and sort of sets of the exhibition on a fiery note. Something refreshing about this exhibition was that although the photographers were mostly Kenyan there weren’t only scenes of landscape and wildlife, but of ordinary everyday scenes. This begs the question, why do Westerners think pictures of wildlife, sunsets and Maasai represent all there is to Africa and can African photographers work to change this image? Wedding photography has been a popular genre in Kenya for a long time, and people usually just bought ordinary church and reception pictures from roving wedding paparazzi. Now though is seems Kenyans are tired of the same old group shots but want professional photographers who will capture unique images. “Wambui” by Peninah Njuguna captures this changing trend towards natural, exciting but beautiful wedding photography. This exhibition also explores themes of light and shadow as seen in “Solitude in Laikipia” and pattern and colour in the striking “Tomatoes in Kibera,” both by Wangari Muikia. In her piece “Inner Matatu. Wangari explained how she saw these mikokoteni(hand carts) with matatu wheels that had been converted into beds. Julian Njoroge is a young upcoming photographer whose work explores everyday street scenes using black and white, and sometimes adding a dash of neon light like in “Pop A Cold One.”

This exhibition offered an opportunity for the photographers to work with other pro’s like Boniface Mwangi of “Kenya Burning” who workshopped on photojournalism, and Kobi Kihara of Citizen TV’s Breakfast Show who workshopped on Photography for TV. Photography is slowly becoming more popular among young creative Kenyans and writing With Light showed that photography is in fact an art form just like any other. Check out “Ndizi” by Wachira Mwangi which could rival a good abstract painting.

Writing With light demonstrated that there are so many paths yet to be explored by Kenyan photographers and the possibilities are endless. With workshops like these Kenyan photographers can nurture their talent and new forms of photography can be explored and brought to the public. The Kenyan photography scene is in dire lack of creativity, boldness and originality. As an art form it is also not yet respected yet there is a lot of skill, patience and knowledge that goes into becoming a good photographer. I hope Writing With Light will inspire other photographers to explore the art of taking pictures more, and use their cameras just like a brush to inspire, shock, provoke and change.

Writing With Light exhibition runs until December 11th at Kuona Trust, Likoni, Lane off Dennis Pritt Road 


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