Every photography interview is a fascinating personal story of the sculptor who shares his passion, tips, and struggles faced on how to he or she wakes up every morning to get the unique chance to sculpt our day to day lives on film.
I mean, how to they get to decide which angle to use in photographing food? What difficulties can arise while taking street pictures – especially in Nairobi? What photos do you choose in creating your portfolio?
I got to sit down with budding photographer Martin Kwame, former contestant of the Blaze BYOB TV Show on why he decided to take this path as a career, the moment when he almost didn’t audition for the show and his future plans:
Who is Martin Kwame?
“Martin Kwame is a 24 year old self-taught photographer. I am also a public speaker, content creator, graphic designer and all round cool person (okay, he didn’t exactly say that haha).
I’ve officially been doing photography for 2 years, public speaking for the past 4 years and content creation (animation and videography) for 1 year now.
What inspired you to dive into photography?
This might sound funny but I noticed I’m very talented in it. I one day picked up a camera, took a picture of my younger brother and it ended up being the essence of why I love taking photos. Till this day, it remains as my best work.
From then I kinda forgot about my camera or that iconic picture until my third year in campus when I realized I could actually make something out of myself from that one simple object.
Photography has since helped me find myself. It’s been a gateway to people and places and opportunities and I can’t wait to see the exciting things in store especially this year!
How much did you make on your first gig?
But the gig that made me realize how much photography can make me (not just in money but in connections as well) was one where I was contracted to shoot at a Safaricom corporate event last year in November.
How I got to that event is another hilarious story but upon getting to the event it didn’t matter. I saw good lighting, amazing angles and great photos after – that was the only thing running through my mind.
What is the inspiration behind some of your iconic images?
I believe I see past the final image. For me, it’s all about somehow, satisfy an itch that I have had my whole life. I love creating in any way possible. I love telling stories by any means. A camera simply allows me to do that in a way that is not only personally satisfying, but also allows my clients to see themselves in a different light.
They see themselves as someone who doesn’t even exist – all this is by building a new found confidence in a creative spirit!
How has the journey been?
It’s been both lots of fun with lots of challenges along the way. What makes it fun is one, I love what I do and I get to document so many different stories along the way. In my two years, I’ve worked with Blaze, Safaricom, I’ve shot for Sauti Sol, Khaligraph, King Kaka and several other artists.
It’s been challenging because I constantly have to push myself to get better daily because in this field there’s the temptation of being comfortable and once you’re comfortable you become complacent and eventually you become stagnant.
Also, the creative industry is still really underlooked in this country and there are so many creative young people out there with so much to give but with very little being given in return. Not all clients pay on time and you don’t get work everyday so you have to work thrice as hard to make a third of what you’d like to make.
Take us through how and why you decided to audition for Blaze
A lot was happening in between my third and fourth year of campus. Stuff wasn’t as okay at home and we needed money so I sold my car, dealt with issues at home and got some extra to buy a camera.
In that time, I covered a lot of events where I was paid peanuts, but it was peanuts that would keep me going for a while. In my fourth year, my time became very limited but when Blaze came for the summit at my area, I went to check it out – remember, I’d carried my camera. I talked to the guard and I was let in and I started taking pictures. I got into a lot of trouble for that but it was a worthwhile experience since people started to know who I was and I was called to shoot for the Nakuru summit.
On how I got to audition; my friends decided to go for the audition of the second show but there was a long queue and by the time we were getting to the front, they’d developed cold feet. I, on the other hand, was exhausted but I’d made it this far so I decided, why not? I got in, auditioned and I was called to be part of the show.
I packed my bags in Eldoret on the 31st of December and moved to Nairobi on the 1st of January 2018 for the show.
What are some of the greatest lessons you learnt at Blaze?
1. How to create value for my work
I didn’t know anything about business or the value of my work!!
I remember when Caroline Mutoko was pissed at me, she couldn’t understand how my work was that good and I wasn’t seeing my value. She asked me how I’d make money from photography and I said “By taking pictures of course”
She asked me if I have a business plan and I was blank. The only thing I knew was how to take impeccable photos, but not the value that these photos would bring me.
That’s one of the greatest lessons I’ve learnt from Blaze. How to value my work as a creative.
We were pushed to think outside the box (if at all there was a box) and our comfort zones and i think that’s one of the things im definitely taking home with me.
My initial plan was to establish a media house that would deal with photography, content creation, talent and model management, graphic design among others. Imagine how this would work considering I could accept peanuts for my work!
Working in a team of individuals you don’t know really is as hard as you think. These guys don’t know your strengths, weaknesses, how you work or what ticks you off. For the time I was there I really learnt a lot of patience and self-control.
Some people also made fun of the fact that I don’t speak Swahili as often and initially guys thought it would get to me but it didn’t. These may look like small things but they can really throw you off.
3. Nothing’s impossible
I’ve been privileged enough to meet with so many influential young people who at one time had nothing, I mean from the Blaze Summits you can be exposed to so many – and I learnt not to give up. It’s possible to have that dream, it’s possible to have things come through for you if only you believe!
What’s next for Kwame?
You’ll be seeing a lot more of my work. I’m working on making a lot more amazing work as I also continue teaching myself graphic design and more creative photos. One of my dreams is to also set up a charity, the Kwame Foundation. But you’ll definitely be seeing a lot of my work!