I am a 24 year old and I like saying I am a passionate human because once I care about something I really care, seeing that it speaks to me. I have a wild zeal for storytelling, and I appreciate the privilege of being welcomed into people's lives, whether its for as short as 50 sec or more but the fact that they let me in, that is something I cannot take for granted.
Photography and storytelling for me are ways to get to know people but on a more personal level because as an introvert I liked keeping to myself. That connection when I speak with people is priceless, because at the moment that's where I want to be and it is fulfilling. With photography, in the quiet moments you get to interact with people and at the same time experience or feel the moment.
One day I was out shooting in the slums of Wakiso and happened to pass by some kids playing and they said,
“Look, the cameraman is a woman”.
As a photographer, this is one of my best moments because growing up I had never seen a female photographer so I knew where the kids’ excitement was coming from and I am glad they got to see a female photographer at such an early age.
Shockingly, or not, when I started out I wanted to be a journalist or writer and I actually went to school for it but later realised that there was something more. Actually my mother did not understand me at first, she thought that I would just be your usual photographer but now, I can proudly say I am a self-taught photographer who has been in the industry since 2015. I have also had the opportunity to meet amazing people that have mentored and supported me in all ways on this journey, to whom I am grateful.
Photography has taken me places I would never have reached if I wasn't a photographer and a female photographer at that. I know it is a male dominated industry but if you go in feeling as a minority because you are a woman, that is already a disadvantage and you'll indeed be/become a minority. I have had a few experiences where a male photographer was chosen over me probably because they thought I would not handle the pressure but I decided to look at it from this point; that maybe I had inadequate skills so how can I change this then and how can I be better so that next time it is me that is chosen. I would just love it if younger photographers regardless of gender, told their stories and were heard.
I photograph social issues, I seek to answer the question of, “How is this happening and no one is is talking about it?” That's where I come from. Due to this I get people telling me,
“Oh, Esther your photos are sad,”
and I am like, but that is the reality, this is the life someone out there is living. Just because it made you uncomfortable for a few seconds and you went back to your normal life, rode your expensive car, ate Cafe Javas food and slept in that huge luxurious bed doesn't mean the story shouldn't be told. It has to be told, people have to know, the world has to know!
Most of the people I interact with see my camera as a symbol of hope. And I know people keep saying we don't have to show a sad Africa, but I say keep it balanced. Yes, there are amazing happy stories but there are also sad challenging stories and they all have to be told. My dream was to tell stories, travel and be my own boss and I can say I have achieved it. I am not fully where I want to be but I love the progress. Reaching places where people know my name is an achievement on its own. I always say never downplay your blessings, be a testimony, if you feel blessed and grateful, say it.
It has not been easy but it is getting better. It has taken me hard work, writing to organisations and introducing myself and my work, using social media to expose my work, networking here and there but overall I can say I have been blessed and my passion has kept me going, knowing that it's not about the money. Most challenges for me have been emotional than physical; as a freelancer there are times when I would go months without getting work which always made me question my worth and left me depressed but I am learning that everything is seasonal, there will be good and bad seasons.
To the young dreamer or photographer out there, don't take no for an answer, I haven't and I am not about to. Also, it is not about having everything in place, just do it. We find that many a times we push things forward but until we start nobody will have your back. So just start because until you try you'll never know. Last but not least, take advantage of social media to grow your networks and build a brand.