These days, everyone is a photographer, states Andrew, without truly understanding their tools, light and how to manipulate it. “They just point and shoot,” he adds, “and that lack of seriousness is what is killing the standards and tarnishing the industry for us who are doing this as a business.” Dean added to this explaining that “it is not possible for a photographer to do everything: fashion, landscape, portrait…etc… There are different types of photography which require a different set of skills.” Ben Kiruthi for example, Dean adds, has established a niche. They all agreed that having a growing number of photographers is good but the lack of standards and seriousness tarnishes the quality, cost structure and standards.
Andrew explains that people are still stuck on the white background yet Osbourne, Thandiwe and Mutua are doing creative things, which the masse/commercial are not. Soraya then pointed out that someone like Osbourne Macharia will not get recognition locally but out there, he is celebrated. Dean added that “the business end of photography is being more appreciated but the art in photography is not.”It’s a shame, Soraya continues, with clients covering all expenses to bring many foreign photographers into the country. “The trend is to spend so much more with outside photographers when we can do the same here, if not better. We get paid far less than those that come from outside, yet we are just as good,” remarks Soraya.
“The art perspective still needs to be appreciated and then they will get value from it.”
That mentality, Andrew adds, that foreigners are better whilst local photographers are told “weka kando” is sad. Andrew recalls a photographer who was flown in from abroad and asked for 12 lights when two would have sufficed. “Everyone was sweating on set,” recalled Migwa. “They could have spent less with a local photographer then spending on all 12 lights, his 5 star accommodation, ticket and fee. But for locals, they are not even willing to pay transport,” adds Andrew.
Other companies, Andrew told us, will pay all costs for a foreign photographer but when they contract a local photographer who is just as good, they go so far as to dub it charity so they don’t pay you. For Dean, he feels that this unfortunate circumstance is an opportunity for them to push their passion projects and build their confidence and skill. “The more people come up with an idea, execute and explore their creativity,” Dean says, “the more people will see what we can do. If we could actually get paid for our passion projects that would push the industry and pay for the value, which is what happens out there. Out there, they have freedom.”Migwa, building on Dean’s last statement, added that photographers out there have the upper hand. “The creative directors are the ones that tell the client what to do. Here, it’s the opposite and you have to accept the direction with your tail between your legs.” Andrew further notes that sometimes they “back up on their plans and blame the photographer making it seem like you didn’t understand what they wanted. Some of them ask you to Photoshop a table cloth in red.” Soraya adds “they could simply ask to buy a red table cloth. They want you to Photoshop everything from removing doors to inserting beach.”
Dean made a poignant remark that with such beautiful coastlines, clients prefer to Photoshop everything. With the creative agencies being controlled by the client, the agency pays the photographers and it has a trickle down effect, says Migwa. “That is where our niche comes in, where we, Magiq Lens, are the whole creative team package that can do the work and concept with the client sitting and waiting on the final product,” concludes. Dean.Safaricom, Andrew notes, through Capture Kenya, are completely opposite to most corporate clients who choose to co-create with local photographers to create local content which is commendable. “Other corporates are trying to follow suit. Imagine if they did that, co-create with local artists?” Andrew asks.
Therein lies the rub, Soraya continues, as corporates need to take that step. The other issue, Soraya notes, is the culture of copying. Giving the example of KTN coming up with a show and all other stations doing the same show, Soraya compares that example to advertising where the same takes place. “Someone comes up with a guy in a suit with a phone for mobile banking and all banks do the same. It’s the same ad. Corporates need to realize that being different is not a bad thing,” says Soraya.
The same goes for Magazines who all seem to be doing the same thing, adds Dean. “Magazines should create their own identity.” Andrew finds that there is always a fear of trying new things because they think they will fail. “If you don’t try, then you will never know, until they see you do it then they copy,” remarks Andrew.
“If you don’t try, then you will never know, until they see you do it then they copy,” Andrew Mageto
With regard to working in magazines, Andrew would advise approaching them with caution. He recalls a time he was getting into the business and magazines would ask you to shoot everything from fashion to lifestyle to products, pay you for 1 day then you end up working for 3 days with out extra pay. In Andrew’s experienced opinion, “its stressful, the working conditions, the pay – it’s not worth it.” It’s unfortunate that they do not value your time as a photographer, adds Soraya.
Migwa feels the same stating that although it may be a quick buck, it is not a healthy environment for a photographer. Personally, they do not read magazines with Andrew stating he only reads the Pulse for the “mushene,” they laugh. For Soraya, UP Magazine and Yummy are good and the pictures are good quality.Coupled with this fear of trying new things are the double standards locally. Magiq Lens did a shoot on bondage (images used throughout this article), which was neither graphic nor suggestive, but it was read as promotion of domestic violence. They also noted videos like Nishike video from Sauti Sol, which sparked so much controversy yet Beyonce and Niki Minaj’s Anaconda videos are allowed to air. “The double standards are crazy. “Stories of our lives” is being recognized all over internationally and yet we have banned it…” retorts Soraya.
Dean expressed their overall sentiments thus: “we should just continue to push our content, push the envelope and keep going so that people can get used to it and appreciate the art.” Migwa added that Magiq Lens is positioned to be an out of the box brand however not for provocation but to show them a different side to photography.
All photos and video used in this article are courtesy of Magiq Lens and are subject to copyright (c)MagiqLensKenya
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