Magiq Lens Kenya: Beyond the Studio

Magic Lens Kenya: Beyond the Studio #tdsphotoseries

Magiq Lens Kenya, just like their name implies, is all about creating magic through photography. Migwa Nthigah and Dean Okonji sat down and conceptualized Magiq Lens in 2010 to become a design photography agency. Migwa told us that they were concerned with messaging in advertising so they wanted to plug in and contribute to the advertising agency world. They began their journey by renting equipment for photography and event jobs and saved enough to purchase their own equipment. This then led them into portrait photography then eventually commercial.

Migwa Nthigah, co-founder and photographer, studied film photography and, in part, communication in Daystar University. Although Migwa did not know that he wanted to be a photographer, it paved its own way into his life and now is an integral part of him. This is where Migwa and Dean Okonji, co-founder and Business Development Manager, met as Dean was studying graphic design and branding. It was a combination of both of their passions and strengths that brought them together. With Migwa passionate about imagery and light and Dean who is inspired by the design of photography, this was a good blend to start Magiq Lens.

 Magiq Lens are a relaxed brand and openness in conversation and truth in their work makes them easily relatable.

As Migwa and Dean explained, Magiq Lens came in to take photography beyond the studio and do creative design work that is “out of the box.” Taking a photograph and adding that “bit of surrealism, smoke and mirrors,” explains Migwa, is the gap they are trying to fill. Especially in advertising where design and conceptualization beyond the obvious selling point is hardly done. From the “am holding gum and smiling with all my white teeth” imagery for mint gum, explains Migwa, to the tissue brand that uses a kitten. Soraya Mugambi, the Marketing and Communications Manager, added jokingly and example of miscommunication in advertising stating, “kittens scratch you… true love for your bum with love hearts…doesn’t fit.”

Magiq Lens Kenya does not simply work in commercial; they like to do conceptual photography. Conceptual photography for them is creation of conceptual storytelling through a series of photographs with a design element elevating the image beyond the norm. We showcased a series they did called Fear & Desire. “We try to remain sane by doing this conceptual work because commercial can be restricting,” says Migwa.

Behind the Scenes of "Fear & Desire: Release"

Behind the Scenes of “Fear & Desire: Release” (c)MagiqLensKenya

Magiq Lens targets their clients through the proper advertising commercial channels of advertising agencies and production houses, explains Migwa. They also hope to get into the digital media realm creating digital creative content from film to photography. “Storytelling is what we are trying to have,” continues Migwa, “how to sell a lifestyle brand through content creation.” The online space has also helped Magiq Lens grow, states Soraya. “From a billboard, you will never know who shot it. The agency gets the credit,” remarks Soraya. For Magiq Lens, she continues, their online space (website and social media) is an opportunity to curate a space for other creative design photography and encourage discourse in the industry. “We are also trying to show a degree of excellence even in the social space.”

Andrew Mageto is focused on film and photography. “Photography in Kenya has grown from 5 years ago showing more interest.” Magiq Lens also dabbles in fashion photography. “Being in the fashion industry you get to meet a lot of stylists, designer and models who call you for stuff. Every project, you meet different people just by being in that space,” says Andrew. They all agree that there is a growing interest, demand and appreciation for fashion in Kenya. “Everyone is fashionista,” states Andrew. “Everyone is a fashionista and model,” adds Soraya. She further says that “you can identify those who are passionate and its important to work with those. Such as a Yaa Bonsu who is an out of the box stylist to Katungulu Mwendwa who fights the perception of Africa means print.”

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For Migwa, who does both commercial and fashion, finds fashion more interesting. Although Magiq Lens have been commissioned for some fashion shoots, most are have been their own projects to grow their portfolios and learn.

“The commercial work is good because it funds our projects and we are so grateful for that,” says Migwa. He believes that photographers in Kenya are in a good place because people are starting to look here for new inspiration for clothing, textile, photography and landscapes. “As Magiq Lens,” Migwa continues, “we are fortunate to be in this place, we can own this space but not to keep it to ourselves but teach as well.” Andrew and Migwa are in the process of creating a workshop to teach other photographers to differentiate themselves so they do not call themselves a blanket photographer. The general sentiment in the room is that they are all grateful for this time, “people from abroad will come here and establish their own shops, guns blazing and we will be left behind.”

All images and video are courtesy of Magiq Lens and subject to copyright protection. (c)MagiqLensKenya

Join us in Part II where Magiq Lens takes us through their experience and lessons learnt.

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