Photojournalists, both locally and internationally have fundamentally shied away from illuminating the Kenyan Story.After 54 years from the shackles of our colonial masters, the citizenry is still railing because we are yet to reflect the Kenyan Story for what it is.
Whitney Richardson, a photo editor with the New York Times Business Desk, avers that it is time to tell our stories better and bigger.In a 15 page seminal work on African photojournalism, she tackles the involution of how the African Story has been misconstrued because of its conceptual framing in international media.She further indulges us in how much progress is being made to capture the right narrative.
We are looking at the flawed lens through which international awards of photojournalism are cherry-picked from gloomy lines like famine,post poll chaos,corruption,social injustices among other vices while blatantly tuning out the positive aspects of thriving economies,appreciation of our rich and diverse cultural heritage,agriculture,fascinating infrastructure and sceneries,our family values,a hardworking citizenry,technological leaps among others.
We are looking to fortify the Kenyan Story for what it is.It is a mishmash of the good and the bad alike.Neelika Jayawardane, an Associate Professor of English at the State University of New York –Oswego lambasts the international media for hawking a biased narrative of Africa by appareling it as a continent of violent insurgency, tribal conquests, radical terrorism, impoverishment among other off-color perceptibility.
The concept of ‘New Kenyan Photojournalism’ should roll around.We should train local photographers on how to professionally document our narrative in a way that eliminates bias.We want to see the curation of some of the untold cultural chronicles from every corner of the Country.
We need to see the legitimization of a photographically blooming environment. Progressively, we will be offsetting the discrepancies that have been highlighted for the past five decades.
It’s about producing a competitive team of independent photographers who can deconstruct the myths and inconsistencies peddled both in our local and international media outlets.A generation of go-to photojournalists that can carve out a niche for themselves both locally and internationally by proper training in our institutions.
We need to see them highlight the plights of the troubled as an opportunity for hope.We need them to convert the mythological aesthetics to bigger and better stories that spur the right kind of attention.For instance, the splendid architecture of the Standard Gauge Railway Project can project Kenya’s image as a hub for progressive engineering.The current political and electoral environment occasioned by the forthcoming August 4 General Election can be highlighted as an opportunity for a thriving democracy.
What we must prioritize is the recognition of these photojournalists.Attractive remuneration packages among other incentives will go a long way in encouraging them to keep working and producing complete and fascinating bodies of work.Awards that are anchored of conceptual appreciation and value judgment as opposed to promotional bias.
The birth of modern photojournalism in Kenya will be buttressed by galleries of our Primary School Kids learning on how to apply new technology, women in Wajir starting new enterprises and great men from different ethnic backgrounds discussing reformist agenda, our domestic tourism in action.We can project our profile by inspiring hope, enthusiasm, compassion and love for our Country by fascinating imagery.That is the onus we are bequeathing our photographers.They need to represent us in a great way that doesn’t necessarily shields us from embracing both our successes and failings.
The audience both locally and abroad is patiently waiting with bated breath to witness this transformative way of reflections.We want a team whose judgment we can rely on when they are handed long-term projects or mentorship workshops for new entrants.We want to encroach both the local and international photo market by being big believers in our artistry and competence.We want the best portfolio reviews, the best exhibitions, the best opportunities.We want to expand the Kenyan platform for photo galleries and museums and photo databases.We want to showcase the visual truth of this great nation by extensive coverage.That way, we will be winning.