Fashion photography in Kenya comes of age through lens of young artists

Thandiwe Muriu’s photo of a model. Photo/Courtesy
Thandiwe Muriu’s photo of a model. Photo/Courtesy 

As models walk the runways to showcase creative designs in Kenya, the designers know the pictures of their clothes would soon hit online media and others glossing top magazines, thanks to fashion photographers.

Kenyan fashion photography has grown over the years as more make this their profession, supporting designers in marketing their products and models to sell their beauty.

“The Kenyan fashion photography industry is a young but a growing industry. Designers and other players are slowly realising the great value professional photography can add to their products. There are lots more new photographers which is great because it is forcing us to become more creative,” says Thandiwe Muriu, a fashion photographer who is quickly making a name for herself in local scene.

The fashion photography is attracting more Kenyans, thanks to the affordability of cameras and the willingness of the young generation to try new professions.

“The country is warming up to photography as a profession and more young people are jumping on board to try it out as a career. We also have more shows and this has created more awareness in the Kenyan and regional market and also new magazines featuring local designers are on the rise. Blogging and social media sites necessitate need for visual content for fashion articles,” says Thomson Ncube of Thomson Photography who started his career at the end of a runway.


He says that fashion is very visual and good visuals will help elevate the fashion industry and this is the job for a photographer.

“The photographer is most important in any fashion industry. He/she is the key to the publicity of designers’ outfits. Professionally taken pictures show the textures of the outfits, creativity and the real intention of the designer. Photographers also play a big role in establishing models’ talents. Photo portfolios help advert companies choose a certain model,” says Jackson Kanyoro of Jack Photo Agency.

Unfortunately, fashion photographers have been the unsung heroes as they influence how we perceive new clothing trends and accessories.

A few months ago, the Nairobi Wonderland Fashion Awards wanted to change this with their photography award.

Participants exhibited their creative works and interpretation of fashion photography. Each with a different artistic approach to lighting, angles, locations and compositions, the passion of their work was shown through the camera lens.

“I love fashion. I may not be a fashionista but when a person passes by in a unique outfit I feel like removing my camera and taking a picture. This is my passion... I usually go to runway events and I take pictures for free and share them after,” says Mr Kanyoro who was also one of the participants of the awards.

Most photographers interviewed described their most memorable shots as those they did without getting paid.

To succeed as fashion photographer, one needs not only passion but a good understanding of lighting thus photographers need training and good equipment.

“I think your artistic vision is what is most important. It is what will make your work stand out from the crowd. Vision can’t be taught but technique can. Over time your technique will improve,” says Ms Muriu.

Her memorable job was with an online shop that was looking to stock outfits by local designer Katungulu Mwendwa and accessories by designer Adele Dejak.

“The clothes and jewellery were so unique. I was able to compose very creative shots.” When it comes to Mr Kanyoro, he also does photos of art, weddings, events, portraiture and company portfolios. He is also set to finish his film, 2D and 3D animation courses.

His plans to start making company portfolios that include photography and shooting short documentaries. To him, fashion photography jobs are not enough to earn one a good income.

Despite the pay, Ms Muriu says she has decided to focus on fashion photography because fashion is expressive, artistic and no two designers can have the same product.

She began uploading her photos on Facebook, Thandiwe Muriu Photography, and her edgy beauty photography caught the eye of designers that saw what she could do and wanted her to take pictures of their clothes in a new, creative way.

Before discovering fashion photography, she was a woman portrait photographer.

“I am a self-taught beauty and fashion photographer. Fashion photography revolves around shooting clothes while beauty photography focuses on the face and make-up. My images stand out because of their vibrant colours and strong lighting. I’m always looking for the most artistic way to take a picture,” she says, and her photography is centred around colour, motion and contrast.

She says that designers make beautiful clothes, but photographers are the ones that create a mood and feel around a particular garment to attract buyers.
Photographers give fashion personality; bring the garments to life, she says.