Fashion photographer Stephen Okoth describes himself as a vibrant colourful person, and this is evident from his work.
His fondness for colour has earned him the nickname ‘Picha Marangi.’
He started photography three years ago in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, after finishing his studies in cinematography.
At the time, he did not have much going on and so he started taking photos of his friends when they were smartly dressed.
By last year, he had won an international award at the prestigious Bokeh South African International Lifestyle and Fashion Film Festival.
However, perfecting the skills of taking a picture that tells its own story without even writing a caption took time and patience.
“People think that taking a picture that is published on a magazine cover or a billboard is as easy as holding a camera and pressing the capture button. There are crucial elements that need to be considered,” he says.
Fashion photography is an art. One has to think where the picture is going to be used. Is it on a billboard or a magazine? But three things remain paramount; the lighting, hair and make-up of the model.
“I actually knew nothing about fashion photography. I taught myself online, learning from the best photographers globally like Mario Testino and Bruce Weber,” he says.
With his models dressed in colour-popping outfits and posing in the streets of Kibera, the photos have a sharp contrast of beauty blending easily with poverty. His biggest challenge, he says, local models have not learnt how to pose for professional pictures.
“One has to pose with facial expressions but some think that you just place the hands on the waist,” he says.
He recently travelled to Turkana to take photos, blending the county’s rich culture with beautiful models.
“When I was approached to do the Artistes Xchange project, I accepted immediately. Turkana is seen as a place for abject poverty that nothing fashionable can come out of it,” he says.
But interestingly, Turkana is rich with untapped talent when it comes to fashion. Their designs are greatly influenced by culture which includes beautiful beadwork, he adds.