Last Thursday was a highlight of my photography journey. The entire week was significant because I had just returned from a three-day 1000-kilometre photography-inspired road trip. Thursday was the award ceremony for the 2022 Benjamin Mkapa African wildlife photography award. I knew one of my images had been selected but showing up at the National Museum of Kenya as an awardee was an out-of-body experience.
Yaani this time last year I went with my baby sharks to the museum to view stunning wildlife images displayed in the gallery. As we took it all in one of my totos saw an image of a bateleur and remarked, “Daddy a bird like yours”. That was true because I have a shot of the bateleur in all its majestic colors resting on a dead tree branch in Tsavo west national park. It’s one of my favorite images and I have sold a few copies of it since.
I love the uninhibited nature of children. Hakuna glass ceiling in their minds and hearts. I hate how adulting comes with self-imposed limitations on what we can do or become. That comment by my boy planted a seed that refused to die. So when the 2022 competition opened up I decided to participate. I remember sending my images and making a silent but fervent prayer. I asked sir God to consider my petition favorably. At least one of my entries to make it on the gallery wall. I felt positive about it and even visualized walking into the gallery and admiring one of my photos.
I must admit that I still carried my doubts all along. Why? because I was competing with top photographers from all over the world and most of them do this for a living. Many also have top equipment and much more skill than I do. I have been out there in the bush photographing wildlife but I don’t do it enough because of my current station in life. And I’ve made peace with that. The lack of more bush time is motivation to work towards a life that will allow for more experience out there without any other priority suffering. Doing this, having an impact and getting paid well for it is the goal. And I feel this recognition is a step in that direction
When I got my first email asking for more information on the image that had been selected I was elated. Though doubts still lingered because I have come this far in previous contests just for it to end there. My son kept both our hopes alive. Once I showed him the email He ran all over the house shouting the good news to everyone, including even Spike our dog. He then started asking how many millions we will win and what his cut will be hehe. And here I was thinking he was just happy for his father roho safi.
The correspondence after this point was like a dream. I would always open my emails with anticipation. Folks, are there times you need to print an email just to be sure of what you are reading? This was one such moment. Being selected to be one of seventy images from a pool of almost ten thousand photos was unbelievable. Then add that these were images by photographers from almost sixty countries, sixteen of which were from African countries. Yaani just like that I was chilling with the big boys.
Many of us are in the big boys (and girls) club but we don’t view ourselves that way. Sir God honored my repeated silent request for just one photo to get through. I think it was a mixture of faith and motion. We dare to dream big dreams, put in the work and they may just come to pass. How will we know we are made of more unless we put ourselves out there?
I got to the National Museum before the program began, again just to confirm one more time that this was not a long dream. I even forced mummy shark to come with me so that in case I was delusional she can take me back home with my broken heart. The feeling at the registration was like none I have felt before. They asked my name, and I told them then they asked me, “guest” or “awardee”? I stammered the latter. I then was handed my badge which I wore proudly.
Getting inside the gallery was another highlight. I was as excited as those kids from a shags boarding school that visit Nairobi for the first time and take photos in front of Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC). Seeing Urban Cats (my photo) hanging on the wall as a highly honored image in the coexistence and conflict category was indescribable. I was unable to move and look at the other pictures for quite some time. It was like I was seeing that photo for the first time. The feeling I had made all my labor worth it.
The evening was on autopilot from then on. As I sat there listening to the speeches from top management of the African wildlife foundation and the chief guest, the US ambassador to Kenya, I would just take it all in. The spotlight moment came and I was called on stage to receive my certificate and recognition. This is what happens when we pursue new interests and seasons of life. At the onset, it may feel like one long drag full of anxiety and uncertainty. But with time and consistency, a whole new world with exciting possibilities opens up.
Now that this platform has shown up it can only get bigger and better. Let’s give what lies inside us a chance. Again how will we know it’s huge unless we try? You could be sitting on some serious treasure.