MEET NANYUKI’S FINEST PHOTOGRAPHER: BEN SON

PhotographyThey say a picture is worth a thousand words, however, a writer will swallow that with a pinch of salt. It’s distasteful and unfair to summarise the hard work behind writing with just a click of a button, on a light note though. Photographers and writers are like siblings who demean each other and fight from kitchen to bedroom. Nonetheless, finding words that keep out of the way the pictures and yet shed light on the nature of photography, is not only daunting but a tall order. In fact, constructing a story out of an image in mind and manifesting that to souls of readers is way beyond public scrutiny.

On another note; you know, professional photographers can be busy and elusive these days. That should be taken as a compliment. Elusive because, Ben Son is the fourth photographer I have written to, requesting to feature in my blog and has honoured his promise. No hard feelings for Paul Maathai of Mathai gallery, or Sammy Wabs or Bobby Wafalme who I understand was involved in an accident recently. Pole Bobby. True story, photography is growing in leaps and bounds. Ordinary young people are investing hundreds of thousands to acquire the best of equipments for their work. This reminds me of hey days, right when I was growing up, when a Mr. Gatere, the only renown village photographer would transverse my village and neighbouring ones to take pics. Mr. Gatere was tall and slender, with an unkempt afro and a high waist thing, always in dark suits and the icing on the cake – the bicycle of course. Yes he would timely show up on Christmas day and Easter holidays mostly uninvited and thanks to our folks who believed in documenting life back then and having the patience of waiting for an entire month to finally get hold of the photos.

Enough of that, introducing Ben Son of HD Media Africa; a well cultivated artistic soul and one of the most sort after photographers in and around Mt.Kenya region, with his core hub being Nanyuki. Besides, he has clients in Nairobi and Nakuru as well. He started off as a videographer until two years ago when he ventured into Photography in what he says are inevitable circumstances. ”Photography found me. Since that moment I have become fascinated by the rhetoric of the image. I fall in love every day and every subject I photograph. It is another art form to me; you can be as creative as possible with a camera as long as you have the ideas. Photography has the power to change our perspective in life and power to help us make decisions.” He quips.

I indulge Ben Son on what he did after Photography met him and how he has managed to cut his own niche in this very competitive industry. Going by what he says; just like any other form of art, there is a lot of passion involved. “For me photography is about the concept, the reasoning behind the image is far more important than the aesthetic value. All my work has a reason, whether to inform, make a statement, discuss or argue, it always seeks to promote a reaction.”

True to what Ben Son points out, talent is a medium which allows us to show our own point of view, sometimes helping us to understand the world we live in and to discover something unique about ourselves. Interestingly, this is easier said than done. This is because a lot of patience and self-discovery is involved to tap and listen to our passion. And the joy of all this is that; it gives us a chance to see what is invisible, hidden deep in our dreams. As Ben Son states it, “Photography just like any other medium of art, evokes emotions in us, asks questions and forces us to reflect on the world around us.”

By the way, why do the greatest of careers start by accident? What goes wrong in school curriculums that doesn’t align success in our paths? It is like filling a crossword puzzle. That’s how self-discovery smells and tastes like! More often than not, there is a lot of sheer luck that is involved to anybody who is hundred percent contented in what he or she does for a living. And that ought not to be. Life should be nicer and way easier to decipher the paths that lead to our own success and genuine happiness. As you will clearly tell from Ben Son, it was by sheer luck he crossed paths with photography. “I had never thought or had an idea close to my mind of becoming a photographer. Now that I’ve hit the ground, I dream and contemplate daily of becoming better and better than I’m today. When I look up to my role models and the ever changing technology and new ideas, its only then I realize I have a long way to go.“

Is he worried on the influx of quacks in Photography? ”This field is vast and in fact serious practitioners are few. The market accommodates all of us but what keeps us afloat is professionalism, creativity and our uniqueness. If people are showing interest in your work it means you are on the right headway and if it translates to cash then you’re in business but most importantly, its client’s satisfaction that I value most.” Additionally, “Anyone can start photo shoot today and be a professional with time. We can all reckon that at one point everyone starts as a quack and only by experience or exposure, passion and persistence that one gradually evolves from that level to a professional, be it a photographer.”

As someone said, never believe in your own hype if you want to go far; Ben Son sounds convinced that there is more ground to cover. “Photography is purely a learning process. Every day I meet new challenges; new ideas and I learn from them. I’ve learnt to embrace and accept them to becoming who I am today. I love the satisfaction one feels when I fulfill a customer’s expectations. My client’s expectations and gratification is what counts most.”

Don’t you miss childhood dreams and the innocence that came with young age, like me? How we painted our foreseeable future with accomplishment and perfection. Sooner we come head to head with the harsh hiccups of a life that plays mischief with us so effortlessly. That said, it is our duty to save ourselves from that shock and align those dreams to today’s reality. So, what dreams did Ben Son harbor growing up? “As a child I loved movies. I thought I was born to be an actor in Hollywood. Vague as it sounds, I really didn’t understand what I wanted to become, but later as I grew up I realized and developed this passion about movie production and photography. Camera work, editing and so forth, though later I’ve narrowed down to photography.”

It is of immense importance for our parents to be steadfast in whooping unrivaled support to our dreams. They are called to put hope and sense in one basket in matters assurance, and going further to assure us that we are curved to live happier and fulfilling lives. And so, Ben Son parents are an important pillar to his career. ”My parents have been very supportive throughout my career journey and in making sure I’m where I am today, in financial matters and moral support. Every time they see my work, recommend and advice, then I feel fully contended and at peace with myself.”

Ben Son considers himself spiritual and in fact serves in a Media department in his church. You know, contemporary-cool churches are so advanced that they even have media departments and things like Young mothers, Young dads Associations, Youths Chapter, Teens forums, Young-Adults, Men of Faith and such like. This is a huge milestone from the traditional ‘mainstream’ churches which had huge presence of elderly folks for affiliations like Women Guild and Men/Women Associations.

Anyway, I have saved this question for far too long. Somebody explain what’s fancier of these two pieces of equipments – Canon and Nikon? “Well, it depends on who is using it. But for beginners, it’s advisable to start with Canon because of budget constraints since it’s more effective on video shooting while Nikon is the real deal in photography. Nonetheless, you can use either since nowadays we have softwares to edit one’s work. “Ben Son attests.

I ask him about his biggest portion of clientele. “Couples and family shoots are my most frequent clients. Plus I do lots of wedding shoots every other weekend.” Of course women are more photogenic than men except for a few men that I won’t mention here, that take far too many photos and clog the new Whatsapp fad and IG. Man is that manly! Moving on, you’d wonder if one can pay his or her bills solely on photography. “I will surprise you with the fact that, the market is really responding well to photography. More middle class families are embracing professional photos and video shoots. Moreover, there is a lot of potential that is unexplored in this market especially outside of Nairobi. Nairobi is so saturated hence the need for the market to widen up and turn its heat away from the city and tap the talent in other photography hubs coming up.”

Does Ben Son believe in mentorship and giving back to the society especially empowering the youths? “I love and believe in mentorship. Photography is a field that anyone and especially youths can venture. I personally involve young people in my projects to equip them with ideas of what the markets expects of them. I also encourage young people especially those who would wish to venture in photography field, that with minimal resources, one can actually start photography as a career and build up on that.”

Signing off in Jack Ma’s spirit!!

“Help young people. Help small guys. Because small guys will be big. Young people will have the seeds you bury in their minds, and when they grow up, they will change the world.” – Jack Ma

Are you a young person, with a compelling story that you strongly believe should be retold to a larger audience for the sole purpose of inspiring and educating. Reach up to me on wandrewism@gmail.com

 

 

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STORY OF A CATHOLIC SEMINARIAN

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For the first time in my mainstream writing career somebody edited my work. Okay, not really editing but giving a heads up or what some may refer as green light. This is purely out of courtesy since here is an unusual guest who has a charm for dignity, protocol and decorum. That said, I would love to be an editor someday. It should be fun correcting obvious mistakes, rating one’s grammar muscles, detecting repetitions, cutting on not-so-necessary information, combing and brushing sentences in the best way possible…oooh. Speaking of which, when I will be in my late 40s(God willing) and perhaps feature in Bikozulu 40-series, I pray that my highlight will be editing my sons or daughters thesis then in their formative writing journey, steering them into this jungle of putting ink to the imagination. In all likelihood they will wish to nurture other tastes away from putting words to a story which by the way is quite daunting, and maybe have a thing for sophisticated stuff like Software Engineering or Cardiac Surgeon – which will leave me with no option other than hanging my boots.

Enough of that. Make way for this gentleman with such a brave passion that should sit you down and lend your ears for seven minutes utmost.

Mike not his real name is a student of Christ The King Major Seminary, Nyeri. I got wind of him from Kageshi as they shared common units while he was studying Project Management. This was before he finally made the decision of changing lanes and careers soon after graduating. As from last year, he embarked on a journey through Major Seminary – Nyeri to meet his dreams, make peace with his desires and finally lend his life to Jesus by solely focusing on serving the church. That said, I consider myself very privileged to have him as a friend owing to the fact that, in the current days of our time, it is rare to have such profound young people, holding public covenants with God that for the rest of their time here on earth they will actively and entirely serve him by every deed and act in their young and old age. That dating, harboring affairs and marriage are amongst many things Mike will sacrifice to serve the Lord. That his life companions will be the rosary, a house of prayer, meditation, theology and charity. How mind boggling is such a life! Does it appear fictional on paper? Well, Mike is closing in to clear his first year and counting nine more to graduate. He might graduate after the eighth year though, but will have two more for exclusive charity work.

Childhood being one of my most favourite phases of life, every time I’m digging in on someone’s story I die to know what one’s was made of. And just like many of us, Mike had a seamless one, certainly with nothing close to being a Catholic Father. He loved cartoons, in fact to date. Speaking of cartoons, blame my rural upbringing for not drawing excitement from them. No offence though. This should be because TV missed conspicuously in my childhood. The closest our TV screen beamed, I was in Form One deeply engulfed by adolescence. Anyway, Mike had a liking for drawing, decorating items and other art related stuff too. Let’s just say he was curved to be an Art enthusiast.

He was an altar boy since class three which coincidentally shaped him to what he is studying today. But don’t all boys fantasize with being Catholic priests at some point in their childhood? Especially when one was raised up in a rural background where only high ranking village civil servants and priests would drive and appear to live-large back then. In High school, Mike would read the Bible, spiritual books and novels regularly. This reminds me of something I did in High school; The fact that I went through a grueling Form One harassment, I devotedly read the bible since I kept it in my desk and that’s where most Form Ones spent their time. How could one frequent the dormitories whereas that’s where the cookie crumbled in matters bullying be it washing sweaty Form Fours’ clothes at dead of a night or reciting imaginary poems to hostile and restless Form Threes if not made to call one’s sisters using very smelly shoes that would act as landline calling-handles.

I engage Mike on whether he wrote love letters in primary school.

He dodges that particular question and I let it die as soon as it is born. However, I sneak in a more disturbing one. This time round, on whether he ever had a girlfriend growing up.

Just like any other high school kid, I had a girlfriend. Actually, even in college I still had one. My first girlfriend told me I would make a good priest since she used to see me serve in the celebration of mass.

What was the reaction when you broke the news to her of desiring to be a Catholic Priest

She wasn’t even shocked. She saw it coming.

What of your folks

Dad was very shocked. We didn’t speak for a week.

Your friends

They gradually edged out of my life. But I was lucky because I had a few who have supported me all along.

How was the first day in the Seminary

The place is so quiet, you are not controlled by a bell but oneself. Initially, I thought I was in a wrong place but again I got encouraged as I observed other young men around. I realized that Seminary is not about me as a person but about Jesus. Truthfully, I felt like a new student; with the orientation and learning how to begin all over again. Seminary days are unique. We have four lessons in day, we do manual work thrice, and games thrice. Talk of food; its abundant.

How many are you in your year of admission

We are 40 in total.

Why do we have a very low turnout of young men who’d wish to be Catholic Priests

I think it’s because of lack of moral values. If one is introduced to church at a younger age and instilled good values and teachings of the church, I think the number can increase.

Aren’t you scared of not having children or a life companion

Of course at some point everyone gets scared but again God decides on our vocations and we must rise to the occasion to respect those callings. I highly respect marriage sacrament because without marriage there would be no priests!

Is there monolization in that place

No no no.

Are all seminarians humble or is it like High school where we have a hodgepodge of all characters

Haha hakukosi vichwa ngumu (There can never lack mischievous people)

What are your hobbies

I love cars. Land rovers are my favourite. I also admire professional photography, watch football and basketball. Real Madrid and Golden State Worriors are my favourite.

Do you watch Football in the Seminary

Yes we do watch. I’m a big fan of Team Arsenal. It’s next to rare for me to miss Arsenal – Man U derby. By the way, I’m a goalkeeper in the school football team.

How is a Seminary program? What is the daily routine

We have a prayer book called The Liturgy of the Hours, which we use during morning, mid-morning, evening and night prayers. We use it in and out of school. This prayer book is divided into four weeks. Every day, there is a celebration of a particular Saint. We call it memorial. Some celebrations are bigger than others. They are called solemnities. For instance Mary Mother of God celebrated on 1st Sunday of every New Year. We meet with the Spiritual Director every month to talk about spiritual matters. This conversation is normally private and confidential. We have confessions twice in a month but one can have as many times as possible and is not necessarily limited to two sessions.

We have recollections once in a month. During this time, we maintain dead silence. This is a moment of prayer and meditation. Every semester we have a retreat for a week, where maximum silence is observed. Dead silence, no phones, no alarms, no bells…just silence.

The lecturers are priests. Lessons go for 40 minutes from 9am to 12:30pm. From 2pm we go for games or general cleaning depending on the day. We have our last lesson of the day from 4:30pm. We have evaluations and personal encounters with the Father in charge of Dean of students. Here, we discuss spiritual matters, academic, weak areas and how to improve. One must belong to at least one club and devotion too.

We normally have encounters with Universities and youth forums for mentoring purposes. We get engaged in charity activities every year. Moreover, we participate in country walks and trips regularly.

What is a devotion

This is where you develop your spiritual life whereas in a club one develops his talent

Do you use phones in the Seminary

It’s prohibited to use phones in the school compound, late at night after 10pm, in class, in the Chapel, Dining Hall, during retreats and recollections.

I understand you are on long holiday for three months. What are you up to at this time

This holiday is called pastoral holiday. The Parish priest has allocated me some duties; I teach catechism on Sunday, sometimes I conduct Sunday school teachings, I also teach aspiring altar services and also visit Jumuiyas(Catholic Saint associations) when permitted. I further, mentor youths and aspirants.

What is the procedure of joining the Seminary

One should contact the Parish Priest and he advises depending on the church calendar. Subsequently, one is sent to the Vocational Director where a brief interview is conducted to the applicant. Thereafter, one submits his academic testimonials and a comprehensive medical certificate. The last bit is the Approval stage after thorough scrutiny of the above mentioned stages.

What type of a Priest would you wish to be; the cool, calm and collected who follows traditions or an aggressive and pragmatic one who is vocal on society and church weaknesses.

I’d wish to make up a vocal one who criticizes and provide solutions. Moreover, I will reinforce my ideologies by furthering my studies on moral philosophy after graduating from the seminary. 

What would be your final remarks to the youth especially during this electioneering period

Two words; Pray for Kenya and maintain peace.

 

Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. – Ray Kroc.

 

Are you a young person, with a compelling story that you strongly believe should be retold to a larger audience for the sole purpose of inspiring and educating. Reach up to me on wandrewism@gmail.com