PORTRAITS OF AFRICA
IN CONVERSATION WITH ANWAR SADAT
Anwar Sadat is a Kenyan photographer based in Nairobi. He grew up in the Kibera area of Nairobi and among his photographic projects are strong documentary photographs about a resilient strong community with a lot of challenges. He first picked up photography as head of the journalism club of his secondary school. His photographs focus on real life, and portraits of people around him.
"Witnessing the closest proof of reality. Every time I click the shutter on my camera, that’s what I see."
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you start getting interested in photography?
I grew up in Kibera and a bit in Mombasa (the coastal parts of Kenya). I still live in Kibera. I loved collecting electronics as a kid even if I would do nothing with them. I collected an old broken camera and kept it for no reason. I would carry it while travelling, fully aware it was good for nothing. In primary school I loved the idea of appearing in photos but often found myself behind the photographer each time I saw one. In my secondary education level, I headed a journalism club for two years. That made me in charge of the school camera, giving me an opportunity to learn some skills. At some point in secondary school I lost the school camera and I had to pay it back. After secondary school I did some odd jobs and bought my first point and shoot camera. From that point, I had to learn everything I know about cameras today without a formal education. I officially started shooting mid-2017.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find inspiration in the daily lives of people and their enthusiasm to make a better tomorrow.
Do you have any favourite artists/photographers?
Mostly I do have favorite things and people because I usually feel like I am limiting myself but among other photographers, I closely look up to people like Steve McCurry, Luis Tato, and Yagazie Emezi. There are many. Mostly I am inspired by everyday African photographers.
Has your style of shooting changed since you first started?
Yes. Starting out I used to shoot everything. Most of the time I photographed models and fashion. With time I found purpose. I wanted to see beyond my images.
Where is your favourite place to shoot?
Kibera is good and there is always a story worth to be told each day. However, there are so many good and talented photographers here. I’ve been to Mombasa before. I loved shooting there. There are also not enough photographers shooting documentaries. Shooting there was awesome. But after having said all that, it's not really the places that matter, it’s a story worth telling that matters and I’d go anywhere that a story takes me.
Often you focus really closely on people in your photography. How do you go about it?
Most people I have met are very accommodating. I believe if you approach people and tell them what you are doing and why you are doing it, they wouldn’t have a reason to object. I try as much as possible to make friends with the people I photograph, just to avoid suspicions.
Do you have a preferred camera/lens/focal length?
My preferred camera is the Canon 6d mark ii, but I do not have it. I mostly shoot on a Canon 5d mark ii or a Canon 700d. I shoot with a wide angle 24-70mm f4 or 50mm f1.2.
What characteristics do you think you need to become a good photographer? Any tips or advice for someone just starting out?
First one needs to choose their path, decide on what genre one wants to pursue. Doing this is hard but it helps one do more research on how to be better in the same field. One should be patient, friendly, observing, trustworthy, flexible and self-driven.
Are there any special projects you are currently working on?
Currently I am focusing on the lives of people under quarantine. I am also trying to work with as few people as possible to tell a love story between two young people with different backgrounds. These are not serious projects, but I am trying to be active and creative during this time when most of our movements are restricted.
“When I am not out photographing, I…”
Photography is my main job. When I am not photographing, I am either spending time with friends playing video games, or watching documentary materials, learning something new.