In Conversation with: Kennedy Famba
My name is Kennedy Famba. I like to think of myself as a storyteller more than anything. This photographer was born and raised in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Studied Accounting and for a while that line of work was my life. I’m a father to the most amazing little boy. We watch discovery channel together, he still can’t read but he’ll wear his glasses and hold a magazine upside down a whole hour while I read my books and research on a project or something. I’ve never been loved so genuinely and didn’t think that it was possible to love someone so much, that boy is my everything. I LOVE to laugh and really hate carrots and baked beans.
Where did your passion for photography come from?
I was force retrenched from a comfortable Job and multiple failed business attempts later had found myself sinking in depression and crippled with anxiety. A good friend of mine Ernest Mackina that’s also a photographer invited me to a photo walk just to get me out the house and clear my head. I instantly fell in love with the process of capturing stories. Initially I was using photography as a tool to distress and deal with depression. I had no subjects to shoot and would literally grab my camera and just walk around town or find rural locations and look for something to shoot, that’s how Everyday Zimbabwe was born. I got unexpected attention from this which was nice and a mood booster, but I began to realize that I was connecting people to real life stories. As I watched the conversations around the work I was sharing I realized this could be a tool to create change and that’s when everything changed.
What would you say sets you apart from other photographers out there?
Initially like most photographers I was more concerned about the next gig, dollar amounts, likes, shares and retweets. I’ve grown past all that and focus on capturing moments and translating them into stories and art. I do it for the passion not for likes. I tell real stories and have dedicated my life to searching for stories worth telling about people, places and things good, beautiful, true, bad and ugly. I’m interested in real life, love and all the things in between. Most of my work is abstract in nature and I mostly use natural light and black and white. I don’t do image manipulation and try to show my subjects in the most truthful manner possible to maintain that photo journalistic integrity. I’ve grown a strong liking for black and white work and much of my portrait compositions are captured like this.
Which photographers inspire your work and why them?
I’m inspired by everyday life. My focus of late has been to do with developmental issues and confronting stereotypes. I like to study legends in portraiture work and documentary photography. The guys like the late Seydou Keita from Mali with a body of stunning portrait work from the 1950s. There are also others like David Goldblatt (b1930), Santu Mofokeng (1956), Jo Ractliffe (1961), Graeme Williams (1961), Guy Tillim (1962), Zanele Muholi (1972), Tracey Rose (1974), Pieter Hugo (1976). Most of the Artists I study produced their work before I was born. I feel there is an authenticity that’s in their work that’s missing from many photographers today. They used no makeup artists, had no photoshop, no fancy lights or smoke tools and often just one shot of a person per time. They never had a chance to pick from 100 images which one was the best or do touch ups and corrections in post-production like done today.
Apart from photography what else do you enjoy doing?
I love to read! I consider myself a life student so I’m always trying to learn something through reading. I’m also learning how to play the guitar and saxophone. I’ve always wanted to do this but only decided to take it more seriously at church this year. Absolutely love poetry, watching plays and anything theatre.
Where is your favourite place to take photos from?
I love people. I love crowds, activity and any place that allows me to take candid photographs. I love to be right in the centre of things but not directing or influencing the unfolding of events. This is why I try to use natural light wherever possible. The less my presence is felt the better.
Of all the photographs, you have ever taken which one is your favourite?
I don’t have a favourite image. I have images that stick out not because they are the most beautiful images I’ve created but because something about the moment I captured reminds of either very strong pleasant emotions or sad emotions.
I captured this ice cream man and when I went to show him the images I took of him, he handed me a ice cream Lolly and said “ may you stand before kings and change the world with the things you capture, may you make people as happy as you have made me” I still hear his words so clearly and I cannot describe how alive his blessing made me feel.
What is the most important thing you consider when taking a photograph?
Is my subject comfortable? I don’t always get the chance to ask first if it’s photojournalism work but it’s important to me to represent my subjects in a way that doesn’t make them feel like I’m portraying them in a way that is negative.
What is the one thing you can’t live without?
The truth is I can adapt to any situation so this one is difficult to answer. I’m good in luxury but do okay stripped to bare minimum. I’d have to say my notebook. I carry a small notebook with me everywhere I go. I write in it ideas that come to me on the go and concepts I think up. I lost that notebook and I felt so overwhelmingly sad for a bit. Thank God I found it.
Who in the world would you want to photograph?
The list is long but at the top is Barack Obama. I’d love to get a portrait of him, a selfie with him and sit down and ask a few questions. Even wrote them down just in case the opportunity ever availed itself.
Where in the world would be your dream place to go, and take photos?
New York City. The urban metropolis vibe, the lights and tall buildings, the activity. I’d like to spend some months there and just soak in what the city has to offer.
The top songs in your playlist right now.
My music choice is very bipolar. Last night was listening to some 1950s the likes of Sam Cooke, Frank Sinatra then this morning I was all over Hillsong and now as I type this I’m listening to some French Montana and Tory Lanez. I’ll probably be playing some African pop or pop rock tomorrow…smh
What are you most fond of about being Zimbabwean?
There’s a lot that comes to mind, but just the other day I was on the road with some guys from all over Africa and outside Africa. We were just hanging out and I said out loud “I’m craving a coke” the other Zimbabwean guy that was part of this group replied, “Which coke do you drink?” When I said Fanta, everyone was confused but only the Zimbo understood that Coke doesn’t mean Coke but soft drinks in general.
How would you like to be remembered?
His stories and images provoked thought and contributed to the positive development of society. A voice for the voiceless and an instrument of truth and change. Loved God, Loved people.
How can people get in touch with you or access your work?
Across all social platforms Kennedy Famba / Everyday Zimbabwe. Want to see a portfolio? I’d love to send it to you. Or maybe you have a project or story you think I’d be interested in