By @mercyadieor Mercy Akula.
I come from a very humble upbringing. Nairobi’s slums have always been my home and life’s luxuries were not always awarded to me. The basic necessities were always provided.
My experience behind the lens started not so long ago in 2013. It begun more as a hobby than anything else, until I realized that the world needed to see the beauty that is in the slums, portrayed by the pictures I took. It hasn’t been a smooth road. At first I would use my phone to capture the images, and then I moved to the camera. Walking around, borrowing cameras from friends, transferring them to my phone and then, sharing them on social media. Through hard work, consistency and a lot of perseverance, last year I got my own laptop and camera. They have been very fundamental in my work so far.
The idea of Slumphotography came to be when my eyes were opened to the negative image that has constantly been portrayed about this place I call home. Everywhere I turned, there was nothing or very little positivity being mentioned. Furthermore, very little was being done to change the negative aspects. So I took it upon myself to look at the other side of the coin, and share this side with the rest of the world through my photographs and one step at a time, help change the degrading image that is carried around about the slums and its dwellers.
I have been assisted all through by friends. People who saw this dream in me, and decided to help me up by encouraging me and chipping in, in any little way they could.
Of course there were many who did not believe in what I was doing. Everywhere I went, there was a different attitude presented in regards to Slumphotography. Stones were thrown, but I kept on with what I was doing and it has got me this far.
Right now, Slumphotography is an award winner and an established brand. Slumphotography feeds me, and allows me to travel and venture into the world behind my lens. We were awarded Influencer of The Year at the Social Media Awards Africa in Nigeria, early last year. Apart from the above, Slumphotography has been featured in several platforms. Recently our picture was featured in Spain’s Leading Newspaper. This was such a big milestone for me.
My income is entirely dependent on the project at hand. The latest one is the #PigaPichaMtoiAsome exhibition, where I auctioned Slumphotogarphy pictures so as to cater for fees and other school related expenses for some identified families in the slums. We raised a total of Three Hundred Thousand Kenya Shillings.
Other than my personal efforts and a lot of hard work and even more consistency, I am very proud to say that I contribute every single achievement I have managed to God. I say this not only because I am a Christian, but also because when I look back at where I was, and where I am now, it can only take His divine hand to carry me this far. It is something I take pride in. I also believe in giving back to society. If you take care of those around you, then it will always be reciprocated somehow.
My advice to other people is very brief. God should always take centre stage in everything that you do, everything that you did and everything that you plan to do. It should always be about Him. Second is the aspect of giving back to society. Whether or not they were an active part of your life, it should always be a priority to help them come up. Because one way or another, they helped/will help you come up.
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