Our Pearls And Heels lady today is Jeri Muchura. Jeri Muchura is a storyteller, lifestyle and documentary photographer. Having been a model and a hobbyist photographer for almost 7 years, Jeri transitioned into full-time professional photography only 2 years ago. She specializes in portraiture, family and wedding photography as well as documenting Kenya’s untold stories, her people and her environment. Her personal projects have included documenting the rise of cancer in Kenya, life on the islands within Lake Victoria and Lake Turkana, and highlighting the unique beauty of persons living with Albinism, which she passionately carries out alongside her assignments. She recently won the professional category in the Mo Ibrahim Foundation MyAfrica photography contest.
1. Describe your typical day?
I’m up by 5 AM on weekdays for my prayers and devotion before my kids wake up at 5.45 AM to get ready for school. By 6.45 AM, the girls and their father are out and I catch up with an hour of sleep. On Mondays, I do nothing but sleep, snack and binge-watch Indian movies and YouTube videos since it’s my off day. Tuesday through Friday, I’m either editing a photography session, catching up with photography lessons or assignments, making client deliveries or prepping for the weekend. Saturdays and Sundays are wedding days and since I mostly photograph Muslim brides, I could be out of the house at 7 AM and be back at 11 PM, depending on the wedding.
2. What did you want to be when you grew up?
I actually wanted to be a traffic cop if you can believe it… not for anything except to wear the uniform and direct traffic like a boss. My father quickly scared me out of it by telling me horrifying tales of the physical torture I’d endure in Kiganjo. So I decided to be a model instead much to the anguish of my poor mother lol.
3. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
To be honest, I would do it the same way because every move and mistake I’ve made is what has brought me to where I am.
4. What would you say are the top three skills needed to succeed at your job?
First and foremost, you’ll need a healthy helping of people skills because photographers provide a service not just photographs. One of my mantras is “People will always remember how you made them feel, not just what you gave them.” This drives me to be better in how I treat and interact with people.
The second is self-discipline, something that I am still working on. Working for myself and setting my own hours can be tricky because I can choose to sleep all day instead of working. The ability to self-regulate and set timelines and meet deadlines is super essential.
And last, the readiness to learn because in photography, the minute you stop learning, you stop progressing in your craft.
- As a professional how is it working in Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
I love Nairobi, it is fast, vibrant, and pulsating with amazing energy. This city is a photographer’s dream and nightmare.
Yes, Nairobi is open to what I do. The photography scene has seen considerable growth in the last three years with photographers finding their voices and establishing their different niches. We have the #NightBandits who are determined to show off the cityscapes and beauty of Nairobi at night, we have the event photographers who capture the vibrant performances staged in the city, and there are the portrait photographers who tell the stories of the faces that call Nairobi home and very many others. We have seen a rise in the number of photographers in the industry with the camera prices going down, I’d just love to see more women taking the plunge into pro-photography. We need more of us out here.
- What motivates you?
My inspiration comes from very many places, women especially. I believe that women are these magical and mystical creatures that God had fun creating. We hold unfathomable depths and vaults of love, strength and resilience, yet we are as fragile as butterflies. My children also keep me motivated because I want them to see that they can succeed in the creative arts too, that they can aspire to be academic or creative or even both if they so choose.
7. How do you define success?
Success doesn’t equate to money even though money can buy you some serious comforts. Success for me is peace and happiness within you and around you. That you have thriving relationships, that you are at peace with your life’s journey and that you are working progressively on your dreams. That’s the full measure of success, in my opinion.
8. Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My main source of inspiration is the Maker of the Universe. He has created so many things of resounding beauty and He crowned them with man. If I can take pictures of His crowning creation to reflect Him, my work is done. Then there are several photographers who inspire me. In portraiture, there’s Sue Bryce and Emily London Miller for their life mission to give women beautiful portraits of themselves, Annie Leibovitz whose work has graced the covers of Rolling Stone, Vogue and Vanity Fair magazines for decades, Ty Bello, a female Nigerian portrait photographer whose work is just ah-may-zing. Locally Osborne Macharia and Barbara Minishi are two photographers whose work inspires me to just keep pushing the envelope.
9. What is your favourite aspect of your job?
I don’t suffer from the dreaded Monday blues since Mondays are my off days seeing that I work weekends. Plus, I get to travel the world, experience new cultures and meet and photograph amazing people.
10. What would you say are the key elements to being successful?
I believe that Jesus, purpose and passion are the key elements to success. Purpose creates a road map to where you want to go, passion is the fuel that keeps you going no matter what the circumstances and lastly, you can’t get ahead on your own…Jesus…He is your beginning, your end and your guide as you navigate between passion and purpose
- What advice would you give somebody just starting out in your line of work?
Learn to deal with failure. That little word “NO” is not as scary as it sounds once you learn to harness its power to your advantage. Failure is just an opportunity to lick your wounds and learn. It can be very painful and expensive sometimes but you have to come back stronger. I am not at all embarrassed by failure anymore thank God.
Be accommodating. You will meet so many people, of all sorts, with all manner of demands and you have to learn how to deal with them and cater to them, or say no without ruffling any feathers. Your people skills will save you here.
Resilience. A friend of mine put it better and I will gladly quote her “Sometimes you have to just look at a day, break it down into hours and then live it hour by hour. Some days are just hard. Then some days you have to live 10 days in one – so much happening and you have the urge to split yourself into 15 pieces to accomplish it all. You have to be fluid to match the tempo of the day.”
- What has been your most satisfying moment in terms of career?
Being part of the team that went around the country photographing for the Safaricom calendar 2015 and most recently winning in the professional category of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s MyAfrica photo competition.
- What makes you happy?
The look on a client’s face when they finally see their pictures. That is worth all the money on the planet. That and my children living life and exploring it on their own terms
- What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
Indian movies, YouTube shenanigans and sleeping…this is the best way I know how to relax and recharge.
- Where do you see yourself in around 10 years?
On my second honeymoon, my children will be out of my house and off to college/university far far far away. Seriously though, I want to help re-write the African narrative in my own little way by using strong emotive pictures. And maybe be an educator in all things photography, teaching more women how to use their cameras to freeze moments.
If you would like to interact with @jeri_muchura. She is also on Facebook and Instagram as photos by Jeri. You definitely should check out her website photosbyjeri.com.
Pearls And Heels: Phyllis Wakiaga