Pictures have the ability to draw us into a scene. They transport us from our present moment to embrace a different setting and time. Pictures can stop us in our tracks and bring us to tears, to joy and admiration or to a state of profound contemplation. To KC Nwakalor, photography is the strongest communication tool. He says photography is a way to see. It’s a way to paint. It’s a way to make a memorable record.
KC is a visual artist at Connect Development, an NGO with the mission to improve access to information and empower local communities in Africa. He’s also a documentary photographer and a freelance photojournalist. He’s constantly on the move. He’s captured photos from the not too young to run protest in Abuja to candid moments with the Fulani herdsman and to awe striking shots with an award-winning writer and musician such as Onyeka Nwelue. I recently sat down with KC to discuss his photography.
You hold a degree in Biology from the University of Abuja but an advanced diploma certificate in photography from Shaw Academy Ireland. What led you to pursue the field of photography?
Obtaining a university education is very important to a Nigerian parent, so I had to make my parents proud before pursuing a career I believe in. I had to start somewhere and Shaw Academy was a great place to start. I’m presently studying photojournalism online with the New York Institute of Photography and the journey has been life-changing.
What does documentary photography entail?
Documentary photography is a genre of photography that deals with real life stories. It’s using a series of photographs to tell a story, to promote a cause or simply give a movement a voice. It’s a nonfiction type of photography, thus, minimal post production is permitted and pictures have to be as real as possible.
Documentary Photography is very much related to photojournalism, hence most photojournalists are also documentary photographers.
As you are based in Abuja, how does the environment influence your art?
Abuja has afforded me the opportunity to network and meet with many photographers I look up to. The likes of which are Bayo Omoboriowo and Tom Saater. Abuja has been good to my art. I’m based here but I am always on the move doing projects and assignments as they arise from various states and countries.
What are some challenges you might face in your job and how do you work through it?
I try not to see things that help build me as challenges but stepping stones. For my job, the difficult part is bonding with strangers. It’s getting them to allow you into their space. When they do, you must be able to not let yourself become part of the story.
Your interests include social justice and children. From your photographs on Instagram, there is clearly a reflection of that. What do you hope to achieve as you capture and share images?
I hope to share stories of people in Marginalized communities, a platform known as follow the money (ifollowthemoney.org) has given me the opportunity to be able to tell the stories of people that are most vulnerable in our societies and be able to attract the solution they seek.
You’ve said that a photo is only as good as its caption. How do you determine the best words to describe your photo?
Captions are powerful because they give insight about your photograph. It helps put your image into perspective. So to have the best caption, I ask questions. I try not to take people’s pictures without knowing them. I try to ask for their names, what they do and probably a story about them as a result of a conversation I have with them.
What has been the most memorable experience so far in your career as a documentary photographer?
It’s always a memorable experience when an individual or community receive help as a result of my work. It feels good to see people happy because of that.
In the next 4 to 5 years, where do you hope to see yourself?
I want to win a World Press Photo Award or Pulitzer award. Also, I want my works exhibited in many parts of the world.