By Alex Roberts
Photo Courtesy of Daniel Irungu & the European Press Photo Agency
It isn’t a surprise that East African photography is starting to gain regional and international recognition. No where does this show clearer than in the case of Daniel Irungu, an award winning Kenyan photographer who took second runner-up at the third East African Photography Award in 2019.
Irungu’s images aren’t just stills of conflict and violent clash- but existing depictions of it, thrusting the viewer into the very doldrums of what was captured at the scene. The images are vivid and haunting, encapsulations of stories that are both entire works of journalistic excellence, and provocative mysteries of what could be happening just outside of the momentary snap. He’s covered the terrorist attacks within Nairobi across the last several years, including Westgate and the DusitD2 complex attack.
For Irungu, he seeks to bring out the human side of the uglier side of life, seeking to keep those affected from being a footnote in their own story.
After getting his start within some of the big name media houses of Kenya in the early 2010s, Irungu has moved out further on his own, expanding his self taught mantra, learning online as he went. Irungu is currently with the European Press Photo Agency, as the chief photographer for Kenya.
The EA Scene caught up with Irungu to learn a bit more about his approach to photography. “People in power use a lot of force against their own people to oppress them, so I seek to showcase the other side, to document the dirty work, provide an evidence that yes, this did happen.”
This approach bleeds over into the subjects he chooses to highlight, wanting to show the real moments that can trigger conversations: “I focus on things that can have an impact, to affect leaders to prevent such incidents from happening again. If it isn’t documented, it is easier to ignore and for leaders not to be held responsible. That’s what drives me- if I don’t take the risk, then I won’t be serving my purpose which is to be a voice for the voiceless.”
Irungu is part of a generation who fights an uphill battle of perception with foreign media, that East African photojournalists can capture an image as well as anyone- and should not be passed over for a Western photographer for opportunity. For him, the East African Photography Award was a chance to grow the local industry: “this is a way for us to get recognized, even outside, on our own, a way to support our own within the industry.”
For Irungu, winning the East African Photography Award can be a tool to advance the industry as a whole, one that bolsters the portfolio, and stand as a testament to the abilities of East African photography and photojournalism. “I can encourage all other East African photographers to come up together, let’s participate in the industry. I look forward to seeing the industry grow and support our own. You don’t need to go to other place to be recognized, let them come to where we are. Let us be the one’s to tell our own story.”
For upcoming photographers, he has a piece of advice: “Don’t let anyone sell your work short, your creativity short. Don’t limit yourself by giving credit to equipment, it is about understanding your art and how you want to express yourself. If you feel as though you have what it takes to be a great photographer, go for it. You can only be recognized by participating.”
Check out some of his work via the links below:
Irungu’s Facebook can be found: HERE
Here’s a link to his Twitter
And his Instagram
If you’re an East African photographer and haven’t already done so- make sure you apply as soon as possible for the East African Photography Award– deadline is August 1st!
For more information regarding the award, look up the Uganda Press Photo Award via Visura to register.