We catch up with commercial turned art photographer, Osborne Macharia to learn more about his latest project, Kenya’s League of Extravagant Grannies and living his passion.
Where are you from?
I was born in Mombasa- a coastal town in Kenya but raised in Nairobi.
How and when did you get into photography?
I have been a commercial photographer for 6 years now and an art photographer for 2. I stumbled upon it by mistake when I was out of school for one year having failed a unit in architecture. I can now say it was blessing in disguise as I now live my passion.
Your current project, Kenya’s League of Extravagant Grannies tells the tale of three retired ministers jet-setting around Africa. Could you tell us more about what sparked the project?
The project was to be a sequel to another project I did in 2014 called Nywele Za Kale (Hair of Long Ago) that featured predominantly old men. I wanted to do a series that was for grannies only and it wasn't until we were on a different assignment in Somaliland that we came across the planes in the background. I immediately knew I had cracked the concept. The entire flight back to Nairobi we discussed more into detail with stylist, Kevin Abraham on how we would pull it off. This was back in December. By the 1st week of March we had everything in place and we finally executed the project.
Where did the shoot take place?
At Prokraft Africa Studios, Nairobi.
You also mentioned that none of the women are actually ministers. How did you find them and convince them to be a part of this project?
When it comes to my personal projects I closely work with Kevin Abraham who sources models for me based on a precise brief. It was the same this time round. The models had to have grey hair and give the feeing that they were classy in their younger days. Kevin knew one of the grannies who linked us to the others.
What was their first reaction when you discussed the project?
They thought it would just be a couple of shot in the studio and they would be done. When they started having their makeup and hair done, their confidence rose and they become more comfortable and confident in front of the camera.
What’ the most inspiring thing you learnt from photographing these women?
That everyone deserves to be beautiful. If you saw the before photos from 2 months before we brought them in, you wouldn’t believe they were the same people. One important lesson that keeps repeating itself with every shoot is the importance of having a good team behind every project and being able to direct and guide your team so that everyone sees the overall vision at the end.
I also noticed the women are dressed in men’s clothing as opposed to women’s clothing. What statement were you trying to make with this?
We wanted to show class with a different touch to the norm, this style just felt right.
How many women did you cast initially?
We initially casted 5 but our goal was to only work with 3.
Why select only 3?
My projects range from 3-5 images depending on what I want to communicate. This one felt right with only 3 images.
Did you know as soon as you saw each of them that they would work for your story?
I was more confident with one of the models but as soon as they got into studio and we began making them over then everything began to take place. I knew we had made the right decision.
Your project in 2014 Nywele Za Kale (Hair of Long Ago), focused on men with grey hair, a trend you also continued in this project. What’s the connection?
Ever since doing Nywele Za Kale which was shortlisted for a number of awards, I was intrigued by folk with grey hair. It is one of those elements are under appreciated yet so captivating when brought out the right way.
What message are you trying to pass with this project?
This was purely for entertainment, but different people interpret my work in different ways so I always leave that up to the viewer. I aim to be positive and uplifting.