‘’A happy accident!’’ that’s how she chooses to describe her introduction to photography. A journalism and mass communication student at the time, Zahara had borrowed a camera, that she used to take a few shots of the 2015 Makerere University Guild elections, not knowing that it would open up numerous doors of opportunity, and unlock a skill, and passion she was yet to discover.
Meet Zahara Abdul, a documentary and events photographer who uses photos to tell every day stories. She has quickly made her way up the ladder in this male dominated field, consistently delivering beautiful and captivating work that has made her such a huge brand when it comes to photography.
’I did not even envision photography as a thing I would do. I grew up wanting to be in front of the camera. In my world, I was meant to be a news anchor, news reporter, something like that. I used to go in front of the mirror when I was younger and present the news. In fact, my mum nicknamed me, Aljazeera.’’
Her creativity behind the camera kicked in at a time she did not even notice. She confesses to have been the type of person that micro-managed the photographer, as they took shots of her. ’’ At school, I would be very specific about how the photographer held the camera, what angles of me they took, and I would sort of direct them on what angles of me I wanted taken. I was basically indirectly directing the shoot.’’
Zahara was admitted at the prestigious Makerere University on government sponsorship to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and mass communication. However, when the time came for internship, her initial fantasy of pursuing a job in front of the camera did not come easy then, with all the competition that comes with slots for TV, and radio. She did not want to write either, so as her friends took that direction, she was left pondering on what she was going to do with herself.
‘’They used to let us borrow cameras at school from the media lab. So I decided to borrow a camera that I never returned for a whole semester .I used that camera to take some pictures of the 2015 guild elections ,posted some of them on face book and I got overwhelmingly positive reactions. I got in box messages from people wanting to work with me, and ‘Campus Bee’ was one of the bigger propositions. They asked me to work with them, covering events at the University. I mean here I was, just doing my own thing, not expecting anything much to come out of it, and I had landed myself a job. It was a good job that paid well, the more reason for me to put on hold returning the camera.’’ she bursts out laughing at the last statement.
After getting the Campus Bee job, more side gigs kept rolling in, giving Zahara a chance to save money, and buy her own camera. ’’Around 2016, I collected enough money to buy a camera, because photography had at that point become a passion, and it was time for me to be in full control. It has been such a ride ever since. Here we are now…’’
Most of the gigs she gets, are through referrals, and social media. She has had the opportunity of working with some big clients like UNICEF-United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, Nyege-Nyege Uganda Festival ,’27 Guns’ Feature Film, Send A Cow Uganda, among others.
Photography has opened doors for Zahara when it comes to access to people and places she formally could never have dreamt of. ’I have travelled to very many places in Uganda. Some of these places, you can never go to, unless you are doing something specific. I remember the 27 Guns gig, I got a chance to get into a helicopter to take the aerial shots and that was such an awesome experience. There are very many of such moments, to mention but a few. I am also making good money. This gives me financial security knowing I don’t have to look for a job. I am in my element, doing what I love to do. I get better each day so I love the growth.’’
She has won a couple of accolades in photography including first prize in the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung 2017 competition organized under the theme: ‘’Confidence in the future,’’ and first prize at the Uganda Press Photo Awards 2017,in the ‘’Everyday Life’’ category, among others. Zahara has also been nominated for the young achievers award in the creative arts category.
The challenges center on equipment being very pricey, making it hard for her to have all of it once. Some clients do not appreciate talent enough and want to pay less for more. The fact that she is freelancing, she is placed in that situation of uncertainty for the next gig, but she loves the fact that her work speaks for itself and keeps her relevant. ’So people keep calling me back.’’
Zahara has future plans of expanding her brand by putting it under a company, with a team to work with. She also plans on expanding her knowledge on photography by taking on other professional courses.
Her advice for people who plan to do photography is,’’ Just volunteer more. People want to see your potential, so get onto projects voluntarily. Let people get to know you. They will call you back, trust me. Make sure you also attend networking events organized by photography communities. Money will not come immediately, so be patient. As a photographer, take time to find your ‘niche’, it will help you stand out. Use the available You-tube tutorials to learn as much as you can. Make good use of social media. It’s like your online CV.
Zahara loves food, and confesses it calms her ‘’demons’’. She also enjoys doing her own hair. ‘’I’m always wearing my afro, so it gives me satisfaction to do my own hair. It’s like therapy.
She also plans on venturing into farming as a future side hustle.
Source – glimug.com