Allan Karemera on storytelling through photography

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His shot of Kigali City during night time. / Courtesy

Bob Allan Karemera is a social worker and a photographer, a practice he has passionately done as a part time job.

He has also told stories through his photography on Medium.com. He had a chat with Sunday Magazine’s Sharon Kantengwa on the story behind his passion for photography.

What inspired you to begin photography?

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Bob Allan Karemera does photography on a part time basis. / Courtesy

It was self-taught. I always had a small camera at home and I would take random pictures around the house and of people. When I learned editing, I started posting pictures on social media and people loved my work.

I loved nature, landscape and capturing something that doesn’t come for a second time to make good use of my small camera that I had and that kept pushing me. I do it as part time, when people hire me to take pictures of conferences and events which has exposed my work for the last two years.

What does photography mean to you?

Through lens I see hope. Hope in the sense that whatever I am going to capture tells a story. People take pictures for different reasons but for me I want to use it as a way of bringing hope.

Rwanda coming from a very bad history and currently developing, I just want to put it out there and when people google Rwanda, they will see the landscape and transformation and not just horrific scenes from the genocide.

What is your greatest photography accomplishment and why?

I think that photography is a process. Everyday there is something new, there are some that I love but I still feel that I will take better pictures tomorrow. One of my favourite photos however, is one that I took of three ladies who live on an island called Mwombo in Rusizi, Cyangugu.

They have to paddle for three hours to sell their produce in Rusizi and back for three hours. Taking that picture of the three ladies in their boats, I saw the love of mothers who have to work daily for the survival of their families.

What keeps motivating you to take pictures?

What has motivated me is the stories that I hear whenever I travel around the country because I feel that my friends in the city do not get the opportunity to move around the country. I can bring these visual pictures and a story through the faces and smiles. I also want to put my country’s beauty out there.

Is there anything that photography has taught you?

Part of it has taught me a different perspective of how we look at life and different ways our communities are impacted. Whenever I go to capture someone’s story, I see how they live especially in the countryside such as sitting on the dusty floor, yet you have to blend in with them so that they can open up.

You are not only there for the moment but you capture it through a photo and you can see tell a story even without saying anything.

Last year, I visited Malawi and Nigeria and I was able to capture stories of how they live. The story that caught my attention is the children in a certain community in Malawi, who had to walk hours to the nearest school until a group of pastors teamed up to build four classrooms in their community so that children have a place to study closer to their homes.

It taught me that the community had taken an initiative to educate its own people and did not wait for any Samaritans.

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A picture of school children in the countryside depicting the new Rwanda where education is for ALL and education is KEY. / Courtesy
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Children in the countryside playing football. / Courtesy
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One of Bob’s favourite pictures is of 3 mothers on Nkombo Island who paddle all the way to and back home from a market day. / Courtesy

Which photographers inspire you?

I see many aspiring and established photographers and their work is amazing. I would however pick President Obama’s photographer Pete Souza, as someone who has inspired me to write my three years review on my Medium post where I post pictures of the year that I have captured and their stories.

It is not only the picture quality but also the mindset which has changed the way I look at photography.

What does the future hold for you in terms of photography?

I think that I am getting started. I always want to learn new skills but I also want to get to other places in Rwanda and the continent. I want to capture more stories of hope and transformation.