SAM MIRONKO is a Rwandan-American photographer based in Boston. Born in New Haven, Connecticut, his family moved to South Africa where his parents worked with the Royal Bafokeng Nation, a wealthy traditionally governed community that served as a host venue for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Music, soccer, and dancing are some of the things he grew to love during his childhood in South Africa. At the age of 15, Mironko’s family returned to America, where he attended a boarding school in Pennsylvania. There, he started a video production class that required him to make a short film every semester. Little did he know that the smaller assignment would turn into a daily hobby. Before he photographed his first NBA game in 2021, the sociology and film graduate says he started by taking pictures of the youth basketball, the Harvard University men’s basketball team, Junior NBA, and ultimately the NBA. The experience taught him to never underestimate the power of small beginnings. Pictures speaking for themselves The games that didn’t require Mironko to obtain press credentials were a good opportunity for him to prove what he is capable of. The photographer says he would take pictures that he would use on his social media accounts especially Instagram so that they would speak for themselves. “When you want to convince people of your worth or ability before you reach your full potential, it becomes difficult”. “Because nobody is going to know how good you can become at something, I always took every opportunity to prove myself in ways that didn’t need permission from anyone,” he told the The New Times. Through a college friend, his work helped him do a photoshoot with NBA player Andre Drummond, which later linked him to Slam, an American basketball magazine that invited him to photograph his first NBA game in 2021. They liked his work and it became routine to take images of NBA games, especially for the Boston Celtics because he lives in Boston. Not only does Mironko enjoy the game, he also enjoys meeting different people like artists, and although getting access to some specific spaces was a struggle, he says he enjoyed the grind. The 19-year-old pushed himself to learn to use the camera that his mother bought for him as a birthday present, to do the work he wanted. Apart from athletes from the NBA like Lebron James and Stephen Curry, Mironko has covered concerts of different artists like Sarkodie from Ghana, Davido, Burna Boy, Mr. Eazi, Tiwa Savage and Fireboy from Nigeria. Rejections however, have marked his journey, especially getting into concerts that require media credentials. “There has been a lot of rejections and it’s difficult to get into some concerts but once people see the pictures you’ve taken they think it was easy, not knowing the story behind it” “At times it is difficult to get my camera past security, arguing with police, among others,” he said. The photographer also shared that he has been struggling with anxiety, but part of what has helped him cope is photography. “Anxiety is a part of my life I can’t control, whereas photography is the part of my life I can control, so it helps me feel like I’m in control of another certain part of my life,” he said. Future plans Part of his future plans is to be free to work on projects that are both purposeful and fulfilling to him. Having worked on projects like Black Lives Matter, the photographer aspires to elevate Africa through his photography. “I want to work on projects like Visit Rwanda, work with Arsenal and PSG, NBA Africa and BAL.” Rwanda has been on the world scene through ‘Visit Rwanda’, various conferences like CHOGM and ITU among others, Mironko says he aspires to be a part of the story by using his visual ability to tell the stories of Rwanda. He also plans to do a photography workshop in Rwanda for people that are interested in photography, since photography offers opportunities to make money, to network and to even have fun. Mironko also says he is grateful to Rwanda because of the support he gets from his family, friends and even people whom he doesn’t know, and the fact that when he is in Rwanda, he feels that he belongs in Rwanda more than the United States. “There is no feeling like coming home, in America I’m not comfortable due to society’s issues, but when Im in Rwanda it is different,” he said.