Behind the lens of a fast-rising female photographer

Over the years, photography has been male dominated but some women have tried to break the norm. Take Promesse Assumpta Kamanda Isimbi, for example, a fast-rising Rwandan photographer.

For the 26-year-old, photography is a job, a lifestyle and a hobby. She developed her love for photography as a child thanks to her mother’s camera.


“I loved playing with my mother’s camera and was curious about how it worked. One day I broke her camera and promised to buy her one when I grew up. I didn’t buy one for her but I bought one for myself,” she says.


She adds that even though journalism was her dream job, having attained a degree in mass communication, she soon realised that it was not satisfying enough and that she could do more with photography.


“Working at a local television station I thought about how I can link my line of work with photography, there are so many journalists already who are doing so, I wanted to contribute to photography.”

Her turning point came about when one day she bought a VIP ticket, hired a camera and headed to a Sauti Sol concert. As an amateur, she says, out of the 700 photos she took, only three of them were good.

“One of the best pictures was a photo I took of Arthur Nkusi, founder of Arthur Nation that I sent to his manager. That picture was the beginning of open doors and I haven’t looked back since,” she says.

She has had the opportunity to shoot some of Rwanda’s biggest events. Today she is a contracted photographer of Arthur Nation, an events company and has been the main photographer for big events in Kigali such as Transform Africa, Kigali Jazz Junction concerts, Seka Live, Seka Festival, Kassav’ Live, #1000 Girls Iwacu Campiagn and the DBSA summit in Mozambique.

She, however, credits her skilled craft to Envision Media Arts Collective, a hub for young artists to improve their talent.

“A friend brought me here (Envision) where I learnt the art and professionalism about photography. I have since grown so much and the beauty about photography is that it enables you to communicate with people that you were not initially able to.”

When she is not covering events, which has been the case for months now due to Covid-19, the 26-year-old says she freelances although her passion leans towards landscape photography. To showcase her photography journey she is organising a solo exhibition next month.

“We have so many beautiful places in Rwanda and the landscapes don’t change. The photos I will exhibit will not only be the good ones that can be sold. I will also show the first amateurish photos I took with the hope that it will be a lesson for someone out there,” she says.

Events photography requires both hard work and working late hours. Kamanda is grateful for her parents who continue to be supportive of her career. Oftentimes, however, she needs to prove herself to clients.

“Many people think that I cannot carry a 7200 heavy lens because I’m girl, but I had to prove to them that I can do it and so it is no longer a challenge. I have learned that patience, passion and discipline will take you far. Also there is no bad job because people told me photography is not a profession you can rely on, but this hasn’t been the case.

“I know that we need more girls in this industry but if this is not something they love, then I cannot advise them to go for it, because if they encounter these challenges, they will just give up easily and our image as female photographers will look bad. Personal respect comes first and the job will be easy,” she says of her experience as a female in the field.

About her future plans, Kamanda wants to grow as much as she can and that in 10 years, she sees herself owning a studio and impacting so many young people to learn photography.

Incorporating comedy

Meeting Kamanda for the first time, an impression of her is that she is a very funny person, often making jokes. Her social media platforms are equally hilarious and characterised by comedy skits that have earned her a lot of followers, and in return, influencing gigs.

“I get my funny character from my mother, you wouldn’t sit five minutes with her without laughing. I’m not a professional comedian but I love making people laugh and I love imitating. At first I used to share my skits on Tik Tok until I realised I can share it on other social media platforms and it has worked for me through advertising.”

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