In less than seven years, Rwandan US-based Egide Mbabazi went from being an anonymous photographer to running one of the most successful photography operations in the United States.
Also a video blogger based in Portland, Maine, USA, Mbabazi’s professional photography and videography skills have caught the admiration of many. However, this is not how he envisioned his future ten years ago.
How he started
The 28-year-old was raised in the Rwandan capital Kigali, where he spent his entire high school years. He moved to the United States at the age of 14 ‘in pursuit of higher education and opportunity.’
He reveals that it was while there that his passion for photography was first cultivated.
“A friend of mine showed up at a party where a number of Rwandans had gathered and he had with him a Canon 7d DSLR. We were both exploring this new gadget and I believe it was at that moment that my passion for freezing memories took root,” he recalls.
To take his new found passion more seriously, Mbabazi decided to pursue a photography course at The Hallmark Institute of Photography in the US.
He has since moved on to bigger equipment like the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and Gopro Hero 5, Dji Mavic Pro and owns a photography business, Egide Images and uses social media to share his work with his growing audience, whose responses to him, tend to be more personal.
“Their recognition is humbling and it’s a constant reminder that with hard-work the world will eventually appreciate the time and effort invested.”
As a profession, photography is very much in flux, thanks to digital cameras constantly getting better, more affordable and easier to use. Cameras too, built into mobile devices are on a similar trajectory.
On the increase of sophisticated smartphones and great cameras becoming a threat to his photography business, he retorts;
“Not at all, I think that technology is enabling individuals to invest more time in their craft rather than spend money to get the latest gear on the market. A camera is simply a tool that helps one express themselves, you should allow your skills to grow and not be solely dependent on technology.”
“I’m still learning many things and experimenting new things. As an artist I expect to be challenged because through that am able to grow. I seek perfection every day, and at times it’s frustrating when you’re unable to bring your original idea to life due to a lack of experience or technology.”
Speak of portrait, landscape, fashion, event, or even wildlife photography, Mbabazi will gladly take the shots. He does not limit himself to a specific path.
“I’m simply a curious individual with an instrument that allows me to express myself and my subjects. I have an element of portrait style in my photography but when I hold a camera to my face, I am simply reacting to a moment at hand. I’m still in the process of finding myself in this field, so I am just having fun,” he says.
Mbabazi describes his photography gigs at the OAFLA UN General Assembly and Bloomberg philanthropies in New York as the most humbling experience. For him, they have truly stood out, not only because of their humanitarian significance but the historical one as well.
“It feels amazing, capturing a diverse group of people with a common goal. The expressions, energy and cultural vibrancy were all worth it.”
“If I had a time machine, I would go back in time and have the opportunity to take photographs of all Pan-African revolutionaries who inspired me to be unapologetically African while spreading unity and love through my work,” he says.
Mbabazi admires Yu Tsai’s work but is quick to add that “anyone who has the courage to express themselves in this field is worth my admiration. I dream of a world where everyone can influence everyone.”
The influence is why his long term plans are to bring his experience and skills back home. “I’m still learning and currently trying to perfect my videography. I can’t wait to be back home and share what I’ve learnt.”
He concludes his story with a word of advice for budding photographers.
“Everything that is great is on the other side of your fears. We all have fears but it’s until you decide to take that one step towards your dreams that you realize that you have no reason to hold yourself back.
“It’s crucial that you accept that every journey will come with its obstacles, and that if you stay true to yourself, great things are bound to happen.”
“The level of Photography in Rwanda is great; it’s a lot of talented individuals like Chris Shwagga and Phillip who constantly propel me to up my game through their amazing work.”