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Photography with Faith: ‘We cannot exhaust the opportunities’

Despite the challenges of working as a freelance photographer in a deeply patriarchal society, Faith Muteleu’s work has seen her dine with the lowly and the mighty, brush shoulders with the who-is-who in Kajiado politics, and obtain an excellent understanding of the intricacies of local politics and kin-based alliances

Kajiado is a land of contrasts that provides fodder for good photographers: Stretching from the hills surrounding Ngong to the plains of Kitengela, and from the cool air of Loitokitok to the scorching sun of Namanga, the limit can only be the photographer’s imagination. Faith Muteleu is living her dream by exploiting this potential to the maximum.

“I had brother-in-law who had a camera, a small Canon 1300. So I took the camera and started doing freelance photography. I grew from there,” says Faith.

From that humble beginning, Faith’s singular determination has seen her make it this far in her career as a professional photographer.

Despite the challenges of working as a freelance photographer in a deeply patriarchal society, her work has seen her dine with the lowly and the mighty, brush shoulders with the who-is-who in Kajiado politics, and obtain an excellent understanding of the intricacies of local politics and kin-based alliances.

“I have traversed the whole of this county. I know Kajiado like the back of my hand,” says Faith. But this is hardly surprising for a woman who displayed a keen interest in people and leadership from an early age. Faith was active in World Vision Kenya and participated in the Children’s Parliament right from primary school. “That is where I started building my confidence in journalism and speaking out,” she says.

Humble beginnings

Born in Merrueshi village of Kajiado East constituency, Faith attended a local primary school before proceeding to Moi Girls High School, Isinya, where she sat for her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations.

Her passion for journalism led her to take a Bachelor of Journalism degree course at the Multimedia University on the outskirts of Ong’ata Rongai, majoring in Communications. Her career has included a stint at the County Government of Kajiado.

In 2016, she joined the County Government of Kajiado and worked in the office of the deputy governor. “The then deputy governor in the previous county government, Paul Ntiati, gave me a nice platform to participate in the communications team. It was an interesting journey.”

Her work involved all aspects of communication work, including social media and content writing, but she was mainly involved in photography. This continued until the new county government came to power in 2017, when she left. That is when she started freelacing.

She started getting jobs from individuals for weddings, events and other functions. “At that time, I didn’t even know how to bargain, because I didn’t quite capture the intensity and value of my work. But as they say, experience is the best teacher. With time, I got better equipment and skills.”

She has big plans for the future and hopes to be a trailblazer in photography, setting the trend for other women who may want to venture into the field. “I want to be the first female photographer in Kajiado County to own a production studio. I am looking to venture into different aspects like film production and documentaries. I want to be producing content for TV stations and I won’t stop at anything until I have worked at CNN.”

Along the way, she has found it important to create partnerships and collaborative relationships with different people and organisations. These include Maa TV and the Kajiado Star publication. “Sometimes I needed someone with a drone or for video. So, I partnered with different people, mostly fellow freelancers, until I could buy my own.” says Faith.

She has also recently started a Facebook page, Phayieclicks Photography, and sometimes gets jobs through it from all sorts of people and she is also working on a big project that she will reveal on a later date.

The challenge of gender

The challenges, however, can be daunting. “Being a female photographer is a challenge by itself. Being a pretty young lady, some people will look at me and instead of seeing the professionalism part of it, they just see a beautiful girl for other things. They don’t take me as seriously as I want to be taken in the industry.

Sometimes people ignore the fact that one is a good photographer and want to go beyond that: ‘I want a girlfriend or wife from this one,’ and that sort of attitude. But what I want is to be taken seriously because I am good at my job and am passionate about it” she says. “Don’t just see a pretty face.”

She has also had to fend off all sorts of predators. At one time after visiting a distant place, the driver said the car had broken down and they needed to spend the night at a small shopping centre on the way. Yet, the following morning the car was fine and they continued their journey. The driver had other interests and Faith says they managed through the night only by God’s grace. “He scared the hell out of us. We were so scared. It was a traumatising experience. So, it is tough. Sometimes, I cannot take jobs from places that are far and I fear for my security.”

Despite the dangers and challenges, Faith encourages more Maasai girls to take up photography as a career. “We cannot exhaust the opportunities in this career,” she says.

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