His first camera was a phone, the LG P970. He is the official photographer for Sauti Sol. He also photographs Alikiba whenever he is in the country. Lady Jaydee too. This has made some people refer to him as photographer for the celebrities. We sat down with this guy who has never appeared in public without a cap to talk about his art, and how a chance meeting with an ¼ of the Sauti Sol ended up with him becoming their official photographer.
Images: Tintseh, used with permission.
How did you get into photography?
I am a believer in there being different perspectives of life. The reason why I picked up my camera, let’s say my phone, that is what I started with, an LG P970, was because I needed to show a different side to what people see everyday. What we see everyday, let’s just flip it a bit. You know, like how you look at a book, but it is not until you turn the page that you know what it is all about? You might see a human, but when you look into the eye, that is when you will tell more, and that is what we do. We capture moments. That is even what my slogan for photography says;capturing moments, creating memories. I want you to remember this day, this happened. That is why I capture that, that is what I look forward to, and that is what I aim for.
When did you first pick up a camera?
In 2014, early 2014. And, I remember I bought my first camera on the eighth of August 2014.
You photograph Sauti Sol…
.. and Ali Kiba?
I am the official photographer for Ali Kiba in Kenya,yes, for now.
How did you come to be their official photographer, especially Sauti Sol?
I was at an event back in 2014. I couldn’t say that I was a photographer then. I had just gotten my canon and I was using automatic settings. I took a picture of Delvin (Mudigi), and he asked if he could see it. I knew who he was. I was scared at first, but then I showed it to him. He liked it.
I told him I hoped to, one day, photograph them. He told me to keep doing my thing, and we will find a way. Then he took my contacts. I was shocked.
Towards the end of 2014, Anyiko, their publicist, called me. They had an event. We discussed terms , and we agreed. That is what most artists need to realize, that my contract with Sauti Sol is very different, because we started on a friendly note. They were impressed by the first set of images, my style, and that’s what I have maintained until now.
Then, we were doing a recording session for Unconditionally Bae, and Ali Kiba was in studio. I was taking pictures for Sauti Sol. His manager was impressed by the pictures, and she said we could do business. She also got me Lady JayDee.
That opened a lot of doors for me. I have been branded as the celebrity documentarian. I documented Sons of Kemet during the Jazz festival for three days for the British Council, which was amazing. I have worked with a couple of artists here and there. And my boss, Julie Gichuru, she’s been my supporter. And, it is very hard to find such a boss who believes in what you do and lets you be.
It is knowing how to balance. It is not a single day that I will be needed at the office and I am not around. Unless I have travelled and, in which case, I always leave someone to take care of business.
How do you plan for your shoots, especially the live performances?
For every concert, I try to get a different perspective. At times I have to go for the rehearsals. That way, I will get a picture of what to expect at the show. For concerts that I haven’t gone for rehearsals, I will go a bit earlier, look at the lighting setup, make sure my camera is working perfectly in terms of lighting and everything. Then I will wait.
I always know there are things artists share. They scream on stage, they hold the mic in various ways; they always hold out the mic to the fans. I always look for those candid shots at concerts.
I read an interview where this world renown photographer said he always get apprehensive before every shoot. Do you ever get nervous before a shoot?
Yes I do. Even for these tours that I have, so far, done. It is the same performance, different locations. But you need to make sure that pictures from this show look different from these others. That is very difficult. And, you see Sauti Sol are the first (Kenyan) artists who have done the tour. That means everyone who is on that team, this is probably the first time you are doing that. Which also gives you pressure because, you see how they are setting standards, you also need to set standards in your field.
People agree with you on that; that these guys are setting standards.
It is a movement. Even I, their photographer, for each of their events I go to, I feel like it is a new event.
Good stuff. So you plan to do this for the foreseeable future, I presume.
Yes. I am praying that by the end of the year, I should have fully established myself. The past two years have been more of building my brand. Now is the time we get into other parts, like mentorship. I believe you cannot pick someone up if you are not stable yourself.You need to be sure you will be comfortable teaching someone else something. I have picked a few guys,three so far. But one is the main guy who follows me everywhere. I want to mentor guys in the different fields that I shoot; portraiture, events, lifestyle and weddings.
I do weddings but people do not know. The contracts I sign with clients, are more of private. We don’t release the pictures, but I shoot weddings.
Photographers nowadays receive a bit of attention, how do you stay focused?
In Kenya, I think, a photographer, has been termed as a celebrity as well. That is how it seems nowadays. It could be challenging because you do not want to ignore someone. But as I always tell guys, don’t look to people to know who you are, let people know your work.Those are some of the areas that are small, but very critical. Because, it is very hard to build a brand but it is very easy to bring it down. I thank God because I have maintained a very low profile. People don’t know who Tintseh is, in person. And I actually like it that way. And people, 99% of guys, have never seen me without a hat.
As you said, it is about perspective. And, after this crop of photographers came up, you guys are resetting how Africa, especially the cities, are documented. How do you feel about that?
I feel honoured and humbled. It is one of those things that we, Kenyan photographers, are aiming to do. Changing the perspectives of our cities because no one will tell our stories if we do not. So far, I’d say, passion as well matters a lot, because you can’t just go and shoot. I believe we can do more if given a chance; by buildings owners, by security personnel and everyone. We can document this city in a way that no one has ever seen before.
What thing from the government, for instance?
They need to understand that what we are doing is for the betterment of this country. If we can sit down, the photographers and the government officials, and come up with a solution whereby we verify who is who, that way, it can be better. Security is key, and we cannot jeopardize an entire nation’s security because of a team of photographers. But we can build the pride of an entire nation from a team of photographers. The Tourism Board needs to use a lot of Kenyan photographers. Onetouch Live, for instance, are doing amazing work.