In Nairobi Kenya, we meet Brian Otieno, a self taught Art Director and photographer working under the name Brayotieno. Brian is an avid reader of philosophy and psychology, an art lover, a fan of good whisky and a passionate of Jazz, Rumba and Classical music. He lets us discover his art.
Tell us about your beginnings as a photographer
My journey in photography started a little over 5 years ago as a freshman Psychology student at the university, something I have since taken a break from to focus on honing my craft.
I started on a borrowed point and shoot camera and only shot three events before realizing crowds were not really my cup of coffee. So, my curiosity led me to experiment with portraits and fine-art nudes and it's been an onward journey since then.
What type of photography are you into?
I'm majorly a fine-art, portrait and nude photographer also dabbling in fashion and commercial work.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Most of my inspiration I would say comes from life. All the momentary happenings that complete the sequence of it all. I have the zeal to tell people's stories, mine included, stories of hope, despair, love, stories that remind us of how African we really are and how much our cultures are influential on our ways of life. All this told albeit from a different perspective, that of one who first lives through the moment then comes back to observe from an outsider's point of view presenting it as art rather than what existing systems have made us accustomed to.
Do you have any best shots?
I can't admit to having a best set of shots. Each shot seeks to tell a different story and I believe by achieving its goal, it can be considered a best shot. Nevertheless, some have so far stood out for me including "ONG'ETTA", a portrait project with current Mr. Albinism Kenya Jairus Ong'etta that sought to tell the story of being white in a world that expects you to be black.
My successes this far all hinge on the fact that with my work I've been able to tell stories both of self and others, inspired action, belief and brought hope to one if not many art enthusiasts worldwide. These for any artist I believe are capital when it comes to defining their success and I’m glad to say I'm a success already, just getting greater and better at it.
What are the major challenges you face doing what you do?
Major challenges are financial ones. The costs of owning/leasing out photography equipments are high these days coupled with the fact that to a certain extent, we still live in an Africa whose societies haven't fully embraced arts as a means of livelihood. The lack of want to change the status quo as regards the subjects of African art has constantly made it hard to execute some projects. One of the results of exposure to that cliché mentality of the art on the continent maybe the unwillingness of my preferred muses to work with the original ideas I had.
An example of the cliché are; the African stereotypes on the concept of nudity that constantly seems to be regarded as taboo mainly as a result of brain-washing by early colonialists. It is hardly accepted as art and brings in controversy and discussion which evolves feminists and gender equality activists to name just a few.
What drives you in photography?
My major motivations for doing what I do would first be that photography has given me an outlet to relate and interact with other people, hear their tales, of their high and low moments, of their aspirations and frustrations and being able to channel it out in a way that gives hope, inspires action, puts a smile on faces and most of all package and tell a story as an intricate piece of art. My greatest goal as a photographer would have been to be able to have used my art as a tool for change whether personal, local or global, to have told of people's stories and cultures best, and to have offered hope and inspiration through my work while also providing income generation opportunities for fellow self-believing youth.
When it comes to roll models, do you have any?
Some of my major inspirations though majorly not local include Serge Attukwei, Osborne Macharia, Luigi and Lango, Flora Borsi, Alex Malikov ,Saddi Khali, Bella Kotak among many other countless artists.
Any comments about photography in Kenya, nowadays?
As regards the state of the craft in my home country, I'm glad to say there is progress. More people are opening up their thought processes to accommodate shooting off-the norm concepts whether nude, portrait or conceptual in addition to an also growing crop of enthusiasts willing to offer themselves as muses and be part of these amazing projects and this I believe is a great start to an even greater future for the local art scene.
An advice for the younger generation looking up to you?
To any and all upcoming artists looking to venture into the nude and fine-art photography scene, It's not going to be an easy walk, people won't understand nor appreciate whatever it is and why you are creating until you give them a reason to relate to it, make it their own. Leave a touch of you in every piece and remember the most resistant path eventually leads you home.
What is going up with you these days?
I'm currently working on a series of portrait and nude projects focusing on plus-size nudity, skin lightening, queer equality and love and also just put up a collection of limited edition fine-art prints from select works for sale. Each of you should be sure to grab themselves a piece.
Discover more of Brian Otieno’s works on :
Tumblr : www.brayotieno.tumblr.com