Finding freedom in coastal photography

Friday February 10 2017

A photograph of Lamu, by Emmanuel Jambo. PHOTO | KARI MUTU

Photographer and cinematographer Emmanuel Jambo is renowned for his wedding and fashion photography. Jambo’s foundation is in photojournalism and fine art, an area he is exploring once again with a new set of creative images.

He recently put together pictures of Kenya’s Coastal region. They can be seen at the Looking In, Looking Out art exhibition at Lord Erroll Restaurant in Nairobi. The exhibition is curated by The Art Space.

Jambo is known for stunning commercial photography based on restricted client briefs, but this type of creative work allows him to “add my own artistic input on how I see life. It gives me a great sense of freedom,” he says.

The photos are predominantly in beige, coral, brown and blue. Women are dressed in black and men in white kaftans, with the occasional blue or crimson scarf.

The limited colour selection draws viewers to the activity taking place, mostly everyday scenes of people in front of mildewed walls typical of seaside buildings.

Jambo says that the serenity, relaxed atmosphere and simplicity of life at the Coast appeal to his creative nature. Indeed, there is something engaging about the ordinary moments Jambo has photographed.


Mapya shows two young Muslim ladies and a young man relaxing on a staircase next to a large wooden door with a sign saying, Archaeology Lab. It makes you curious to know what the three are chatting about and what sort of archaeology work goes on in the building.

In Yalla (Arabic for “Let’s go”) the photographer is looking down at two women walking, one with a veiled face and holding a child. Their buibuis are billowing in the wind and you wonder where they are going.

On another wall are aerial shots of traditional fishing boats in the ocean. A number of them are photographed at an angle, which make the vessels look even narrower against the big, blue sea.

Born in South Sudan and based in Kenya, Jambo has gained international prominence as one of the best photographers to come out of Africa. He is also the official photographer for President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“You can definitely expect more of fine art and conceptual work from me in the future,” he says.

Looking In, Looking Out is on until February 17.