James’ silent world speaks in pictures

Thursday October 07 2021
James William

Hearing impaired photographer James William at work with his beloved Nikon camera. PHOTO | COURTESY


James Francis William has made a name for himself with his photographs of people, places and nature. What his eye-catching sketches of light won’t tell us, is the immense challenge that a talent behind the camera has to overcome with every shot.

Despite his world being quiet due to a hearing and speech impairment, it is by no means a silent one because the young photographer is quite the communicator, often with good humour.

At work or at social settings, not only is he interactive, but James also knows how to work his way around people and things surrounding him whilst making sure that there is good communication.

James is living his dream. In the past couple of years as a professional photographer, the 28-year-old has been communicating and connecting with the world through his pictures.

“I wasn’t born deaf. When I was two years old, I fell ill and misdiagnosed with malaria whose prescription was a quinine shot that impaired my speech and hearing, leaving me deaf,” he explains. James is living example that disability is not inability.

His family had to relocate to Dar es Salaam from Mwanza, for him to attend the Buguruni School for the deaf.



“With time, I learned how to communicate through sign language, sometimes through written words and lip-reading,” James recalls.

I met him at the Nandy Music Festival in Dar es Salaam, all smiles, and we communicated through written words because I don’t sign.

“I cannot say it has been an easy journey but I love my life,” he says simply.

He can still hear low-frequency sound waves such as a dog bark, sound of heavy moving trucks, cars and music played in high volumes. He also loves music, he says it calms him in many ways especially when he is at work.

That being the case, he likes wearing earphones while working, he shares that the low-frequency music beats and rhythms keeps him calm and concentrated.

“Most of the time at work, I like wearing headphones that play music with high bass in the background because music has a calming effect on me that assists me to focus. There is a positive effect of music beats and rhythms that call for my concentration whenever I am at work,” he adds.

He always took pictures as a hobby growing up. He took pictures of anything and everything beautiful, be it nature or anything he admired.

It has been a bumpy ride but the value of his photography kept increasing alongside his knowledge about it.

He started off with his cellphone and later a Nikon D750 camera on credit from his mother which he paid back weekly. He later upgraded to a Nikon D3200.

“After I graduated, I was selected to go to the higher level at Moshi Technical School and in between I had to shift to Rev. Muhoro School for the deaf in Kenya where I sat my O Level. After I got the opportunity to join Deaf Cisco Academy, and attained my certificate in Information Technology Essential and then Webbs Institute for web designing courses,” he said.

While in Kenya, James had a short stint working for a law firm but with photography as a side hustle.

“Friends taught me all about photography, editing, lighting to retouch.”

With the world facing a global pandemic, James had to move back to Tanzania as he was laid off and there was no more photography as Kenya went into lockdown.

“But I kept learning more through YouTube and other platforms. In August, 2020, I took a bold move to return to Tanzania and started freelance photography, getting gigs here and there,” he said.