Updated: Nov 27, 2021
If you’re familiar with my work, you’d know that my lens is obsessed with PEOPLE.
I love capturing people in their element, allowing their essence, emotion and settings to tell a story. My new photo-series INHABIT reflects a distinct change in my own storytelling.
Over the past three years, INHABIT was photographed across a variety of countries throughout East Africa. The entire collection captures singular homes set against African backdrops.
It started as one photo of a home, after another, after another - the collection cascading into life even before I knew it.
I trace this shift back to Praia Nova, a slum by the sea in Mozambique.
Cyclone Idai had just ravaged South-East Africa, and left many communities and villages like this completely devastated. I was there documenting the magnitude of the cyclone on human lives.
How are the people in the aftermath?
Will they be able to piece their lives back together?
Are they being afforded any help?
As I navigated the environment, I came across a home like many others in Praia Nova.
I stopped to look at it, and one minute became five.
There was so much information, hints, and clues about that home:
The palm trees around it - a brief glimpse into coastal life and geographical settings.
The sun beaming down on it - suggests a new beginning - ''The day after the storm.''
The contents of the home had been left on the rubble; a torn mattress, a pair of flip-flops and other personal belongings - Signs of pain and loss of control.
I stepped back, took in the unspoken story and snapped a centred photo of this home.
In that moment, I didn’t need a human subject to convey the strong emotion, the story.
This concept then developed into the defining aesthetic of the entire collection.
Months after that trip, I came across a photograph of a small hut I took long ago in Turkana region of Kenya - where canvas from bags used by the World Food Program to distribute food in the neighboring refugee camps are plastered on huts to protect against the harsh elements.
When I looked at the photographs next to each other, I could not ignore how similar they were in their approach and how different they are in their content. But it was more than that. More than just an architectural or cultural look, more than a structure, material, or geography.
Over the years I have learned that the camera does not just adjust itself.
My eyes point the camera at places that even I don't understand sometimes.
Having a moment to reflect on this idea, I realise that this could be a representative of my own struggle with home. A reflection of my deep desire to explore it as a concept.
I kept capturing different homes during my travels as a way to treat and review that term for myself, as someone who never truly feels at home anywhere, anymore.
Beside the therapeutic quest, the collection shed light on the impact that culture, local materials, climate conditions, and even political situations have on someone's home.
From poverty-stricken areas of Ethiopia, Rural Tanzania, Uganda, as well as in post-cyclone-Idai, Mozambique and Post civil war South Sudan... The collection kept growing and still is.
Now, stuck in the UK due to COVID, the concept of home has come full circle and continues to occupy my thoughts.
While we tend to conceptualize 'home' as our anchor,
isn't it, in fact, a mirror for all the changes in our lives, and our ability to deal with them?