Abdikadir kulatein loves taking pictures. It makes him explore an endless world of connectivity. AfyaSmile Kenya caught up with him to highlight his journey of photography.
As a professional photographer, his job demands a third eye that enables him to capture the decisive, often elusive moments.The 27-year-old Garissa resident believes in the power of the lens. Going by an earlier childhood dream, he could have been a mobile technician, but fate landed him in the field of photography.
The second-born of a family of 6, once worked as a mobile phone repairer after learning the skill from a friend.
For a young man who never managed to get a post-secondary education, Kulatein’s journey to professional photography has been anything but rosy.
“I worked as a mobile phone repairer which a friend taught me and I kept moving on,” Kulatein narrates in retrospect.
The journey to photography
The journey to photography began when he purchased a high-quality camera phone – Nokia Lumia 920. As they say, necessity is the mother of all inventions.
The desire to pursue photography at a professional level kicked off after he realized that his colleagues and friends were amazed at the pictures he was taking with his smartphone.
Kulatein’s photos had a certain Midas touch that inspired him to put more practice in his new hobby.
“I started taking pictures of insects, clouds and fortunately when I shared them with friends, they always got excited.
At one point I could change phones regularly try to get one with a good camera,” he recalls.
Where there is a will, there surely is a way. This adage proved faithful to this photographer because when he could not afford attending formal training on handling the camera, he improvised with what was available to him.
He started taking online lessons from YouTube and other internet platforms, a trick that has finally paid off.
Mohamed Ali Hussein, a public servant at the county government of Garissa, is one of the people who has worked with Kulatein and he gives a glowing opinion on the Garissa photographer.
“His personality markets him, and that gives him an upper hand against all photographers working in Garissa. His style and skill in photography stand tall when compared to what his competitors have to offer.
He guides customers on what kind of dress suits events and sends thank you note,” Hussein intimated in an interview with this writer.
“I began taking free online lessons on YouTube about DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera) cameras and how to use them to get quality pictures. I put a lot of effort, and at some point, a cousin of mine sent some cameras for me to sell, that was when I got the golden opportunity to practice with advanced cameras,” Kulatein says, his face beaming with excitement.
Through feedback from friends and other colleagues, his skill with the camera improved as he kept on learning new techniques.
“Practicing all day and night, searching videos online, observing great photographers, I learned the different types of photography without setting foot in a classroom” he states.
Creativity is a virtue in photography and has helped set him apart from the crowd. Considering Kulatein’s geographical background, earning through the camera is an idea less perceived.
He says photography is a good source of living and one can be employed by organizations or by the government.
He adds, “You can be hired by an organization or the government. Or you can walk the path of self-employment by starting a business such as shooting in weddings and other events to get your daily bread.”
A fashion designer, Abdulqani Ahmed met Kulatein online after the latter posted samples of his work on the popular platform. Another job was on the offer and as Ahmed explains, the results were satisfactory.
“First, I saw several projects Kulatein did and I was like, this guy is a genius. I personally approached him for my own project we did and the outcome was absolutely awesome”.
Ahmed adds that he was so pleased with Kulatein’s work that he showed it to his boss.
“Thanks to his good work, my own boss was very happy and told me to arrange a session with the photographer. With Kulatein am telling you professionalism has a place, he is determined, focused and indeed punctual when it comes to executing the project. He knows how to create a masterpiece”, Ahmed sums up his view on Kulatein.
Moments of gain
With his camera ever-strapped on his shoulders, covering an event organized by the county government of Garissa, dubbed ‘Health Summit’ and another event – graduation ceremony of tailors, will forever stick in his mind. No pain without gain, opportunity knocked his door and officially he was added to the County government’s payslip! The beauty of talent is that no boundary or limit can stop it.
“I took part in two major events organized by the county government of Garissa under the leadership of Governor Nathif Jama Adam. One was the health summit and the graduation ceremony of tailors. As they say, seeing is believing. My final product wowed people and I was employed by the County government” Kulatein reveals.
Halima Hassan, a student of the University of Nairobi’s main campus, strongly believes Kulatein is the best photographer in the region who never disappoints.
“He is the best photographer in North Eastern Kenya, who serves people with kindness and respect”. She adds, “He is very responsible and his service will never disappoint you”.
To keep the mantle burning, one must step on the ladder of success through the pains of struggle.
Running after subjects to have perfect shots and getting the correct lighting, he says, is the major challenge that comes with his trade.
“One of the challenges I get is that sometimes you have to move swiftly to capture a photo. When covering events in the middle of the crowd, the camera is always at risk”.
Taking a deep breath from the thoughts, he adds, “Other times there is not enough light, and it becomes a big blow to me. I use my personal tricks to come out of such situation”.
Message to other talented youths
Having walked through such a rough path, he believes in the power of struggle and real hard work to reach his destination. He says seeking help and taking personal initiative is the way to succeed in all levels of life.
“Never give up, instead keep practicing. Get support from experienced photographers. It can be in the form of training to keep abreast with changes in the profession. Photography is a journey that never ends and the path is too wide, it is you and your camera to explore the world until you reach your destination”.