#4Artistsin4Weeks: Brian Otieno

Kicking off week two of #4Artistsin4Weeks is talented photojournalist Brian Otieno (who we featured last year at Photoville NYC as a 2019 Emergi-Cube Artist!)


Below he discusses his long term personal project, Kibera Stories.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your project Kibera Stories?

I am Brian Otieno, a freelance photojournalist based here in Nairobi. I was born and raised in Kibera which is a slum settlement located in Nairobi, Kenya. This is also the neighborhood that inspired my longterm personal photo project called, Kibera Stories, to share stories and raise awareness about the different aspects of daily life in the community as someone who was born and raised there.

Q: Kibera Stories has a vast collection of portraits, how do you go about finding residents that want to share their stories on camera?

As a photographer, I always walk around the community with my camera on my shoulder. I come across so many interesting people, some with unique personalities. I never want to miss the story. I don’t want to miss this moment. And, whenever I approach them, I explain my project, and they are always receptive to share their stories with me. Also, a lot of people recognize me and are familiar with the project and call me to feature their stories.

Q: What has been your biggest challenge in making this body of work?

While Kibera has several stories to be told, my biggest challenge has been to focus on one single story. There’s always something happening and I am a person who wants to document everything as it happens and that’s why the project is called Kibera Stories to represent a collective of stories that make up the place.

Q: If someone is just being introduced to your project what is one image you think would sum up Kibera Stories?

This is hard to choose but in some way, the image of Elsie – the ballerina sums up the entire project. Here we see a young girl determined to rise as a professional ballerina training along the busy street near where she lives. When I look at that image, it represents the dreams and ambitions of the children in Kibera whose environment doesn’t determine who they’ll be. They always want to make it through.

Follow Brian Otieno and this body of work @kiberastories.