Tanzanian photographer uses social media to break away from the conservative country

When art must conform to the law of the land, some artists find acceptance on social media.

Tanzanian artists are not known for risk taking. Like many other countries across the globe, the East African nation still holds tight to many of its conservative beliefs, making self-expression a bit like walking a tightrope. For commercial photographer Osse Greca Sinare, playing it safe became a necessary evil, but he soon found the loophole that most Millennials turn to – social media. Now his Instagram page and Youtube Vlogs are more than just free advertising. He uses digital tools to build communities across borders, share the tricks of his trade and let budding creatives into the daily life of a working photographer.

“The creative in Tanzania has to be very different,” he explains. “Your target market is either expatriates or Tanzanians who have been abroad, who can understand what this picture can make you feel.”

Photography by Osse Greca Sinare

A real appreciation for the craft is hard to come by in Tanzania, adds Sinare. He spent his high school years in Swaziland and then pursued a tertiary degree in Business Computing in Malaysia before finding graphic design and photography.

“The hard part is people not really understanding what we’re doing and people not really respecting it as if I were a doctor or a lawyer,” he says.“I had to wear suits to go to meetings with corporate clients because that’s the only way they’d respect that I’m a professional. After two years of building the reputation, now I can go in with a t-shirt because they’ve already seen the work we create.”

His behind the scenes videos, Instagram pictures of the finished product, and tutorial vlogs all work together to build a level of understanding among his viewers. Budding photographers get 5-minute lessons in shoot design, lighting and technique, while clients are able to see the actual labour that goes into creating something beautiful.

“They see that you had to have a team or a makeup artist, a stylist – all these elements that make one photo. Social media allows me to show the process,” he adds.

OGS Studios, a commercial photography studio he established in Dar es Salaam, has completed projects for Tanzanian hip-hop artists Mwana FA, Vanessa Mdee, and Tanzanian fashion designer Ally Rehmtullah. But it’s time to evolve, says Sinare, who recently also set up a number of projects in Cape Town.

“Just coming here has changed my vision for what I want the studio to be. Travelling helps with refining what your vision is. When you’re in one place it becomes blurry.”

Now, instead of a studio that reacts to a client’s needs, he hopes to move into a space that’s more conceptual and open to collaboration. “I want to move more into a space where the studio runs itself. I want to create a space where everything is available, like workspaces that bring the community together.”

“Now I feel like I’m cheating, you know? Because sometimes I get paid and I’m like, ‘this isn’t work, this is fun’.”

Photography by Osse Greca Sinare

Photography by Osse Greca Sinare and OGS Studios

Photography by Osse Greca Sinare

Photography by Osse Greca Sinare and OGS Studios