Osborne Macharia on how storytelling can change perceptions

The Kenyan photographer touches on the power of narrative photography with his series “Melanin-0”.

Kenyan photographer Osborne Macharia has an ability to bring stories to life from behind his camera lens. In his work, be it commercial or personal, he has a knack for animating his characters so that they always seem to be jumping out at you with something to say. His narrative style of photography is not only entertaining but it also makes for a powerful platform to convey an important message on topics like gender abuse, ivory poaching and victims of war-torn regions in Africa.

One of his most recent photographic series, Melanin-0 takes a look at issues of identity and stigmatization surrounding albinism. True to his style, Macharia brings the topic to the fore by zooming in on individuals with albinism and telling their stories.

He created the series for an exhibition at ProKraft Africa’s studio, Space Gravity in Nairobi. The exhibition, titled “Black” called upon five artists to create a project based on their interpretation of the theme. Macharia disclosed that his photographic narrative deals with identity crisis – an important and recurring element in his work.

In Melanin-0, Macharia wanted the viewer to see beyond the skin by highlighting the ambitions and dreams of the individuals with albinism. He believes that people with albinism are often seen as victims of stigmatisation and this is not always the case. His photographs capture the sense of pride inherent in each individual while the question of social identity lurks in the background.

Macharia believes that the stigma of albinism in Kenya is starting to diminish now that people with albinism are taking up government responsibilities and an increasing number of platforms are creating social awareness campaigns around the issue.

The arresting photographs in Melanin-0 certainly reveal a different angle on the subject of albinism. When we asked Macharia if he thought storytelling could change mindsets, this is what he had to say:

“Oh yes, it does. It’s a matter of how we tell the story. I think it has to be in a way that’s captivating, intriguing, fresh and different. As artists, we know our audience best and the best way to communicate with them. If we did this more often, which is something that’s already taking place, then the results will be rewarding.”

Watch the Talk with Sunu Gonera