Home Human Impact A Chat With Allan Gichigi – The Photographer Behind The 2023 Safaricom Calendar

A Chat With Allan Gichigi – The Photographer Behind The 2023 Safaricom Calendar

by Femme Staff

The 2023 Safaricom calendar is here with us, this time featuring a collection of places where our ancestors went to seek peace, harmony, conflict resolution and intervention from their deities. Over the years, the calendar has been well known for showcasing the best of Kenya and this time, Safaricom has gone with the same theme, but with an interesting twist towards heritage sites and traditional spirituality.

Dubbed Places of Hope, this is a very timely theme, seeing how rough the last three years have been on us. What with Covid 19, its aftershocks, an unsettled political scene and volatile global politics. 2023 looks like a clean slate so far and ours for the taking. In the spirit of Tuinuane, Safaricom is here to join us as we hopefully step into a more relaxed and productive year.

Behind the Safaricom calendars which always stand out, there is usually a team of photographers whose work we have seen through the years with Capture Kenya, Unexpected Kenya and This is my Kenya. I got to catch up with one Allan Gichigi who has been part of this journey since 2014 and got the story from behind the lens. I was excited to talk to Allan because he’s the man responsible for my all-time favourite image in the calendar series – that of a fisherman casting his net into Lake Victoria. This image won him a Sony World Photography Award in 2014.

Here is the story of the 2023 Safaricom calendar from the eyes of Allan and his team which also included Paul Mwangi as Art Director and the larger team at Tessera Communications for support and postproduction.

It all started with different ideas which are weighed and eliminated for various reasons until the team settled on Places of Hope. Each image has a lot behind it and in the space of about two months to photography, the art team led by Paul Mwangi did a lot of research and got the necessary approvals and partnerships for the smooth running of the project. This involved local authorities, community leaders and Museums of Kenya.

It was only after all the groundwork was clear that Allan hit the ground to traverse the country with his cameras. Being on ground documenting places of serenity and peace was a personal journey for him and his team before it became the great photography that we are witnessing in the calendar. They have gone to places they have never been to and learned a lot from the communities around these sacred sites. In all this, the team learned to cement the spirit of teamwork.

As is expected, a project of this magnitude came with its fair share of challenges, one of them being nature just being nature. Photography is all about lighting and on any given day, they were working with a different set of technicalities depending on what nature dictated. According to Allan, the only thing to do is to accept that there is no control, immerse yourself in nature and get what you’ll get. He took photos mostly early in the morning or in the late evenings to take advantage of windows of agreeable lighting.

At Mt. Ololokwe for instance, the mountain kept hiding under clouds and the team kept driving around for hours to get a good position for the perfect picture. In the end, they took the photo with a bit of clouds included and these added a sense of spiritual mystique which is what made it make the cut into the calendar.

Weather also came into play in some areas. When they were shooting The Foot of God in Kwale, it was dark and the rains were threatening. Quite the set of challenges since they had to have optimal lighting for a good photo and still protect equipment from the drizzles. It took a whole team, some holding additional lights and some shielding the subject and the camera with shukas.

At Mt. Ellis they were faced with a very cold area and thin air due to the high altitude, so much so that by the time they got to position they were getting out of breath. But they took all these in stride and delivered this postcard perfect photo.

These challenges did nothing to dampen their spirits and sense of adventure. If anything, they heightened their sense determination to deliver spectacular images and this they did. They are extremely proud to see their work come to life.

This calendar is rich with culture and history. On every page, there is a QR code which can be scanned to lead to a microsite with detail of the site where the picture was taken. You can download each picture as a wallpaper for desktop, tablet or mobile phone, or download the entire calendar as a PDF.

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