‘Reinventing and Adapting Through Coronavirus’ by Kenyan Photographer, Gordwin Odhiambo, is a project that gives the viewers a glimpse of the shifts and changes that took place in Gordwin’s home city, Kibera, due to a global pandemic. COVID-19 was (and still is) a menace to society today, with many people unfortunately losing their jobs, sanity and even their lives to this virus. Despite the bleak and rather depressing nature of this topic, Gordwin chose to focus his lens on not only the turmoil and destruction that this disease has caused but the way it has led communities to come together, with local business’s restructuring and adapting to new ways of serving the public better.
“When the pandemic hit, I wasn’t sure if I would be outside much. I was taken in by a National Geographic Photographer to work as their assistant, which enabled me to see more of what was taking place on the field. AFP and Getty images would encourage me to always be on the lookout for activities that were taking place. I wanted to see how my community would handle the COVID-19 situation, I wanted to see how they would respond to the pressures that were taking place all over the world. This led me to photograph my surroundings within Nairobi and where I am based which is in Kibera” expressed Gordwin. Despite typical depictions of poverty and suffering which have been associated with Kibera through photography, Gordwin offers an alternative narrative, one that projects unity and a coming together of different individuals to help others get by during a difficult time such as COVID-19.
“One of the main challenges I faced was not knowing how I would handle myself whilst doing this project and also the selection process at the end. I really wanted to show the real story that was on ground. It was important to me that I showed images conveying communities that were trying to overcome. I thought that this would be a challenge, but when I started looking through my images I realised that I was happy with how everything had turned out. The communities that I photographed were responding well to the pandemic which is what I saw from my images” explained Gordwin. Images of people going about their daily lives whilst trying to adapt to the changes, showcase the realities that many individuals faced and are still facing in this current COVID climate. Whilst trying to have a grip on some sort of normality, people were forced to buckle up and carry the weight of other fellow citizens which is an act that can evidently be seen in Gordwin’s images.
“I try to photograph what I see, not what I think I should be photographing” stated Gordwin. Photographers photographing what they think they should be capturing has been and continues to be a hindrance to their personal growth and unfortunately continues to feed a rather misconceived narrative of countries within the African continent. Gordwin’s project ‘Reinventing and Adapting Through Coronavirus’ with all its honesty, has led him to be one of the winners of the 2020 ‘East African Photography Awards’, hosted by the ‘Uganda Press Photo Awards’.
Gordwin Odhiambo is a Kenyan Photographer whose work focuses on daily life and social issues within his community, He regularly wires of news agencies such as AFP and contributes to NatGeoYourShot. To view the rest of his project, click here.