Meet the self-taught creative

Thursday September 14 2017

Ian Kiplimo, 20, is a photographer. PHOTO| IAN

Ian Kiplimo, 20, is a photographer. PHOTO| IAN KIPLIMO 

By JAMES KAHONGEH
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Ian is the hand behind iymo Photography, a company that specialises in fashion and fine art photography, a unique combination. He also dabbles in photojournalism, and has photographed President Uhuru Kenyatta, Former President Moi as well as international models and entertainers in Kenya and abroad.

Last year, he did some work for Nigerian company, Dinastia Co, and participated in the notable Gold Dust Project, to name a few. Ian’s work is featured on the trail blazing, Onesha.co.ke, an online portal where photographers and artists showcase their work.

YOUTUBE STUDENT

His work has also been featured in Model Citizen, a photography magazine based in Europe. This exposure has garnered him quite a following on social media, including, Facebook and Instagram, where goes by the name, iymo_photography and enabled him to turn his passion into a profitable business.

He has participated in numerous projects, some his own creation, others in collaboration with other artists. He considers, the Zoezi project, Dark Romance, Gold Dust and Suicide Squad, some of his best.

One of the photos by Ian Kiplimo. PHOTO| IAN

One of the photos by Ian Kiplimo. PHOTO| IAN KIPLIMO

Considering that he is a self-taught photographer, Kiplimo’s work is quite good; what he knows about the craft he has learnt on Youtube.

He started by photographing friends free of charge, now, his portfolio is filled cover to cover, with amazing photos he took in natural light, in and out of doors and some that he did with artificial lighting on location and at home. A number of hotel and entertainment joints in Nairobi and Eldoret, his home town, display his work.

His foray into photography, Ian says, was purely coincidental.

“In 2015, I had just completed high school, my mother brought home a Nikon-310 camera. I began taking photos with it, of nature, birds and anything I could find.”

When he showed his mother the photos, she was impressed, and encouraged him to photograph people. “She financed my work at the beginning and has been my strongest supporter - she taught me the value of hard work, and I owe my accomplishments to her,” he says.

Like many beginners, Ian has made many mistakes. He once sold a photo for a mear Sh100, a decision he regrets to this day. Another photo he took of his girlfriend and a friend in a home gym caught the attention of a buyer, who bought it for Sh2, 500.

The picture, which now hangs in an Eldoret hotel, opened his eyes to the great quality of work he was capable of doing.

Ian had hoped to study visual arts and photography to buttress what he had already learnt by himself, but without money to join university, he took a job at a city studio to try and raise the money needed, but that turned out to be another mistake in his career journey.

“I was put to work taking studio stills. The owner, an elderly man, did not care much about creativity and style; he was so set in his ways, that studio props remained in the same spot for the entire period I worked there; that was the most frustrating three months of my working life.”

‘MONEY IS NOT EVERYTHING’

By the time he left, he was owed a lot of money in back pay, so he took home a light in lieu of pay. The light became his first tool in the arsenal of equipment he would later acquire for his own enterprise.

Though he had to start over, he learnt a great lesson: “Money is not everything. Cultivate your passion with diligence and money will find you, however long it takes.”

Ian Kiplimo is the founder of iymo Photography.

Ian Kiplimo is the founder of iymo Photography. PHOTO| IAN KIPLIMO

Sure enough, when he turned his full attention to his business, it began to thrive. He got work shooting family portraits, models, weddings and everything else in between. To grow his customer base, he has embraced an ingenious marketing campaign where, together with other photographers, he organises public photo shoots. Most recent was a shoot at the Railway Museum, where visitors paid Sh2, 000 to access the venue and get their photos taken. For that fee, one got a maximum of 30 photos. During these events, they also earn from vendors, who pay to sell their products on site.

These gigs, Ian says, pay well, and have helped to greatly promote his brand. Like every business person, he has encountered his fair share of challenges. His toughest one happened recently: he lost all his equipment and laptop to muggers.

“I was on my way home from a shoot in town late at night in the company of fellow photographers when a band of street boys accosted us. They robbed me of my professional camera, lights, laptop and bag,” he recounts.
It was a big blow because he had painstakingly saved to buy the expensive kit. At the moment, he borrows or hires equipment from friends in the business.

LESSONS LEARNT

Experience has also taught him important lessons about copyright and intellectual property. One of these lessons is never to surrender his copyright to creative works without adequate compensation.

He recalls how, when working at another studio, he was ordered to stop using his brand name even though the creative ideas were his, yet the compensation was far from adequate.

He has also had the misfortune of selling “priceless” photos for a measly amount because, like many young artists, he felt he desperately needed the money. He has learnt his lesson, however, and now copyrights all his work. His advice to upcoming artists is to never sell themselves short.

“Know your worth, name your price and then dig your heels in because as surely as the sun rises, a client ready to pay your price will come along.”

Now that he is certain of his career goal, Ian has applied, and been accepted at the prestigious.

BTK University of Art and Design in Germany. To get into his dream school however, he will need to raise no less than Sh5 million for fees alone.

Besides this, he also needs to raise air fare and foot his living expenses for the four-year duration of the training, which starts next year.

Ian, the firstborn in a family of four, aims to become a movie director in future, and in five years’ time, hopes to have set up a big studio here “from where I will direct great movies.”

Even as he works hard to raise money to go to college, Ian makes time to teach what he knows to those that admire his work.

He offers one-on-one lessons on request for Sh1, 000 an hour. He also invites budding photographers who would like to learn from watching him work accompany him on some shoots. This he does at no cost. His work, he says is inspired by art and motivated by creativity.