Lyra Aoko is a portraitist, commercial and lifestyle photographer based in Nairobi. She has a passion for content creation and a distinctive aesthetic that has been sought after for her photographic intelligence and creative direction.
1. Do people wonder why you shifted from singing to photography especially after winning a national competition (Samsung Ziki Stars)?
I have been asked this question a million times before and my response has always been that art is a calling you cannot ignore; and it exists in many forms.
God blessed me with various gifts and this is something I thank Him for every day. I love singing, dancing, painting and capturing images of beautiful people, things and experiences.
Photography seems to be a more prominent gift and it has definitely taken centre stage in my life because it is my career, my love and my favourite medium of expression at the moment. I do not believe in labels because creativity is ever evolving.
Music was one way I chose to communicate initially and although I do not sing as much as I used to, it is still a big part of my identity.
2. Do you think women are under-represented in photography? While at it, who do you look up to in it, whether male or female?
On the contrary, there are so many female photographers in the industry and this question always baffles me. With a little research, one will discover the wealth of beauty that exists through the female gaze. I look up to quite a number of photographers because there are so many talented people in the industry.
For example, I like Mert and Marcus, because they capture women in a very sexy yet tasteful way. Alexi Lubomirski, because he is a wonderful human being who strives to show all his subjects in their best light and Jamie Beck, an amazing photographer who shows her soul through her work.
Locally, I look up to Osborne Macharia and Jim Chuchu because of the global reach they have managed to attain by being super talented, always staying true to themselves and sharing the great African narrative in a unique and impactful way.
3. Would you say your photography is an extension or an expression of yourself?
My photography is an extension of myself in every way. A photograph is not only a pictorial report; it is also a psychological report as it represents the feelings and point of view of the intelligence behind the camera.
I love capturing souls. My photo shoots are not just about physical representations of my clients but an all-round view of the God-given beauty that exists within them. I see beauty everywhere and I try my best to capture it all to inspire everyone that views my images.
4. What do you think should be done regarding the punitive and sometimes unnecessary laws governing Kenya's photography industry, e.g. the prohibitive cost of drones, not being allowed to take pictures in the CBD, etc.?
We have sadly been raised in a society that shuns creativity and art and it reflects in the backward laws that prevent people from creating freely in their own home.
Kenya is beautiful, we have amazing weather, gorgeous landscapes, the friendliest smiles and people and we are extremely creative. Unfortunately, this country has very many painters, dancers and musicians working in environments that kill their light because they were once told that they would never make it or make money doing the things they love.
I am very optimistic of the change that is happening because we are slowly but surely becoming more open to creative entrepreneurship as a society.
It takes a generation to change a nation and we will hopefully see more positive changes in the coming years. I would urge my fellow artists to hold their ground and not to give up.
5. What art form or creative genre do you think you'll explore next? Still within photography, or something entirely different?
I took a pottery class that made me way more excited than I could have imagined! It made me realise just how we take such amazing skills for granted. I may consider that in the near future.
Like I said, creativity is ever evolving and there are so many things I can’t wait to try! Art enables us to find and lose ourselves at the same time.
Attend that art, dance or pottery class, go biking in a forest today. Every human is an artist, the purpose of life is to make beautiful art and create something every day.