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Zooming into the life of a freelance photographer

By Soni Kanake | Published Thu, August 10th 2017 at 00:00, Updated August 9th 2017 at 22:23 GMT +3
Mercy Nguyo of Learcy Photography (Photo courtesy, Thomas Mwangi)

Mercy Nguyo has a personality bigger than life. And going by the stories of her life in primary and high schools, she has always been boisterous. Nothing dims her enthusiasm, not even the narration of her transition from employment to self-employment.

“I have learned to respect my money,” she says. “I was used to swiping.”

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Gifted with an artistic mind, Mercy studied graphic design at Technical University. The course entailed modules in fine art, photography and advertising. After college, she got an internship.

“I loved advertising, so I was glad when I got an internship with an advertising agency,” she says.

Mercy brought her enthusiasm to the job, giving it her all. So when her manager one day told her the boss had said she shouldn’t report to work the following day, she was shocked. She hadn’t seen it coming.

“It was weird because I had just received a promotion after developing an outstanding concept. They had even increased my little salary,” she says.

When she went to find out where, exactly, she had erred, she was rather crudely propositioned, so she quickly walked away from the firm.

Mercy got part-time work for a while after this, but eventually, “Nairobi was too crazy for me and I wanted out”.

To escape from city life, she got a job in Kitale with a community-based organisation, and part of her duties was photography. When the project she was hired for ended, she was came back to Nairobi, where she worked for a few advertising agencies. Though she shelved it, Mercy’s passion for photography had not waned. So when a friend offered her a professional camera, a Canon 7D, for a day, she jumped at the opportunity.

“By the end of the day, I had renewed my commitment to photography. I’ll never forget that feeling,” she says.

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Mercy Nguyo during a photoshoot at Ngong Forest (Photo courtesy,Shira Sozo)

The miracle

Professional cameras and lenses are quite pricey, but Mercy knew she had to invest in one.

“I couldn’t imagine spending my salary on such expensive gadgets. I remember asking God for a miracle.”

And he delivered. A few weeks after she committed to taking photography seriously, some visitors walked into her office. Coincidentally, that day she was dressed to the nines and her make-up was flawless.

“They asked me if I would like to be in an advertisement. I said yes, and ended up being on billboards and print media advertising for a leading international bank,” she says.

With part of the cash she got from the advert, she bought her first professional camera. At around the same time, she met Emmanuel Jambo, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s official photographer, at a friend’s party. He invited her to his studio for advice on cameras and lenses.

Emmanuel became her mentor and would tag her along to wedding and fashion shoots, and to his studio. “ I was excited to be learning from the crème de la crème of the industry.”

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Eventually, the day came when she knew she had to quit her job to focus on her dreams.

“Growth doesn’t come easy, but passion overrides all your worries,” she says.

She used her savings to set up a business, Learcy Photography that would merge graphic design and photography.

“The photography aspect mainly comprises portraiture, events coverage, and product and wedding photography. In graphic design, I brand new SMEs and rebrand existing companies, giving them a fresh look. I design their logos, business cards, stationery and advertising concepts,” Mercy says.

(Photo courtesy, Ness Pixels)

My lessons from self-employment

  1. Faith in God: The transition from a monthly paycheque to an uncertain space opened up my eyes to God’s providence.
  2. Patience: Initially, it was challenging and I kept wondering if I’d done the right thing. Learn to be patient. Do not let anything discourage you from pursuing what you believe in. When there are no clients, work on your skills and keep planning. Opportunity comes to the prepared.
  3. Responsibility: I’m now in charge of my own company; its success depends on how responsibly I carry out all the tasks.
  4. Strike a healthy balance: Balance between work and play to avoid burning out.
  5. Make your mark: Use your talents well and God will bring the right people or clients your way.
  6. Follow your dreams: You have to be confident enough in your God-given skills to trust that it will work out, then you will be brave enough to pursue your dreams. But seek direction because entrepreneurship is not for everyone.

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