Passion for photography

Jacques Nkinzingabo
Jacques Nkinzingabo | Antonia Kambouris

Jacques Nkinzingabo shares his mindset and his passion he has for photography.This interview is a reflection on the connection between emotions, storytelling and photography. We will explore the importance of photography for society as well for individuals.

How would you define passion?
“You think, you feel you do, that’s how I define passion. When you think about something and you take your time until you have strong feelings for what you do, you are passionate about it. To have passion for something means not only to stick with what you do, but also develop your passion, you want it to grow bigger and you stay with it despite which challenges come along the way. That’s passion.“

When did your passion for photography develop?
“My passion developed when people started telling me how my images were so important to them. I felt like the work I was doing was so important to people so I wanted to develop it. So that was back in High School, that’s exactly when it started. My passion for photography started in High School when I was 15 years old. Now I am 27 years old so it’s been almost 13 years since I am passionate about photography. Since 2012 I decided to go fully into photography with no return. “

Why do you like to take pictures?
“That’s a good question. I would say there are so many reasons. When I started to take pictures the first reason was just to be able to contribute to the images of the country in progress I am living in, which is Rwanda. That was my first project until today it is ongoing, so what I do is documenting the daily life, the way we eat, the way we grow, the way we smell, everything that defines us and the space we live in and what Rwanda means to me. But the more I do photography and explore different issues the more passionate I become. During my time in Germany I was focusing on immigration, working with the refugees, trying to understand not only the journey but the expectations they had before coming to Europe. So everything, my work is inspired by what I am living with each day. It is so diverse. I could define it in different categories like culture diversity, migration in general, social issues  but mostly it is about the issues that matter to me as well not only to the society. Because the people around me and I am the society. “

How can you express emotions through photography?
“Emotions can be expressed in so many different ways. That’s where an open conversation starts for photographers because everything we do as photographers has an impact to our emotions. Most of the time we use these emotions to express our artistic side. I think this is what we do actually. I focused on different sensitive topics and they are so emotional to me because they have so many connections. For example the project I was exhibiting and working on mostly, care and cherish a lot is the project “I am a survivor”. With this project I wanted to express my emotions. The idea was to think about what would my father think of what I am doing, was I right or not because I never met him and he never raised me so by using my emotions and expressions I created this part of work. I invited other people who had the same issues to express their emotions.  Emotions like anger, fear, happiness, success and everything in the past to share it with me and to put it on the table and share it with the world. So I think this is exactly what we, photographers, do. We tell stories. “

How can you tell stories trough photography?
“It always depends on where you are, because I don’t take my camera everywhere. Even if I have my camera, I am not always taking pictures. There is always a reason for me to take a picture and that reason that triggers you to photograph or to tell a story is because you are concerned either in the best way or in a bad way that you want to raise awareness. I think there are so many ways to tell stories. I tell people stories and the hard question it comes down to, is how do I choose which story to tell of which person. Everyone has a story to tell but you can only discover the story behind the person when you speak to them. So our work is more like discovery, you discover people’s stories and if they take you around sometime you discover the best background you could ever imagine in your life and you end up taking the best picture of the year or whatever and you end up telling the story that couldn’t be told if you were not there in the first place. So that’s our work and it is hard to choose and it is hard to even say this is the best story to tell or the right story to tell. It always comes along with inspiration from other people, from your friends for example. If my friend was married from a young age and other friends tell me their difficulties I get to know their stories. In those moments I ask myself: What can I learn from them? Am I seeing them and their stories just as a photographer? How can I tell that story? How can I portray the story in the best way that this person is okay but at least share stories with the society so others can learn. So this is where stories come from. They come from everybody. Even in the club, when I am seeing someone and think ‘okay cool wow beautiful’ there can be a story. When you photograph that person and you start to get to know the person, you discover more. That’s the beautiful thing about photography, storytelling and being an artist.”

How is photography important to society?
“First photography keeps our memory, because we grow every day. The way I look today is not the way I am going to look tomorrow. Photography gives me the opportunity to see myself when I was a baby like only a few months old and how I am looking today is different.  So we grow. I like to see my grandpa when he was young. How is it possible when they are no images? So there are big impacts of photography on the social life. Not only the social life but on the political side as well. If I document Kigali today and in 50 years, it is not going to look the same. The food we used to eat 10 years ago, it’s different to today. The language we used to speak three years ago is different. So photography has so much impact to society because it keeps the memory, it plays a big role in our daily issues as reminders, as indicators. It helps us in many ways. That’s why I stand for it. Photography is more than taking images. It is also creating the narrative and creating that language which is between you and the society and the community. “

What is the center of photography about?
“The center of photography is not just only for photographers, it is visual storytelling. What we do is storytelling plus visuals and also visuals plus storytelling, it goes together. We don’t just display images. There is always a story and a why. There’s no way that there is no story behind an image. So the center of photography also changed. We have now a new space for the center of photography in Kimihurara and we give space to writers and storytellers because taking pictures and writing goes together, we need captions. We need to learn how to write the best stories. So it is not only about photography we have more in between. It is going to be a mix of everything so we call it Home for Dreamers. You dream, you come and you express your dreams. “
You shifted your center of photography to Kimihurara, why did you choose a new place?
“Firstly we want to go bigger and better, that was the idea and now it the hashtag #biggerandbetter. We want to grow and do more and bring more ideas. We found a new place which gives enough space for more ideas, for residencies. It is a new space which is open for everyone. A place to dream”

by Antonia Kambouris