Sunday Best depicts a person’s finest clothing worn on special occasions. In this case, Sunday and often church. In Kenya, Sunday elegance is ubiquitous. On beginning the project, I fatefully walked into Kibera‘s oldest photo studio just days before it closed forever. Weekend Studio opened in 1980, in a large informal settlement in Nairobi called Kibera. The photographer, David (above portrait), who leased the studio for 37 years, told me that due to phone cameras few people wanted studio portraits and clients nowadays requested only for passport photos. He stressed his need to retire and return home to family. I couldn’t persuade him to stay and became troubled by the studios imminent closure. One week later I decided to take over the hire of the studio myself. This would keep it open and it was the perfect venue to shoot my Sunday Bests.
I’ve now photographed for 7 Sundays in a row at Weekend Studio and the portrait I took of David on his last ever Sunday before he left, hangs in Weekend Studio.
“My favorite possession is my doll and everything my sister admires is mine.”
8 year old Joy talks about her sister Meyer who’s 3. The children walked into the studio on their way to Sunday church.
Margaret is my landlady. She was born in Kibera and sells fish outside the studio on weekdays. When I asked her about her Sunday dress she said “I took off my shoes to be closer to God” and then added “I choose to wear this on Sundays to be similar to Sister Maria.”
David the old photographer told me that women want to have a portrait and men don’t. He was right. Out of hundreds of portraits I’ve shot in this studio, the vast majority are women.
….but every so often, I get a man and it’s gold. This is my neighbor and his little girl who was dressed intentionally for this portrait. Their mum/wife has a small vegetable store next to Weekend Studio and I tried to get her to come in for a portrait too. Instead she volunteered her family (pictured) and continued business. I get it though, Sunday is a good business day and some people just don’t want a picture. Why should they?
I’m still waiting for this lady to come and pick up her portrait. It hangs at Weekend Studio until she does. For a few Sundays I’ve seen her walk hurriedly past to church. She is dressed differently but insistently elegant. Every person who sits for a portrait gets a print to take home. The ‘best’ of Sunday Best, I get framed at Wafula’s Studio across the street from mine and when people come to collect their image, I record their story. I can’t wait to hear her story – this stylish lady in blue with shiny red shoes.
Behind the Scenes
My Weekend crew out side the studio. Right to left Peter, Evelyn, myself and a stranger who photobombed our shot..!
I rent out different back drops from other photo studios in Kibera each week to create variation at Weekend Studio and to give the other studios business. Although this mural is painted on the wall of Weekend Studio.
Above David waits for clients on his last Sunday before he left and a polaroid I took for him on the same day.
- Silver Winner – Paris Photo Prize – Fine Art / People – 2019
- Bronze Winner – Paris Photo Prize – Portraiture / Culture -2019
- Bronze Winner – Paris Photo Prize – Portraiture / Other -2019
- 1st Prize – National Geographic Photo Contest – People category – 2018
- Winner – LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards – 2018
- Event Photographer of the Year – International Photography Awards – 2018
- 1st Place – International Photography Awards – Event, Tradition and Cultures – 2018
- Gold Winner – Tokyo International Foto Awards – Event, Tradition and Cultures – 2018
- 2nd Prize – Events, Category Winner – Tokyo International Foto Awards – 2018
- Winner – LifeFramer – Open Call – 2018
- Winner – The Printswap Dec – 2018
- International Photography Awards – Best of Show, House of Lucie, Los Angeles 2019 Group Exhibition
- Tokyo International Foto Awards – Shibuya Cultural Center Owada, Tokyo 2019 Group Exhibition
- International Photography Awards – Best of Show, Shibuya Cultural Center Owada,Tokyo 2019 Group Exhibition
- LensCulture Emerging Talent 2018, Klompching Gallery, Brooklyn, New York 2018 Group Exhibition
- International Photography Awards – Best of Show, Splashlight Studios, New York 2018 Group Exhibition
- The Printswap, Root Studios, Brooklyn, New York – 2018 Group Exhibition
- International Photography Awards – Best of Show, House of Lucie, Bangkok 2018 Group Exhibition