Updated: Sep 13
Frederick Dharshie-Wissah: the photographer who gives soul to the essence of Nature.
His photographs are never constructed, never banal, never equal to themselves. His spirit of observation is able to give soul to what he freezes in a click. He depicts the relationship between Man and Nature with all its nuances without filters, stereotypes or clichés. Frederick Dharshie-Wissah is an acclaimed photographer and photojournalist native of Nairobi (Kenya) who develops topical environmental issues to see Africa through a different lens.
At some point in his youth he started thinking that he could be more impactful holding a camera than just posing for the fashion industry. There were two main topics that involved him emotionally: African women role and the precarious conditions of hygiene because of lack of water for human use. But the majestic natural beauty of his land, indissolubly linked to the indigenous human communities, is also the object of his attention. His intuition and human touch made him being acknowledged several times in his young career. Dharshie, in fact, empathizes with the characters who animate his pics whose storytelling often enriches those who look at them with new knowledge about culture, local traditions, problems to be solved and how to solve them.
During 2019 Climate Summit in New York, he was appointed as the Photographer of the Year by the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) that has been supporting since 1987 a large community of thousands of members and organizations from more than 89 countries committed in bettering water and environmental conditions for the collective well-being. ‘A young boy drinks dirty water in Kakamega, Kenya’, represented a child while drinking contaminated water. A severe risk for his health. The image contains all the drama through an apparently quiet and natural gesture, effectively creating empathy. Since then, Dharshie has attracted the attention of the main media including The Guardian, The Sun, Forbes, National Geographic-NatGeo and the New York Times. Photography has become his reason for living alongside the solidarity cause through his non-profit organization, ‘Souls of Charity Initiative’, aimed at keeping safe Kenyan communities via volunteers’ help.
In 2020 and 2021, he took part to the Technical Jury respectively in the first and second edition of the Environmental Photography Award by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, a unique international contest focused on the preservation of natural ecosystems and the not always peaceful bond between Human Beings and Nature.
He is currently being attending the LOOK Photo Biennial 2022: Climate, a multimedia photography exhibition held at the Open Eye Gallery (Liverpool, UK) from the 14th July until the 4th September 2022. ‘On The Ground’ by Darshie is part of an innovative intertwined project between Kitale (Kenya) and Liverpool with the aim to highlight the importance of trees in areas colonized by humans, bringing out food and water insecurity affecting local people who undertake to preserve a healthy ecosystem.
MONACŒCOART® had the chance to interview him exclusively to better understand his mission and inspiration.
MONACŒCOART®: Frederick Dharshie-Wissah, your photography depicts real life scenes of your homeland, Kenya, with spontaneity, realism and humanity, how did your passion for photography come out to become such a skilled professional?
Frederick Dharshie: I would say that I feel things in a major way. That is perhaps why the issues that have touched my life the most are also the ones that are the most frequently depicted in my photography. Having been raised in water scarcity agricultural communities by strong and resilient women, those themes are the ones that connect with my spirit most effortlessly. I also know first-hand that a picture is worth a thousand words and through my imagery I have the power to raise awareness around the many issues faced by the people and natural life—the plants and animals—of my country. It is in this way that I have the power to make a change.
MONACŒCOART®: Your motto is ‘I shoot to educate and inspire’, how would you define your photography? What makes the outcome (the final photo book) so worth for you?
Frederick Dharshie: I like shooting in a documentary style. I strive to depict truth— the pain and tiredness in that mother’s eyes after she has had to walk two miles to fetch water for her family, or the happiness in the face of that small farmer who has just harvested a bountiful crop and is looking forward to being able to feed the community and earn an income in the process. When I can capture what is in the hearts of my living subjects (human, animal and plant) and convey their feelings through their expressions, colours and natural surroundings, I am able to transfer that energy to my viewers… my audience… so that they may be educated and inspired for a change.
MONACŒCOART®: Kenya is among the Countries with the highest rate of biodiversity and the local communities have always been sharing the territory with an extraordinary fauna and flora, your photos report on this close connection, how do you feel showing the world your homeland? What teachings did you inherit from your ancestors in order to respect Nature?
Frederick Dharshie: In Kenya, we believe that change needs to be inspired and not forced. By sharing the exquisite beauty of my people and our surroundings, I show that there is really no disconnect between people, animals and nature and that if other people accept to be inspired by our interconnectedness this is the means not only to keep our ancestors hopes alive, but to drive positive change. I am so proud of my country, Kenya. Millions of tourists flock here each year from all over the world to witness the natural magic of these lands and for us, it is our backyard. It is our responsibility to keep it thriving.
MONACŒCOART®: How can you understand that ‘a scene of life’ which is taking place just under your eyes is a good starting point for a new photographic project? Is that something that happens by chance? Or do you make some plans in advance?
Frederick Dharshie: Good question. In some instances, I can be in the right place and the right time to uncover an issue or phenomenon that sparks my creative juices. Other times, I might read in the news about something that is happening and decide it is something I would like to cover and I begin to make plans. And of course, when I am commissioned to cover an issue or a theme by a government or an organization, I work very closely with my sponsor and engage in a great deal of planning beforehand.
MONACŒCOART®: What new topics would you like to cover in your next projects?
Frederick Dharshie: My most recent project, which was sponsored by a Swiss NGO, focused on the problem of malnutrition in Kenya and that topic is something that I would like to continue to pursue more on a global scale, to compare issues of food insecurity and how it impacts communities across different countries and regions. I am also interested in exploring the issue of drought and how this has impacted Kenya’s natural life and resulted in the deaths of so many animals in my country. ***
👥 ✒By Maurice Abbati
To know more about Frederick Dharshie-Wissah and his photography please visit: https://dharshie.com/