Shutters and Flashes.


The sun was welcome and missed when it rose in Obalwanda Village, Homa Bay County that June morning as evidenced by the reception it got. Old men sat outside with cups of nyuka in their hands. The wives brought out bowls of sweet potatoes for their men to eat then hung around for small talk before embarking on their other chores. The children, too young to have started school, played in the fields. Occasionally they disturbed the chicken sprawled up in the sand. The mother hen chased the children away, stepping on her chicks in the process. The children took off to safety behind the huts. The chicken went back to fluffing their wings in the sand as they enjoyed the rather rare sunshine. In appreciation of the welcome, the sun would shine on softly like a huge warm smile. At first the rays hit the body without heating it but after a while the rays become hotter. Soon the compounds cleared of people, the women accompanied by the young children headed out to the sorghum and beans fields. The goats followed them closely, taking turns at biting off the heads of the freshly planted vegetables along the path. At home, the fires in the kitchens died after they consumed the last bit of wood but left a blue lazy haze floating in the outside atmosphere. The men continued sitting in the sun long after the family had left. They dreamt, they planned and sometimes when things are tight, they prayed silent prayers to the god of the rising sun. In the last decade, the men had been forced to work alongside the women to make ends meet. Something had happened in Nairobi, a disruption, whose effect spread out to all parts of the country. The prices of commodities went up, sugar and rice factories that employed their sons and daughters closed down, the lake filled with filth and the fish left. Even the educated sons were reduced to fishermen and sand harvesters. The men could no longer sit and dream. Time to act had come.

The men continued sitting in the sun long after the family had left. They dreamt, they planned and sometimes when things are tight, they prayed silent prayers to the god of the rising sun.

Mzee Nyamuni was getting ready for a board meeting at the local secondary school when the phone rang. Being a medical laboratory practitioner and businessman, Mzee Nyamuni hoped to give back by supporting education in the village and that led him to signing up as a board member of the school.

“Baba en an,” the voice on the other end said nonchalantly. Father it’s me.

“Idhi nade wuod?” How are you son?

It was Bowin, the son, calling from Nairobi. Bowin rarely called home especially directly to the father. Each time he did, he used his mother’s phone and like a needless detour the mother would say.

“Baba yako iko hapa wewe itaongea na yeye?” Your father is here. Will you talk with him?

Mzee had every reason to be surprised. Bowin had recently graduated from the Technical University of Kenya with any other degree apart from Engineering or Medicine which summed up to a disappointment. They had had a fight five years earlier about the choices the younger man was making. He had preferred pursuing graphics design to giving a second shot at KCSE. A second shot would have created a chance to enroll for civil engineering or something concrete at the university but Bowin was adamant.

“Listen to me Owino. You are still young and it is good for you to listen to us even if we are old. Graphics is a course that the Kenyan Market is not ready for, it needs more than good grades. Good grades in engineering speak volumes. The reputation goes before you. Look at your uncle and the progress he has made.” Mzee Nyamuni vouched.

“Baba, you have spoken. Look at what they did to Pan Paper engineers, to KCC technicians and to Kenya Railways. All those engineers are struggling to make ends meet or started fresh things all together. Look at the doctors’ strike over payments. Everything is a gamble at the moment.” The younger man had a point. Mzee Nyamuni liked his son though he would never admit to it. Bowin had a cheeky glitter in is eye that reminded his father of a younger him. Though his eyes were clouded by unshed tears as he said the words, the glitter still shone. Bowin was born a winner and went through childhood with such a gusto that people thought he would blow up. He rode a bike with boys five years older than him. He fell and grazed his knees but he still tried. Then one afternoon he rode all the way from home to a poor fallen bundle about a kilometer away from home. He came back bleeding and roughed up but with a blazing glitter in his eyes.

“Mother, I managed to ride today without falling off!” he cried out when he reached the compound.

“Did you? It doesn’t look so,” the mother was amused.

“Yes. I only fell off at the river.”

“That is great son. But then we’ll have to salt your wounds and save up for a new bicycle because this one is unrepairable!” Mzee Nyamuni cooed from his perch on the seat under the tree.

Bowin went on to study graphics design where he found his true love. Photography. He describes his lenses as you would describe a lover. When other photographers say it is a hobby or a side gig, Bowin calls it a career.

“Photography combines my talents, my passions and meaningful opportunities into one fusion. My definition of a career,” he explains why he opted to do photography fulltime,” it also allows me to meet diverse people and help them tell a story. Photos are honest and help us recall events as they were- not biased by present opinions or stale with age.”

I met Bowin when I enrolled as a field hockey goalkeeper for my university. He was one of the captains of the team: regular at training in Railways Training Institute, a sweeper during KUSA games in Kenyatta University and during League games at City Park Stadium. He played good hockey and even when we were losing he would urge us on with a glitter in the eyes. Bowin was also the witty kind-maybe the reason why we connected easily. He would ask if the Railway Training Institute has a ‘training’ because the students study about trains or because we do our hockey trainings there.

“Sincerely, have you met somebody and he tells you that he studied as a train captain at RTI but because trains are rare in this country, they decided to drive buses.” He asked one day as we were barred entry to the hockey field.

He also hinted severally that the old train coaches at Nairobi Station would be an ideal spot for photography and music videos and years later we have Sauti Sol’s Short and Sweet hit song. He-Bowin not Bien, was a genius at spotting awe-inspiring moments and views. He would capture an eagle with wings spread out full span. He took motion photos of a hockey game in action. At weddings and such events he captured the guests and the love in the air. Outdoors he captured the panorama and the ambience. The boy from Homa Bay had become a man, he had earned a title and a trade. He became the household name in campus, he did photo shoots in school and at the arboretum. He invented garage and car wash photography. His calendar filled up quickly, one day he was working with a modelling agency the next one he was invited to a crazy rendezvous at the park. The shutter clicked, the flashes came and went. It was a season-a bountiful one. Then came in the hard times, every boy in town was a photographer and every girl a model. A true test of what he was made of. Growing up had been troublesome for him but grown up is hell. There is no room for mistakes.

Bowin has seen a huge chunk of a troublesome life. Most catastrophic events in a person’s life are included in the list. Top of the list will not be losing somebody, but the sum of all lost when he was chasing a dream. Passionately and consistently he has fought to prove a point but maybe all through he had been fighting a needless war. Then the real battlefield was drawn out for him. And it was then that he needed to call home and talk with his father.


“Son, when you told me that you have settled in campus and that you actually loved what you chose to pursue, I made peace with myself. You were always different. The one to challenge conformance. Passion has never been your area of lack but now it’s time to improve not prove. You may not be doing well now but if you so desire to prosper in this field, this is the time to give the master kick. In astronomy they say that to get to a zone of calmness, you go through excessive turbulence. I think you are following the correct trajectory.”

“Ero Kamano. How’s home? And the business?” Bowin asked.

“Home is home. Business is slow. I am an old man now with little energy and ideas. But you and your brother have grown well and I am counting on you someday to take up after I am gone.”

The little mountains of Gembe Marahuma were starting to cover up in clouds, lulling to sleep after basking in the sun. The sun had travelled to almost overhead. The cattle were lowing in a distance as they chewed cud. The rainy season was good for them all.

Bowin Fotoz was birthed. Brian insists of the ‘f’ for photos.  A photography firm with a tinge of purpose and an icing of passion. By the virtue of being in existence, Bowin Fotoz is a success. It is an idea that has been pampered and tendered to grow into maturity. It is a red grape that is pruned and dusted every morning. When it is ready, it is picked, cured and stored in the dark for long. But now it has come of age and fine enough to be presented before a dining table of kings and queens as a wine. To be enjoyed with life’s little occasions. Bowin is here as the story to be read.


PS: Should you need a photographer who delivers and does not lose the hard drive with photos the day you go asking for them? Look no further. Reach Bowin Fotoz via +254717582945.  They also go by name BowinFotoz on Facebook and instagram.

Our grandmothers narrated stories of one-eyed giants but we have out-grown them and have no replacement for them. We can however tell our stories in small blogs; in words and pictures. Do you have a story that can inspire someone? Do you want to put it out there for just one soul who will draw the zest to live from it? Perhaps you want it told in a different way.  Hook up with me at and I will reply almost instantly.

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