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Rising Stars: Meet Kyna Uwaeme

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kyna Uwaeme.

Hi Kyna, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I got my first glimpse of photography while studying Journalism at Norfolk State University. I had no prior interest or introduction in photography up until that point. My first professional camera was a Canon Rebel T3i. I had saved up some money and convinced my mom to pitch in by telling her that I needed it for school. Which I did so I used that to my advantage. I would use it for class projects but also branched out to create my own video series where I would interview local artists. I was actually more into videography when I first started out then slowly found myself wanting to make photographs. Some of the first photos I made was within nature and fashion. I would walk around and just take photos of pretty flowers and stuff like that. Also, I would style my friends and find a dope location to shoot. I then created a student blog where I would walk around campus photographing all the fly students and post it. I fell in love with photography more leisurely. My college curriculum was more slated for you to get a job in the news industry so that was my main focus at the time. Upon graduating and after years of interning and shadowing people in the newsroom, I realized that was not what I wanted to be. I wanted to tell the stories of myself and my people. So I took a more artistic freelance approach when I got home from school and began the journey of trying to find my voice with the camera. After a few years of getting my feet wet and learning what I liked and didn’t like to photograph, I began to take it more serious. I began to do my research to find out what a successful photographer looks like. I followed accounts and read interviews of people I looked up to. Then I begin to take the leap of faith to get my work published by emailing editors. I joined photography organizations in my city that helped teach me more about the business of photography and sought out mentorship and resources to push me further.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
It most definitely has not been a smooth road. From the point of graduating, I was aware that I had to figure something out and quick. I was able to get a nice job working with the government fresh out of school but it didn’t last too long because I was more focused on pursuing my passion. I was lucky to have been able to live with my family for a few years so money wasn’t always a super big deal to me. As long as I had enough to get by I was cool. So I spent that time shooting and creating as much as I can. But as I’ve gotten older a lot of things changed. I don’t have that sense of freedom I had when I was younger. My priorities have definitely shifted and I want way more out of life than I did back then. My biggest struggle has been not comparing myself and my progress to other photographers. At a time where social media is so heavily involved with a photographer’s career, it can be hard to tune certain things out. But some things that has helped me is just literally putting my phone down and remaining present in my life and expressing gratitude for my life. Also allowing my art to grow with me. Making sure that my goals are aligned with what I truly want for myself and not what I think I should want based on society’s views.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am a photographer based in Washington DC. My medium of choice varies between 35mm, medium format and digital photography. Photography is my way of sharing my view/ narrative with the world while also providing a platform for others to do the same. My style is described as raw, honest, relatable and uplifting. A lot of the work I do is intentionally made to empower my subjects, my community and to tell the truth. I see myself as a catalyst in preserving our history. I believe that stories are vital to our survival as human beings.

I am also the owner of Golden Studios, a creative workspace. I started it as a way to get my community more involved with photography and entrepreneurship. Along with Golden Studios serving as a portrait studio, we features artwork monthly from local artists Pop Ups and hosts workshops.

While my work is intended to be relatable, I stay away from trends. Because trends are here today and gone tomorrow. I want to be impactful. I want to make work that will stand the test of time and people will look back and have a better understanding of their own history.

I currently have work being featured in the Martin Luther King library in DC. I’m extremely proud of that because MLK was so influential in creating change for Black people and I hope to do the same with my work and honor him…

Is there any advice you’d like to share with our readers who might just be starting out?
Focus more on the work you want to shoot rather than the gear. Then find out how to get paid the rate you desire to shoot it and reinvest that money into your business. Learn all the ins and outs of the photo business. Also, think bigger than photos. What do you see for yourself as a human being? Your photography career should align with your overall goals in life. Don’t live for your photos live for yourself! Be present and enjoy life.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Photos by Kyna Uwaeme
Dominique Curtis – main photo

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