Last week we began shooting with the most incredible team for our collaboration with the designer brand and French fashion house Chloé! To begin, I will introduce you to the team:
Velma Rosai headed the shoot, she is an extremely talented artist and advocates for black women in art, photography, and film. Velma’s creative talent goes far beyond her moving paintings and photography. She is also one of Nairobi’s biggest trendsetters and shot to internet fame with her joint Instagram page 2manysiblings. However, this is not only how Velma will be remembered, she is also in charge of one of Kenya’s hottest event platforms called Thrift Social.
Trevor Maingi is a Kenyan-based photographer & cinematographer. His story began when he decided to quit his jobs in aerospace and software engineering. I asked Trevor what his passion was and this is what he said “When it comes to passion, I’m always after adventure and discovering new places. If not, you’ll find me in the house gaming.” Here is a list of just some of the things he has had the pleasure of working with: VICE, Chloé [2nd time], Architectural Digest, Landrover Africa, Space For Giants, Airbnb, Shutterstock just to mention a few.
Sarah is a Ugandan storyteller, photographer, and poet, now based in Kenya. She has worked on some of the most incredible pieces and much like Velma is also an advocate for black women in photography. In 2016 she was awarded the Discovery Award in Arles, France, and in 2017 she was awarded the Gerald Kraak Award in Johannesburg, South Africa. In 2018, she was named a Canon Brand Ambassador and was selected for the World Press Photo 6x6 Africa Program. She has founded a community-based Instagram and website called African Women in Photography that shares inspirational and incredible photography by African women. You can visit her website here.
The shoot began on Monday in our workshop with Trevor behind the camera and Velma in charge of producing and directing. We took them around the workshop for a quick tour and explained our process. They then worked their magic and began filming all the different stages, weighing, washing, sorting, carving, sticking, and finally quality control.
After this, they interviewed two of our artisans, Florence and Francis, who both spoke beautifully! Neither interviewee was allowed to see the questions beforehand to ensure they answered with their honest hearts and their replies were all so moving!
Before they arrived, Kai who is based at the coast worked tirelessly with our team in Nairobi adding any finishing touches we needed to the workshop! An extra splash of paint, a new mood board, and a few wall hangings later, we were ready to go!
We wrapped up the filming in the workshop around lunchtime and then the mad rush to the airport began to fly down to Kilifi, which is on the coast of Kenya, to film the start of our process. Which of course, is cleaning beaches! Lone behold our flight was delayed by a whopping 6 hours. Which gave us all a nice amount of time to get to know each other! I was secretly a bit relieved that we weren’t flying till the evening because it was such a hot day and I knew the flight would have been very bumpy!
We finally arrived in Kilifi at around 11:30 pm and went straight to bed as our wake-up call the next day was 5 am to film the sunrise!
Kai and I tootled down the road at sparrows to the hotel that Velma and Trevor were staying at so we could shoot some B roll (which for anyone who doesn’t know is the bits that fill in alongside the main footage needed). We met at the beach and watched the most beautiful sunset together, very sleepy-eyed.
After this, we drove to the beach where we would be doing our beach clean so they could get an idea of their surroundings for the main filming the following day. The morning was wrapped up by 8:30 which gave everyone a nice amount of time to chill and swim (or snooze in my case!).
That afternoon we collected Velma and Trevor and headed off to the boatyard so we could hop on Kai’s boat and film the sun going down. We thought this would give Trevor the best shot possible and gave us the excuse to have a sundowner too! Trevor is incredible to watch while he is working away, I don’t think I have asked someone so many questions in one sitting. He flew his drone above the boat as the sun went down, complemented by the added touch of the carmine bee-eaters that were flying to roost below.
An early night was in order for all of us! We needed to be well-rested for the busy day ahead.
4:30 am was the wake-up call for the main day of shooting. We all met on the beach as the sun was coming up, this was so that Trevor could capture the ladies’ silhouettes at the start of their beach clean!
He focussed on Sally and Faith who would be interviewed later that day, while the other ladies collected and cleaned around them. After the footage for the beach clean was done we headed back to Kai’s house to finish the process which consisted of sorting and weighing what we had collected and finally the interviews.
Day 2 was finished around 10 am so again we had time to recover before the afternoon where we would start the process again, but this time with Sara the photographer!
We actually ended up meeting with Sara and Velma that afternoon, so we could do a recce and again for Sara to see the process and what she would be working with in terms of background, lighting, etc…
This was a quick job and she was happy with the beach we had chosen for the second clean. We dropped them off at their hotel for another early night.
Thursday morning wasn’t as early a start as the day before, but we were still on the beach at 6. The lighting for these projects is obviously so important and with the stark contrast against the white sand beach, morning light makes for the best time to get good shots.
Sara knew exactly what she wanted and the ladies on the beach clean were far more comfortable with the camera lens, this is probably because they are more familiar with it. We followed her from afar as she snapped shots of the ladies.
At the end of the beach, we decided to show them the final product, which is the gorgeous shoes in the pics below! They were amazed! It was so moving to see how happy they were and to know that they had contributed so greatly to such an incredible collaboration. After all, it would not be possible without them.
The photography was finished that morning back at the house. Sara needed to shoot the exact same process that we had done the day before of course. She also took some stunning product photos with Eriks (Kai’s dad) blooming orchids and frangipanis as backdrops!
All in all, it was a fascinating few days, Kai and I learned a lot about photography and filmmaking. I really take my hat off to them, it’s such a talent to be that creative!
And now are just so excited now to see the final product.
Thank you so much, Velma, Trevor, Sara, Kai, The Ladies, Francis, Kitsale, Lilian. Without you, it wouldn't have been possible!