Eight soldiers and airmen from Kenya Defense Forces partnered with two Airman from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Public Affairs Office for a two-day, military-to military photojournalism workshop at the International Peace Support Training Center, Nairobi, Kenya, July 18-19, 2013.
The hands-on workshop, which enhances KDF capacities in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), was the first of its kind between the two countries and shared best practices in photography skills such as using intricate functions of high-tech digital cameras, composition, philosophy of imagery, clearing military photos for release and techniques necessary to compose a newsworthy photo essay from the field.
"Just like rifle skills, if you don't practice on all functions and know that weapon inside and out, your camera skills and products will not be on target when you need them," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Jay Ostrich, CJTF-HOA PAO deputy director who led an exchange on photo philosophy. "It's essential for all of us to go back to the basics and learn to crawl and walk properly before sprinting into advanced or combat photography."
For the Kenyan team, learning to compose a tactical photo essay in standards accepted by western media was a career-enhancing opportunity for the soldiers whose skills ranged from a few months to more than 10 years experience in military photography.
"I have gained the spirit to be a photographer," said Cpl. Haita Kamiaele, a KDF explosive ordnance disposal team member who is in her first year of photography. "And thanks to my superiors for offering me this chance, I am very happy. Of all of these people, I think I have gained more."
Culminating the workshop, photographers participated in a field training exercise requiring them to create a photo essay on deadline telling a story that sparked positive emotions and imagery with subject matter found only within the Center's grounds.
"If I was at 20 percent (proficiency) before, I am like 99 percent now, and I am so happy about it," said Cpl. Ronald Masibo, a KDF Air Force photographer who won the culminating photo essay contest and received a U.S Air Force Public Affairs challenge coin for his efforts. "I am so excited, and I really want to get out there and practice what I have just learned."
Both KDF and CJTF-HOA team members, said they learned to respect the power of taking military photos to the highest standards with the corresponding responsibility that goes with being behind the lens.
"Military photography, when done well, can transcend language barriers and evoke universal emotions that can reinforce or change a person's perception of soldiers and missions," said Ostrich, chief of public affairs at the 193rd Special Operations Wing, Middletown, Pa. "While a good photo is partially subjective in the eye of the beholder, there are core elements that cannot be ignored in personalizing and humanizing the people behind the boots, bombs and bullets."
All agreed these were lessons learned they can now pass on to other members of their teams in any training environment.
"With what I used to have and now, I am a different person," said KDF Cpl. Victor Kyalo, an IPSTC photographer and workshop participant. "I am a different person in terms of composition and taking pictures, even advising, including even teaching."
In the end, everyone involved said they understood bigger picture for what was shared of the course during just two days.
"It was an absolute honor and privilege to share best practices with the KDF students," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Chad "Slacks" Warren, a Memphis, Tenn., native assigned to CJTF-HOA from Barksdale Air Force Base, Shreveport, La. "These KDF photographers are passionate and capable of doing great work and it's our hope our two nations can continue to create images that have a lasting, positive impact on East Africa."