It is hard to believe I have been living in Kenya for a month already! I have traveled here so often over the past decade that I think it feels more like another visit than actually living here.
From the moment my feet hit the rich red African soil on May 24th, 2004, I longed to live here for at least one year of my life; an experience I needed to have in my lifetime. It has taken me more than 10 years to achieve this, with great sacrifice, hard lessons, and a failed attempt four years ago. When I landed and walked through the front door with my 7 suitcases and boxes, I expected to feel right at home; jump up and down and shout, “I did it, I am living my dream!” Instead, what happened was panic, “OMG, what have I done!?” My instinct was to run, get back on a plane and head home.
Free falling; when you take the final jump to live your dream, put everything on the line, and risk it all, it can be exhilarating yet terrifying. I imagine it would be much like the first time you jump out of an airplane and parachuted down.
I was in a strange place – knew only a handful of people, had no car (still don’t), no TV, Internet was installed but not working, and I had no furniture except for a bed. The next few weeks I was more in a state of panic than joyful bliss. I will always be so grateful to Sunworld Safaris, who embraced me like family, helped me get around Nairobi, showed immense kindness and got me out to the Mara for New Year’s Eve. They knew that what I needed was go to the Mara.
It was incredible to be in the Mara during the off-season (non-migration time) and on New Year’s Eve! With the exception of a few small groups of photographers and locals celebrating the holiday, it was virtually empty; a photographer’s dream. I could spend hours with Malika (a famous cheetah) and her four cubs or work from the Land Cruiser while sitting across from the Rekeero pride, which were of coarse sleeping. Now, I felt at home, and my office was in nature. The best part was when Air Kenya landed on the dirt airstrip, just minutes from bush camp and picked me up. The flight back to Nairobi was a mere 45 minutes, my driver was outside waiting for me, and in 20 minutes I was home.
This is exactly why I moved to Kenya! To have more time to photograph, experience and capture the stories that move me. I have now been back in Nairobi for just over a week, working harder than ever, planning some exciting photographic adventures for 2016. Many of you have been asking about trips in 2016 and I should start listing them in the next few weeks. I am heading to Samburu for a few days, before heading to India on January 26, with Deborah Sandidge and a great group of photographers.
May you all have the courage to pursue your own dreams!
PiperMackayPiper Mackay is a world, wildlife and cultural photographer, based in Long Beach, California. She believes compelling visual images help to protect what is right in the world. Her work takes her to very remote locations, living cross culturally in the villages and environments that she is documenting.
Her work is heavily concentrated on the African continent, a land she fell in love with when she first touched foot on it’s rich red soil. Her passion for the natural world has grown into a lifelong commitment to inspire others to explore, respect and preserve the beauty of our fragile planet.
She believes compelling work comes when you invest time, living the stories you are trying to tell. It is important to interact and gain the trust of those whose stories you are telling, especially when sensitive and complicated. The world has enough images of poverty, pain and disaster, much more needful is imagery that reveals the beauty and dignity of the communities that are, except by their geography and circumstances, very similar to our own. Powerful images help shape the view of the world and play an important role in disseminating how cultures and wildlife are coping with the rapid changes happening in the developing world.
Piper’s images have been displayed at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, The Museum of History and industry, and The Art Wolfe gallery, as well as local galleries. Her work has been featured in Nature and travel publication through representation of several photo agencies, including Rangefinder, Nature’s Best, Birders, and the World Wildlife Fund. She is an independent photographer and available for assignment work.
Her prior career in the fashion industry, where she was deeply involved with combing color and texture, has greatly enhanced her approach to the unique look and feel of each culture and photographic subject. This also gave her a strong background in business and marketing. Please visit Piper’s website at www.pipermackayphotography.com.