If you are following me on Instagram, you should know that I love taking long walks and street photography has a special place in my heart. One of the main reasons why I chose Nairobi, Kenya for my Christmas Vacation is to explore the city and venture to street photography more. But what happened yesterday made me realize things. I can see you Kylie Jenner or is it Kendall?
We’re on our way from breakfast and I brought along my analog film camera. I saw this interesting building just across our hotel. I took a photo. Just one photo then suddenly three armed military/policemen approached us saying photography in Nairobi is a big criminal offense. It’s an act of terrorism unless we have a permit from the police which we don’t have. They told me I can be imprisoned for as long as 8 years. They asked me to review the pictures I took but failed miserably because newsflash you can’t review the pictures of a film camera unless developed and printed.
They asked us to come with them to the police station but they took us to a dingy alleyway instead. When we reached that place, they almost handcuffed me. They told us that if we want, we can sort it out. The leader talked to my friend and asked for a settlement. His initial asking price is 20000 Ksh almost 200 USD. Luckily, we didn’t bring enough money and bargained until we settled at an amount of 5000 Ksh or almost 50 USD.
I was so shaken after that. We returned to the hotel and I did some digging. Yes, there’s an ordinance about photography in Nairobi. Several photographers were arrested for the past year. Also, I found this tweet from their Governor:
You know what’s disheartening about the incident? The very people who are responsible maintaining peace and order are the same people who abuse it. I don’t care about the money actually but the trauma of being escorted by three armed men is terrible. I couldn’t even take a photo after the incident. I planned of using one roll of film a day. I’m on my third day now of my trip, I only finished one roll.
One take away from this trip is that no matter what year it is, there will be places with backward thinking. Photography as terrorism? If I’m a terrorist, I will not take pictures in public in broad daylight. And I will not use an analog camera with no zoom or whatever. I love Nairobi but this is total bullshit. Remember it’s Kenya not North Korea.