Until recently, photography in Rwanda was often synonymous with harrowing images of the 1994 genocide, refugees, and suffering. Now, photographers in the country shoot breathtaking views, capture day-to-day Rwandan life, and generally just create works of art. Check out the profiles of these bold photographers in Rwanda you should know.
A pioneer on the Rwandan photography scene, Gael began his photography career in 2003 in Gabon as a researcher for the Wildlife Conservation Society. He is regarded as one of the most impressive nature photographers in Rwanda, and has worked alongside African Parks, Congo Conservation Society, Forbes Africa, and a host of other organizations and publications. A biologist by training, he has authored and co-authored four books (with four more to be released in the coming years) about Butterflies of Gabon, Birds in Rwanda, Biodiversity of Gabon, and Odzala National Park. Though he now focuses primarily on nature photography, Gael is also known for his stunning and creative fashion, event, editorial, and portrait shots. Gael co-founded Illume Creative Studio alongside Philippe Nyirimihigo in 2010.
Chris Schwagga, a Congolese-Burundian photographer currently living in Kigali, has been making waves in Rwanda’s art scene with his abstract and cutting edge portraits. Inspired by strong women and the stories of those around him, he has photographed Fadomo Dayib (the first female presidential candidate in Somalia), and his work has been featured in Forbes Africa, Forbes Women, Jeune Africa, and Journal.Rw. Schwagga also has an upcoming photography book that will be out in 2018.
An up-and-coming photojournalist for Rwanda’s daily newspaper The New Times, Imbabazi associates photography with freedom, self-discovery, and the ability to paint a picture of the world around her. As a Rwandan female photographer in a mostly male-dominated industry, she passionately covers sporting events, entertainment, and politics.
Known for his playful and creative style, Niragira originally discovered photography while studying multimedia and advertising design in Malaysia. His photographs are expressive and work to document society as it is lived, as well as tell the cultural story of Burundi (his native country) and Rwanda on his own terms. Partnered with ‘I am Kigali,’ a Rwanda-based project that works to highlight Rwanda’s diversity and promote inclusion, Niragira believes in the use of photography for change.
Galos is a young Rwandan photographer with a passion for showing the transcendent beauty of people in Rwanda. He shares stories of impact while working as a photographer alongside nonprofits, and has been published in WIRED, Humanity Unified, One UN, and The New Times. Recently featured at an art exhibition titled ‘Unveiling’ at the popular Kigali restaurant and bar Choma’d, Galos is just getting started.
“Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like.” Nyirimihigo, inspired by this David Alan Harvey quote, is one of Rwanda’s top photographers. He began his career in the summer of 2006, and has become known for his emotive portraits, lifestyle, fashion, and photojournalist shots. As a co-founder of Illume Creative Studio alongside Gaël Vande weghe, he has worked in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, and Cameroon, in addition to his home country of Rwanda. Nyirimihigo has undoubtedly played a large part in the fast growth of photography within Rwanda’s creative sector.
Known for his prowess as a nature and wildlife photographer, Irankunda is inspired by the organic and lush Rwandan landscape. After purchasing a camera with his very first salary, Irankunda switched from graphic art and advertising to photography. His work has been featured by Tigo, Bralirwa, and other large companies.
Born and raised in Rwanda, Nkinzingabo became a full-time photographer in 2013. His photographs work to show Rwanda through a different lens, noting that the country is much more than its past and the genocide. As a visual storyteller, documentary photographs, portraits, and creative pieces are his medium. His work has been exhibited in Rwanda, Germany, and France. In addition to documenting daily life in Rwanda, he has also participated in the ‘Looking for Freedom’ project, a photographic documentation of the daily lives of African migrants in Europe. In an effort to encourage photography and young photographers in Rwanda, Nkinzingabo recently co-founded the Kwanda Art Foundation.