Simon Pocock: Returning to Kenya
We've been captivated by the incredible journey of our Ambassador, Simon Pocock, who returned to Kenya for another incredible adventure. His profound appreciation for the beauty of the natural world and his exceptional ability to capture the essence of human connections have brought us even closer to his profound passion for visual storytelling.
I won't soon forget that last plane ride home. It was the final flight back from Sarara in Northern Kenya, March 2022. The tiny plane bounced up and down across the Sub-Saharan landscape, motion sickness had me in its grip, and the only relief was to close my eyes and dream of riding my motorcycle down a dusty dirt road, rolling with the rhythm of the terrain beneath me.
Now, the jingle of the camel bells sounded from afar. Unlike that plane ride last year, we had just landed smoothly at Sasaab. Back in the heart of Samburuland, we were one flight away from Sarara. It had been almost eighteen months since my last trip here, and already, it felt familiar to be back – like visiting an old friend. The western machine of society suddenly feels very far away.
This part of the world is special to me for so many reasons. It was a landmark trip for my career the first time I visited – documenting culture, people and landscapes that speak to my core and offer opportunities for the pursuit of storytelling I hold so dear. Work that both stimulates in the moment and leaves me wanting more.
Getting to know people, their way of life, and the world around them – and then sharing their stories – has to be one of the biggest motivating factors in my photography and storytelling.
Often, as photographers and storytellers, we don't get to revisit a project or location. We travel in and out of locations with timeframes, deadlines and expectations. Time compresses in many ways while on shoot. We remain focused and attentive, aiming to form human connection, quietly observe and foster empathy – all within set windows of time.
On this trip, however, I could return to connections already developed. It was time for the second chapter in many stories. An equally exciting and challenging experience for me, as it allowed for an extra layer of authentic imagery and engagement with many of the people I met and interacted with. On the other hand, it also made me acutely aware of cultural sensitivities and concerns I may not have noticed the last time, especially around the camera as an object.
Not everyone wanted to be photographed. Not because they were shy or reluctant, but rather because they saw the camera as a potential tool for evil. Realities like these don't come around very often, and they made me all the more aware – and all the more sensitive and respectful, moment by moment.
I kept asking myself, “why Kenya?” Why here and not at home? A privileged introvert, trying my best to document a culture and people I actually know very little about.
But maybe that’s the point after all. The location doesn’t really matter. The goal is to share stories that inspire feelings and educate all of us. And simply allow others to understand more people and share in the spirit of humanity. Others, over self. Why Kenya? Why not? Human connection is universal after all.
- Simon Pocock