Candid Interview With The Photographer Who Has Taken The Most Viral Pics Of President Uhuru Kenyatta

Perhaps one of the few photos that Michael Khateli needed to someone else to take. A photo of President Uhuru Kenyatta which he took on Sunday at this year's Barclays Kenya Open Gold tournament went viral as soon as he shared it online. |

Kenyans were thoroughly entertained on Monday after a photo of President Uhuru Kenyatta beaming while being handed a bottle of champagne surfaced online.

The President was officiating the closing of this year’s Barclays Kenya Open Gold tournament which was held at the Karen Country Club.

The tournament also doubled up as a celebration of Barclays’ 100 years in Kenya.

President Uhuru’s face lit up when he was presented with the bottle of French champagne G. H. Mumm, a limited edition which is packaged in a three-litre bottle that retails at Ksh70 000 per bottle, reports .

You covered some high-profile events last year and in 2014; The GE Summit, the much publicised visits by Obama, Pope and the Liberian President, Traveled with Harambee Stars to Brazil, covered major concerts, among others. Which event did you enjoy shooting the most and why?

The events I enjoyed covering were visits by prominent personalities like Obama, the Pope, Bill Clinton, Neyo in Kenya and the Safaricom Jazz festival which featured some top Jazz musicians including Jonathan Butler, Salif Keita and Kunle Ayo.

A lot of people struggle to get near high-profile individuals because of the security and all, with that in mind, what do you feel is the biggest challenge in covering events involving them? How do you overcome those challenges.

It is hard getting close to these high profile individuals, especially with the security. Maaaan! Sometimes I think the security detail guards the photographers instead of the VIPs.

I however blame this on my fellow photographers though. We are never orderly when at these events.

We push and step on each other just to get a picture, thus making us look very unprofessional and unmanageable.

My strategy has always been to get really close and fast, get your picture and step away. Do not interfere with the security detail, because they are working.

Never be at one place for too long, take your picture and then move to a different place to get a different angle of the same photo.

Also have the courtesy to ask, and finally, being at the right place, at the right time and with the right equipment.

It goes without saying that you are one of most sought after photographers in the country. What inspired you to follow a career in this field and what advice would you give to those who want to follow in your footsteps?

I actually never thought I would be a photographer. When I was in high school, I wanted to be an entertainment journalist but after high school, I found myself inclining towards being a farmer before harbouring ambitions to be a rapper.

Also, back then, radio was big and therefore I also envisioned myself as a radio presenter. I remember going to Fareed Khimani when he was working at Capital FM and asked for a voice test but that did not go so well.

I later joined college and studied TV production. When I got my first job at Gina Din Corporate communications, I had the opportunity to do videography and photography but I ended up enjoying photography much more.

At that time social media was just picking up, and it was easy to share images. People would always be like that’s a really dope picture you have taken and it felt great to get that type of feedback.

My turning point came when I did one event and I was paid an amount similar to what I was getting at the end of the month at Gina Din. From that, I decided to give professional photography a try.

My advice to those who want to do photography is, you should do it for the passion and the money will follow. Another thing is, one should desist from posting ratchet photos or photos that would embarrass people because they could be the people signing your next pay cheque.

If you were not a photographer, what would you have been?

I would have been a rapper, a farmer or a radio presenter. My dreams are still valid though.

You also do photo shoots of couples and bearing that in that mind, is there someone special in your life? And if already married, do you have any children?

I do not have kids yet but I will be getting married in December this year.

Finally, is there a question (s) that you were looking forward to that I have not asked?

Yes. One, I do boudoir photography. This is what basically made me familiar to people. I would call it nude art but I think people are not so perceptive of the idea of nude art. They would call it porn. We all get naked at some point during the day and I wonder if people look at themselves in the mirror when naked and go like… Oooh! No! That’s porn!

WRITER'S NOTE: According to a definition by Wikipedia, Boudoir photography is a photographic style featuring intimate, romantic, and sometimes erotic images of its subjects, primarily intended for the private enjoyment of the subject and their romantic partners. Boudoir is a French word which refers to a woman's private sitting room.

Two, we encounter massive setbacks as freelance photographers. Being a freelance photographer basically means that I buy my own equipment, which is very expensive.

Also, people steal our photos and use them without our consent.

The worst thing however is people who ask me to let them use my photo and then give me credit. I can not recall the last time photo credits paid for my office space, paid my house rent and put a hot plate on my table.

Thank you for time Michael, and all the best.

Thank you too.