I am so glad I took the time to learn who he really is.
He has overcome odds that would stop me in my tracks, is very courageous, wise, and a meticulous planner. He shows real strength and discipline and a laser focus in setting and reaching goals.
We did the interview via Skype a few weeks ago and I had the time of my life.
Nick is also extremely funny, has an interesting take on things and is brimming with self confidence.
He describes himself as having “an amazing personality” and I could not agree more.
Nick Omondi Klaus always knew he wanted to be a photographer from an early age. Every day when his father brought home the newspaper, he’d cut out pictures and paste them onto a wall or scrap book.
He had 6 other siblings’ and they grew up in Jericho, Nairobi.
His father got a job in Mombasa where the family moved to. Nick’s father died in 1994 and the burden of taking care of his family became his mothers.
This signaled the start of gigantic financial hardships; the worst being paying school fees for all the children.
Paying school fees became a real nightmare for the family and lack of school fees led Nick to wait for two years so he could have his turn in school.
In the two years Nick started a clothing stall in Gikomba, Nairobi to help lessen his mothers’ financial load. After that he went back to high school and completed his studies.
Nick went to Dubai in 2003 and six years later came back home to begin his photography career.
He won the Zoom in On Poverty Global Photo Contest in 2011 (just two years after starting his career in Kenya) held in Beijing, China and he’s known as ‘the handsome photographer’ in Nairobi ……he he he.
He takes pictures for CNN iReport, has multiple corporate and private clients and is one of the top photography talents in Kenya.
Kenyans living in Diaspora get a lot of grief in Kenya but this interview paints moving abroad in the positive light it actually is. Nick says it as it is and does not hold anything back.
Cheers to all Kenyans living in Diaspora! This article is for you.
Why are you called Nick Klaus?
Klaus is a nickname I got from my mom. I started my photography career in Kenya after the 2007-2008 election violence. I did not want people to judge me by my tribe (Luo) rather I wanted to be seen as an artist.
Did you get any training in photography in Dubai?
I joined a photography club in Dubai and took pictures in various events held in Dubai. The hotel I was working for knew I was passionate about photography and allowed me to take pictures of any events the hotel had.
How has moving to Dubai contributed to your photography career?
Before I went to Dubai I had bad habits like arriving late to meetings, not even feeling guilty about it and not communicating well.
When I moved to Dubai I got a job at the Fairmont Hotel, a 5 star hotel. The hotel was popular with celebrities and because of that they had a very strict and high standards for their staff.
They also had intensive training programs that taught me things like time management, how to handle things under pressure, how to work without supervision, good personal grooming and personal management.
Working in The Fairmont Dubai Hotel, totally changed who I was as a person.
I still apply all the principles they taught me in running my business and these principles have produced results for me. I am very grateful for The Fairmont Dubai.
The second thing Dubai did for me was enable me to buy my first camera. Life in Kenya was very hard after my fathers death and there’s no way I could have ever afforded the camera, had I not gone to Dubai.
I always thought photography was a rich man’s affair and the dream was out of reach for me in Kenya.
After working for two years in Dubai, I bought my camera. It was Kshs. 150,000; the same camera would have cost 300,000 in Kenya which was way out of my reach.
Living abroad also made me a bit fearless and enlarged my vision. For instance I charged and got paid Ksh. 150,000 for my first wedding while everyone else was charging Ksh. 70,000.
Describe the process of moving to Kenya.
Moving to Kenya was a big risk because I was leaving a secure job to go into the unknown. The move to Kenya was a calculated and planned move. I did not wake up one day and say I want to move to Kenya.
If you do that as well as not plan well, you will be in big trouble later.
I had a two year plan. I had already identified what I wanted to do in Kenya that is photography. I found out who were the top players in Kenya and what kind of photography was being done. I had to think of how I was going to build a name for myself and get clients because I was coming from Dubai and no one knew who I was. You have to realize you are coming to compete with people who are already established and well known in Kenya.
First, I spoke to my friend who was a photographer and he told me everything I needed to set up a photography business in Kenya.
Next, I went home in 2007 on a month long vacation and spent the month doing more research and carrying out investigations. My main goal was to see if it was possible to make a living as a photographer in Kenya. I met many people including Anne McReath of Kiko Romeo who told me I could make it in Kenya.
Finally, I saved a lot of my salary in Dubai to buy all the equipment I needed like lights and an extra camera.
Where did you live when you first came home?
My siblings and I had bought a 4 bed roomed house in Nyayo Estate, Embakasi. My mum lived there by herself and I lived with her for the first 3 months after moving back home. After that I rented a three bed roomed apartment in the same estate and made one of the rooms my studio and the other into my office.
What are the challenges you face living in Kenya?
The first has to be service delivery. People do not seem to be passionate about what they do. You can go to a hotel or coffee shop and wait very long for someone to attend to you.
The infrastructure…roads, internet were really bad but have improved over time.
Finally people rarely observe time here. They can show up two to three hours late for a meeting without apology. I always tell them, “If I have the courtesy to show up on time, you also should.”