ANGELA MUCHINSHI, Choma
THE evolution of photography has seen people traverse the world to tell stories through the lens of the camera.One such person is 76-year-old Ellie Hamby, a professional photographer, who believes photography is important because it reminds “us of our origins.”
Ellie says photography is one ways of recording and preserving culture.
She has been practising photography for over 20 years, and according to her it was just a hobby until she realised the great skill she possessed.
Ellie says photography, to her, was just a hobby until it turned into something more rewarding after getting a positive response during her first exhibition in the United States of America.
“My first exhibition was well received, I was amazed at the response I got, people really loved my work and that forced me to become serious about, “she said.
Born in USA, Ellie says she has travelled the world over to capture the beautiful creations and show them to people through her camera’s lens.
“Through The Lens of My Camera” is her theme and she has captured animals, people, food, vegetation, mountains and many other images.
Her photography skills have gone as far as Iceland, covered the war in Serbia, animals in Kruger National Park, Zambia’s Victoria Falls, among others.
Of all the countries she has visited, Ellie has exhibited only in the United States of America and Zambia.
Her third exhibition at Choma Museum depicted the life of the Tonga people as a way of appreciating their hospitality since the time she arrived among them in 1980.
“My very first exhibition at Choma MSuseum was in 2007. I came later to do my second exhibition in 2010,”says Ellie.
Apart from Choma museum, she has done her exhibitions at the show grounds gallery in Lusaka and Livingstone museum.
Ellie, a widow and a mother of three, says it was not easy for her to move to Africa initially but her husband, before he died, encouraged her to come to Africa. He died 12 years ago.
After living in Zambia and specifically Kalomo for a while, Ellie says she is glad to have made that decision because Zambians are welcoming.
The beautiful physical features like the Victoria Falls and many others make Zambia a prospective place for photography which can actually boost tourism industry when depicted in the pictures to the outside world, says Ellie.
“Zambia has so much to photograph and photography can actually do a lot for Zambia,’’ she says.
The Choma Museum and Crafts Centre has pledged to continue supporting such initiatives by providing a forum where exhibitions can be done freely.
The passion Ellie has for photography has made her extend a helping hand to the vulnerable in hospitals through her earnings which she did not disclose. The prices of her pictures vary.
“I do photography art because I love it and that I am passionate about, hence all the profit I make goes towards the needy especially in hospitals and towards transportation of people who want to come to Choma General Hospital from Namianga,” says Ellie.
Her observation is that most Zambians take pictures of other things but leave out pictures that depict their culture and wildlife.
Photography has the potential to boost the tourism industry if well harnessed as all the natural wonders that Zambia is blessed with would be depicted in photographs which can attract tourists.
According to Ellie’s observation, the few photographers that Zambia has have not taken keen interest in capturing Zambia’s beauty.
Choma museum director Bevine Sangulube is of the view that photography requires somebody like Ellie Hamby who has travelled the world and has a lot of exposure.
Dr Sangulube, who was represented by the Museum Education Officer Emmanuel Hamatwi said photography requires someone who is an international immigrant to capture stories from different geographical places and different experiences from different social encounters.
Despite the potential that photography has to contribute to the growth of the country’s economy through tourism, there are some challenges that deters Zambians from doing much.
The lack of equipment like a good camera which fetches higher and framing of photographs, printers and studio setups are among other the challenges.
There is also need to create awareness by talking about it more often. Dr Singulube says most people in Zambia do not understand the beauty of photography hence the reason why it is a slow industry.
Speaking from a museum perspective, Dr Singulube says what makes the picture sell is the story behind it and not just the picture itself.
Some stories have good ethnographic detail, good historical detail, social issues behind the photos such as abandonment, orphans, vulnerable people, gender based violence, hunger.
To help artists, the museum offers programs such as enhanced training skills for artists in conjunction with the National Arts Council of Zambia and it is also partnering with a number of colleges that are offering tourism courses.
ANGELA MUCHINSHI, Choma