For the most, photography has turned their world in to a place of unlimited possibilities that has exposed them to an array of opportunities.
“Becoming a photographer happened by chance as I had no interest in it. got exposed to the art of photography through friends and my tutor at the time Djunior Svane” that is how 43 year old Maria Namundjebo kicked off her interview with The Lounge.
Namundjebo was born and raised in Eengava in the Ohangwena region. Upon her return from exile she had an astounding experience with photography, one that now has lasted for almost twenty two years.
A mere twenty two year old at the time, Maria was privileged to be inspired by great photographers such as John Liebenberg, the late Tony Figuera, Joseph Nekaya, Amy Schoemann and Fifi Rhodes among many others. This led to her discovery that photography was the career she wanted to pursue and never looked back since.
Still a student and Maria was presented with the opportunity to show case a series of Black and white images at the Franco- Namibian Cultural Centre exhibition titled ‘Namibia 1984-1994’. This she was able to do alongside a number of famous photographers.
The exhibition was part of the cultural events at the 1st festival of African photography in the Malian capital of Bamako.
“All this happened after Namibia gained its independence because it then gave me and other photographers a platform to express ourselves through different art forms in a manner that did not solicit harassment from the oppressor.”
Maria completed her studies at the Photography Centre of Namibia after which she was then employed at the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology as a photographer for the Namibia Review Magazine in 1996.
In 2002, she landed her dream job when she was employed at the State House. Incredibly Maria has now worked for all three Presidents of the Republic of Namibia namely the Founding Father, Dr. Sam Nujoma, former president Hifikepunye Pohamba and the current President Dr Hage Geingob as official photographer. It was in 2007, that she then left for Pretoria where she studied Professional Photography. Despite having experienced racial slurs during her study time there she overlooked it because she understood that nothing in life came easy.
“I grew tremendously since the beginning of my career, it has allowed me to establish various networks around the world. Also my career has allowed me to see most parts of the world such as Washington DC, Texas, New York, Morocco, Mexico and so many other places”
Namundjebo is currently employed as a Senior Photographer in the Office of the President and describes her work as one of a kind because there is never a dull moment. “I am privileged to document various activities of the Head of State while I also specialise in wildlife, commercial, sport, studio, landscape, architectural, medical, fashion and wedding photography.” Maria confesses that her hard work and commitment has gotten her this far in life.
“I am so very proud to be a photographer for the highest office in the land but all this was not served to me on a silver platter as I had to work extremely hard – whether it was through my studies, being away from my family for some time or even having to walk to work.”
A rich documented photographic archive is a legacy she plans to leave when she eventually retires. Maria describes photography as a very interesting profession which requires those who wish to tap into it to focus and give it their all.
“With photography one has to be true to themselves, step out of their comfort zone as well as stretch beyond their limits and anyone who aspires to be a photographer has to know all these skills.”
With media work it is evident to notice that where ever you find one photographer a second, third or fourth one is surely to be found right next to them.
“The first camera I ever owned was a 35 millimetre Pentax OM10 camera which I used to photograph soccer games that I took part in. Photography eventually became a hobby” narrated retired 62 year old Josef Bernard Rhodes.
Rhodes was born on a farm called Houmoed in the Aranos constituency and is known by his peers as Fifi. After years of career changing from mining to being a drill operator he realised what he wanted to do with his life and that was to become a well-known photographer.
His camera played a major role in shaping this dream as he would always photograph birthday and wedding celebrations as a form of income.
In 1984 he found a job in Swakopmund as an operator of a photographic machine known as a one hour photo lab.
After years of building up experience Rhodes got a job offer at the Windhoek Observer.
“This is where I was roped in to develop films and print black and white photographs for paper processing. I worked for six years as the darkroom assistant”.
His photography journey was however cut short when he was laid off because of recession in the country.
Rhodes however never gave up on his photography dream and managed to get a job with the Republikien Newspaper where he worked for another 10 years as a sports reporter and photographer.
His hard work finally became fruitful in 2002 when he got a job offer as a Chief Photographer at the New Era Newspaper.
Rhodes photography dream expanded when he further got the opportunity to capture important state events as well as human interest stories.
“I travelled a lot throughout the country where I covered major development projects such as the Government Green scheme Projects, the Kalimbeza Rice Projects, the inauguration of major road projects as well as funerals of ordinary and highly respected people”.
One of the best highlights of his photography career was when he accompanied the Brave Warriors to Burkina Faso in 1998 and to Ghana in 2008.
“I also travelled to The Peoples Republic China in 2012 with the Namibia Tourism Board where I had to report home on three major roadshows in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.”
Rhodes has seen it all through his camera lens from former presidents handing over power in succession to meeting the likes of the late Michael Jackson and Lucky Dube.
Since becoming an established photographer Rhodes has seen Namibia grow in leaps and bounds.
“I have seen Namibia grow through my camera from a normal country to a highly sought after destination. Today we see high rising buildings such as the City of Windhoek head office”.
Rhodes further explained that he enjoyed his time behind the camera which has now moved from it being a hobby to it being something that is a part of him which fills his life.
“Even though I am now retired at the moment I continue conducting presentations of photographic classes where I transfer skills to young photographic enthusiasts.”
Before retiring Rhodes was contracted by UNESCO in 2014 to train jobless Namibians to earn an income through photography which inspired him.
“The project however came to a halt due to a shortage of funds. I hope to rekindle it somehow to continue to empower young Namibians and to follow up what I left it behind.”
Now that Rhodes is out of the limelight he is proud to have left a mark in a very competitive environment and is ever grateful for those that have helped him paved his way in photography.
“The likes of legendary Des Erasmus, Chris Jacobie, late Hannes Smith and my very good friend Eddie Martins have helped me tremendously.”
“It was only through God’s Grace and hard work that I got the exposure to rise as an established and well-known photographer and journalist.”
He further encourage aspiring photographers to remain focused and determined in all that they do because photography has many aspects to it.
“Every photograph tells a story and that story must be truthful to the viewer. If anyone ever gets the opportunity to become a photographer at a media house do not waste it.”
“There is one thing the photograph must contain, and that’s is the humanity of the moment.” – Robert Frank