You upload a picture in Cameroon, and bang — you find it hanging on a wall in a major exhibition in Milan
GuruShots, an online photography platform, is doing something sweet for its photography-loving users
“In Cameroon” , Steve Mvondo told me, “it is not considered a respectable profession to be a photographer - You are actually considered a failure when you pursue this profession”. The reason for that, he says, is that “in my country, during public events for instance, you will find many people on the streets with a camera, calling themselves photographers - but they are merely fighting for a living due to the harsh societal conditions. They bother more about selling printed pictures than about the art or aesthetic of photography itself”.
Mvondo has actually felt the burden of this perception at his own home, where his father, who raised him alone, doesn’t approve of the fact that his son, who’s studied for a Master’s degree in international law, has taken an artistic line of work.
But Mvondo, 29, who’s made quite a name for himself in his country for photographing weddings, felt drawn to visual arts during his studies, and has acted on that calling.
“during my MA studies in law, I first developed an interest in graphic design, and started producing some flyers and other stuff”, recounts Mvondo. “The deeper I got into graphic design, the more I discovered the power of visuals, and how an image can speak, tell a story, freeze an emotion. I saved some money during that year, bought a secondhand camera — a Canon 400D that cost 200 USD — and tried to develop my skills through tutorials on youtube”.
Now, as one of the elite professional photographers, who displayed their work at the MIA Photo Fair in Milan earlier this month, He got a reassuring feedback that he is probably doing the right thing. “The mere submission of one of my pictures to such a big exposure and scrutiny, already represent a very big step in my photographic journey as a young artist”, he says. How he got to this position, is an intriguing story in itself.
For the last half a year, Mvondo has been a registered user on GuruShots, an online platform for photography lovers, that holds challenges in which users upload their photos and get (or don’t get) voted by fellow users. Users that accumulate the most votes in challenges win a small money price funded by sponsors. But more importantly, they move up the social ladder and their votes count for more. They can even become gurus, who run challenges on the platform themselves.
The challenge that enabled GuruShots users to get into the photo fair in Milan was dubbed ”minimalism” and Mvondo posted a photo from a series he shot on African woman, titled “Crown of beauty”. The series was actually his first attempt at fine art. The photos posted on GuruShots for that specific challenge garnered some 17 million votes. To get an idea about the immense number of submissions and engaged users’ voting, consider that the winning picture from Jose Pedrero from Spain, got a little over 1,500 votes.
“As a child I grew up in a broken home, separated from my mother”, says Mvondo. “That lack of attention, the craving for it, for a voice to value me or show me my real value, is what I translate through my pictures no matter weather it’s a wedding, street photography or portraits. I love bringing people or places to light, showing their beauty and expressing myself through my visual”. Mvondo was among the lucky 30 photographers to get in the MIA photo fair through GuruShots. It was a great pleasure for me to take part and assist in this win-win project along with the GuruShots team.
Did I mention that the Corriere dela Sera picked the story up?