Rodney Gwenzi is a young and talented London based visual biographer, story-teller, photographer and the Founder of Visualiseitfirst.com. After coming across his amazing work for Bidhaar.com (an afrourban experiential retail store). We were determined to have a sit down with Rodney Gwenzi and get to know the story behind this vibrant, expressive and unorthodox storyteller changing the world with his craft and words of wisdom.
Tell us about yourself?
I am 20 something something. I am a London based visual biographer, and five years ago I decided to purchase a camera as a late birthday present, and that was how I found my passion.
Why photography, what drew you into this world?
It is the narration side, the storytelling side of photography that I gravitate towards. However, what changed the game for me was when I came across J Cole's Born Sinner documentary that was like a tipping turn for me. I discovered why I fell in love with photography! Photography is about simplicity, and it is a beautiful way to convey stories.
Do you remember your first shoot? What was it, and how did it make you feel?
About 5 years ago, in late September, I bought a camera for myself as a late birthday gift. Then I started to take walks to a nearby lake practising and getting familiar with my camera.
So one day I went to a leisure centre, and I came across the general manager there. Turns out he was also a part-time DJ on the weekends, so he saw me with my old Nikon camera, and he approached me, he asked if I was a photographer, and I was like 'I guess I am'. Right there, he commissioned me to curate contents for his socials to help build his profile as a DJ. So he would pick me up and drop me off every weekend, and that was it, that was how my career started.
I was definitely thrown into the deep end, my whole genesis started with trials and errors, my first project was in between some of the harshest conditions for a photographer. I was dealing with extreme contrast in the club, between darkness and lightness, manoeuvring around people and asking permission from people to take their pictures. Some people would scream in my face like 'yo why are you taking my picture, who told you to take a picture of me!' Others embraced me and some would demand that I take multiple pictures of them so they can pick the best ones.
It was definitely an intense beginning, I was like wow this is a crazy world! I had to work late hours. Also, I had no form of editing software at the time, so I used Visco for everything.
Without a doubt, it was a fantastic start to my journey. The guy that gave me the job was the best person I could have encountered because he was just so generous with me, I was amazed by how much money I was paid! Furthermore, he was concerned about my well being even during shifts he would buy me drinks, he was one of the best clients I could ever get for my first project because if I didn't get along with my first client, the experience would have probably discouraged me.
Would you say photography has been a part of your growth and self-love journey? If yes, how?
Just to shameless plug a project I am working on right now, I am working on a book series called Graduation. The thing is I see my journey right now as a student who has recently graduated and now he is stepping into a new transition, he is doing his Masters, you know I have been doing photography for five years. So last year and this year, I felt like I have graduated from my apprenticeship phase where I was just learning and learning and just absorbing as much information and trying to experiment as much as possible.
Right now, I am really obsessed with the thought of mastering what I have started. It is not just something I am willing to do as a hobby on the side, or when I get free time. It has really become my life now, I am now known for being the photographer, it is just a phenomenal reflection, I have really evolved, and I am now tapping into the dark and the ugly world of business. The politics, and the duality of running a business, so I am embracing it all. It is a setup that I can not escape, it is about embracing every single lesson I am learning, I am grateful, and I will keep on evolving!
How would you describe your work/style?
That is a very interesting question, I am actually interested to know what people say about my work because I feel like people can be a little bit more accurate.
What you see in my work is a reflection of who I am as a person, my work is very adaptable, I have always had the attitude of give me the assignment and tell me exactly what you want, and I will try my best to deliver! I would describe my style as adaptable, vibrant, unorthodox, and expressive.
What mistakes should a young photographer avoid?
There are so many! Because half of these mistakes you have to go through them to really understand them. My biggest mistake was when I was codependent, being a photographer or maybe being an artist, you are conditioned to depend on people within institutions and agencies to make things happen. I just felt like I definitely was in that battle for a long time, just waiting for approvals from the outside world, you never really realise that you should develop your own lessons or develop your own thing, your own platform.
So for a long time, I listened too much to the outside world. I didn't realise that this is an independent thing where you have to obey your lessons, you have to obey the cost of practice, because that is literally where it is! It is all about practice, you can't take a day from it, you can't take a hiatus from it.
You just have to stay on your craft. The world will tell you that 'I love what you are doing, I am really impressed by what you are doing, so can you do this for me'. Which is why I would say focus internally and realise that you have to put in the work first and forget about the gratification coming from someone else and just keep your momentums up! I am happy that I have come to the realisation that it all starts within for real.
How can people contact you?
Don't! Unless you are serious about business. I am changing my number for the tenth thousand times, I am not in the mood. Honestly, if you are coming, just come correct. If you are serious, I will be available..but if you are not serious, don't bother! Thank you
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