Photojournalist Esther Nsapu
“I entered the world of images in order to inform the world through photography”
Interview: Nezih Tavlas / December 1, 2021
(Courtesy of Esther Nsapu)
Photojournalism News: What drew you to photojournalism?
Esther Nsapu: This is what drew me to photojournalism, I started working as a journalist in a local radio station in Goma, a small town on the shores of Lake Kivu of about one million people. This is in fact the town where I was born and raised. I used to go down to the field to do audio reports. On my return I would write the paper with the sound. On the field, I saw beautiful scenes of life, landscapes but also faces that I loved. Sometimes it happened to me to photograph with my telephone and sometimes I hesitated because I was afraid of the looks of the people. A journalist friend advised me to have a blog. The pictures I took on the field in addition to the paper I was writing for the radio, I used to publish on the blog. Afterwards, I also published photos on social networks. That's when the desire to take pictures was born. After several years, I had the chance to have my own site through the mentorship with WomenPhotographe, this training helped me a lot in the technique but also the way to tell a story with images.
Photojournalism News: What equipment do you use? Do you have a favourite lens/camera?
Esther Nsapu: I use a camera canon EOS 90D with 18-135mm lens, camera Fuji film xe3, a tripod, a lens of 18-55mm and 18-135mm, two Fujifilm stereo microphones MIC-ST1 and PRO 88W/R but also L10-BC camera light.
Photojournalism News: What social media platforms do you use?
Esther Nsapu: I use
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/esther_nsapu/
Photojournalism News: How do you prepare yourself before any assignment? What would you put in your camera bag for a typical task?
Esther Nsapu: When I prepare for a mission, I first prepare the day before to make sure I don't forget anything. I make sure my batteries are well charged, I also make sure the microphone batteries are working.
Then I take my notebook, my pen and also a raincoat to protect myself and my equipment against the rain.
Photojournalism News: How would you best describe your style of work? What are you trying to say with your photography?
Esther Nsapu: As a journalist and photographer based in eastern DRC, I was motivated to work in this field, given the conflict situation that has persisted in my region for several years now. Before, I was covering current issues on the security situation as a journalist, but I didn't want to stop there. That's why I also entered the world of images in order to inform the world through photographic images. Today, my images are like a catalog for travelers and foreign tourists. My region is known to the world through travels, discoveries and achievements.
My photographic work is based on the life of the human being in his daily life. I want to show the outside world that despite the difficulties, despite the problems, life does not stop. Through my photographic images, I want to bring some people to see my region in a new way, not as a land of conflict but rather a land where there is love, hope.
Photojournalism News: How many photos do you take for one story?
Esther Nsapu: For a single report I take several photos from different angles. I can't count, it's difficult to have a figure.
Photojournalism News: What is the last trip you made?
Esther Nsapu: The last mission I did was in Mwenga, a territory located 170 km from the city of Bukavu in South Kivu province (DR Congo). The journey seems shorter but it took me a whole day of driving to get there. I was hired to photograph different projects of three humanitarian organizations active in the area related to malnutrition among children and pregnant women. The province of South Kivu is one of the provinces most affected by malnutrition, especially among children under 5 years old. A good experience at the end.
Photojournalism News: What projects will you be working on next?
Esther Nsapu: To tell you the truth, I don't know because it's still on the draft in my head. I will put it out when the ideas are well structured.
Photojournalism News: Which of your photographs would you describe as your favourite? What makes them so special to you?
Esther Nsapu: I don't know how to answer this question... I love all my photographs. But what makes it unique is the emotion that it transmits, but also the message that we find in a photo
Photojournalism News: What message do you want your photos to convey?
Esther Nsapu: Besides showing emotion, love and hope, I encourage, I question, I denounce but also I call for a change of mentality and behavior because as a journalist, we have this duty.
(All images © Courtesy of Esther Nsapu)
Photojournalism News: What does a photo need to be a great in your eyes?
Esther Nsapu: It is when an image conveys a certain message or emotion
Photojournalism News: In the digital age people consume billions of photos every single day, under the circumstances what could make a photo memorable?
Esther Nsapu: As a photojournalist I photograph people, landscapes, things from many angles and in a unique context. But each of these photos has a different message. To me, what makes a photo memorable is the fact that an image tells a story that captures and captivates those who look at it.
Photojournalism News: What motivates you to continue taking pictures and what do you do to keep motivated?
Esther Nsapu: I am a photojournalist who lives in an area where war, insecurity, poverty and injustice are the daily lives of the people. It is indeed my only motivation when I show love and hope through images. My only goal is to show people that in spite of the suffering we can hope, we can smile.
Photojournalism News: What was the biggest professional risk you have taken and what was the outcome?
Esther Nsapu: In my country, especially in eastern Congo, when I go on a mission in an insecure area or an area occupied by armed groups, it is above all a risk that I take every day. However, going on a mission and coming back with data that meets expectations is already a good result. Often, many people are abducted by highway robbers or processions are attacked by armed groups on certain routes and many lose their lives. So I am lucky to leave and come back in good health.
Photojournalism News: What would be your dream assignment?
Esther Nsapu: I don't really have a dream story in mind at the moment, all I know is that my dream is to photograph and write new success stories related to the daily lives of the people of my country especially children and women.
Photojournalism News: What are the essential skills/ qualities a photojournalist should have?
Esther Nsapu: A photographer must be curious, truthful but also honest because to photograph someone, you need the person to trust you so that they can tell you everything they have on their heart. Without trust, many photographers miss their objectives. A photographer must also take the risk, but after all, in journalism we have always been told that no story is worth your life!
Photojournalism News: What do you think about the digital manipulation of images?
Esther Nsapu: Actually this question has already annoyed me more than once. But then I think to myself, who should I report to? Especially when I see people I don't know appropriating my images for no reason. If there were sanctions it would be less visible.
Photojournalism News: What does it mean to be an ethical photojournalist?
Esther Nsapu: For me ethics is being honest
Photojournalism News: How do you see the role of photojournalism evolving in the world? Do you think photojournalism is losing its importance?
Esther Nsapu: Photojournalism is not losing its importance but rather its users are changing because those who follow and watch us every day have a duty to trust us and our images as photojournalists especially in a society where many images are consumed every day.
Photojournalism News: What is it like to be a female photojournalist in a male-dominated field?
Esther Nsapu: Being a woman in a male-dominated field makes me very proud. It's true that there are fewer women in the field, but they are slowly coming. In my city seeing a woman taking pictures in the streets, people stop to look. "A spectacle". Some neglect you and others encourage you. It gives me the strength to continue and learn more. One day someone said to me "Esther you are wasting your time. You are a woman, this work is for men. Tell me how much you earn, I'll pay you every month, but stay at home". That didn't stop me.
Photojournalism News: Do you have any advice for aspiring photojournalists?
Esther Nsapu: Don't give up, just go for it
Esther N’sapu is a journalist and photographer based in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. She was motivated to work in this area, given the conflict situation which has persisted in her region for several years now. The photographic work of Esther N’sapu is based on the daily life of human beings. She wants to show the outside world that despite the difficulties and the problems, life does not stop. Through these photographic images, she wants to show her region in a new way, not as a land of conflict but rather a land where there is love and hope.