Kenyan Photographers Use Timelapse Photography to Showcase Nairobi in a New Light

You've never seen Nairobi like this before

Nairobi: A Timelapse Portrait
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Credit: Mohammed Birik

Nairobi has a scenic skyline and for photographers, this is catnip. You only need a dedicated camera (like a DSLR) and you’ll be happily snapping gorgeous portraits for you and your friends to marvel over. In this age of social media, we have seen some of these epic photos being shared on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. For Nairobi specifically, we have seen photos being taken on the streets, from the rooftops and aerial photos which look absolutely incredible.

However, a group of photographers decided to do something different this time round. We talked to Mohammed Birik who with another photographer, Peter Irungu, decided to launch an interesting project: Nairobi, A Timelapse portrait. They uploaded the timelapse video of the hustle and bustle of Nairobi on the online video repository, Vimeo and it is on course to hit 13,000 views. The 1 minute 49 seconds video is comprised of 45,000 photos taken in the CBD and you can watch it below:


Nairobi- A Timelapse Portrait from xixo collective on Vimeo.


We would like to have an overview about your project, what it is about and the reason for it?

Nairobi is a beautiful city and I’ve always wanted to show it in a unique way. From the skylines at sunset, constant movement of people and machinery to the breathtaking views you get while crawling above Nairobi rooftops.

Three years ago I came across a few time lapse videos that I found really interesting. The combination of time-lapse imagery and amazing cityscapes seemed surreal. At the time I was also a bit frustrated with still pictures, as I felt they didn’t do justice to the amazing vistas and skies I could witness while on rooftops. Time lapse seemed the perfect medium. So I did some research, dived right in, and was blown away by the first results I got. I immediately loved how they revealed patterns and details that had been there the whole time.

It was an exciting new outlook on daily life. After that I kept shooting and refining the process. I met Peter Irungu sometime last year. He also loved shooting time-lapses. We exchanged ideas and decided to collaborate on documenting Nairobi in a way never done before. From there on we moved from rooftop to rooftop looking for killer views. Peter Irungu did most of the shooting while I did the editing.

Why the name Xixo?

It is a rather interesting name Haha! We thought it was a cool name. Really has no meaning. One interesting thing though is that when pronouncing the word each letter is pronounced out individually and not as one word.

credit: MohaB
Nairobi Skyline. Credit: Mohammed Birik

Will you expand the project to cover more towns other than Nairobi?

We’ve already started documenting places outside of Nairobi but our priority for now is Nairobi because it is still unexplored and there’s a lot to discover.

Will there be projects in the near future of a similar nature?

Yeah definitely. This time-lapse was part one of a larger project that we are planning of finishing before the end of this year God willing. Part 2 will be more or less have same concept and script as this one though bigger and better.

It is rather interesting you chose to upload the video of the Timelapse portrait on Vimeo. Why not YouTube and it is more popular?

Vimeo is a video platform made for artists. Putting our work there meant that some of the best time-lapse photographers around the world have a chance to see Kenya in a different way. Since the site is much more niche than YouTube, there is a good chance that only serious content creators are frequenting the site. People viewing and commenting on your videos are a lot more likely to give you constructive feedback.

Since you are content creators, will you come up with a way to monetize the content for use with other media houses.

We coming up with ways through which interested parties can get licenses to use our work on their own projects. Each sequence in the time-lapse is available for licensing.

Any challenges you encountered with Irungu in coming up with the project?

Every project has its own challenges. I guess the most consistent ones are the weather and getting access to locations for shooting. Also Shooting in Nairobi has become really hard because of the persistent terror attacks in Kenya within that period. Being a Kenyan of Somali origin didn’t help, it was hard because I couldn’t walk around with a camera.


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