a group of children dressed in blue school uniforms walking a railroad track

Kibera Stories

23 Jul 2019 EMERGI-CUBES
a group of children in the ocean

Featuring: Brian Otieno

Presented by:

United Photo Industries EMERGI-CUBE Program


Curated by:
James Estrin and David Gonzalez, Co-Editors of the New York Times Lens Blog


Kibera, where I was born and raised, is a vast slum settlement located in Nairobi, Kenya. It is said to be home to between 350,000 and one million people, depending on who you ask. This has given rise to its reputation as “the largest slum in Africa.” Yet behind these vague statistics, Kibera has countless stories waiting to be told.

Seen from afar, the neighbourhood is a dense jungle of rundown corrugated rooftops, indistinguishable huts huddled closely together with TV antennas and electricity poles projecting into the air. While Kibera is hardly a continuous cycle of poverty and hardship, this has always been the dominant visual narrative. Within its endlessly sprawling and captivating landscapes, Kibera is a mix of diversity, vibrancy, and great capabilities.

This project presents life in Kibera from a socio-economic, cultural, political, and environmental point of view, as seen from an insider’s perspective. Through these images, we see and feel dynamic moments of everyday life, identity, and individuality, and the uniqueness of representation in moments always seen but often ignored or unnoticed.

Make sure to also check out related EMERGI-CUBES Walking Tour with James Estrin.


Brian Otieno (b. 1993) is a freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Nairobi, Kenya. He was raised in Kibera, Africa’s biggest shantytown, where he documents the everyday realities of ordinary life through his photo project called Kibera Stories, which he started in 2013. His passion and commitment lie in capturing the stories of the vibrant community of Kibera, and attempting to look beyond the chaotic appearance of his hometown, while depicting a broader spectrum of life from socio-economic, cultural, political, and environmental perspectives.

Brian was among the twelve visual storytellers selected for the World Press Photo East Africa Masterclass which took place in Nairobi in 2016. In March 2019, he was selected to attend The New York Times Portfolio Review. Since 2017, he has been a contributor to Everyday Africa, a collective of photographers sharing images from across the continent aimed at undermining stereotypes and clichés.

A professional photographer since 2016, Brian has balanced his documentary work with assignments for international publications and development organizations. Brian’s Kibera Stories won the inaugural East African Photography Award held in Kampala in October 2018. He was a winner at the Kenya Photography Awards in 2018 and Kenya Press Photo Awards in 2017.

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