In his photos, Sama Kai Sundifu aims to capture raw, unfiltered and genuine human emotions
Born in Freetown and now based in London, Kai uses photography as a means to share his perspective of the world.
- Ruby Boddington
- 23 November 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
For London-based photographer Sama Kai Sundifu (who goes by Kai), capturing raw human emotion authentically is at the heart of everything he does. And he draws on his own experiences when doing so. This year, that culminated in one of the most striking and moving documentations of the Black Lives Matter protests in London that we have seen and, after doing some digging, we discovered his talents for capturing the world around him don’t stop with that series.
“Being able to freeze those emotions with still images is an art,” Kai says when we catch up with him. When he headed out to the protests, he wanted to “display such rawness that it could captivate the attention of those who came across it,” something he has certainly achieved. The protests resonated with him personally, as Kai has received his share of “racial abuse, profiling and discrimination targeted at my skin tone and having an accent after migrating to the UK” from Sierra Leone in 2003, after the civil war there. This means the images have an urgency to them, born from Kai’s true empathy with his subjects.
Being able to translate his thoughts, feelings and experiences into a photograph has always been a part of Kai’s practice. “Photography for me is all about perspectives. I capture things from my angle, as I see them,” he explains, adding that what first drew him to the medium was “that freedom and power to narrate a story through my lens.” Having always had a creative side which he explored in his fine art and performing arts classes in school, it wasn’t until 2018 that he began documenting his surroundings using his phone. “I found it quite therapeutic,” he recalls and so, in September of that year, he purchased his first camera. “Travelling around with it became a norm and I’d capture anything that caught my attention,” Kai adds.
When it comes to the types of projects he now works on, Kai explains that he doesn’t limit himself, reiterating that, for him, it is all about capturing “raw, unfiltered, genuine beauty, and authentic and real emotions.” It’s for this reason that his documentation of the Black Lives Matter protests is his favourite project to date. “I’ve had the opportunity as a young Black man to photograph a movement that came about to change the present and future of the Black race and it will go down in history,” he says. “Hope was born in so many hearts and it’s somewhat special to be part of the movement.” This sentiment is clear when flicking through the photos that Kai took. Somehow, his lens parts the crowd finding the faces of individual protestors, in turn, capturing their vehemence and passion. Kai’s images were disseminated widely during the summer and continue to be shared by his captivated audience. One image, of a young man holding his fist in the air, was even used on the front cover of Love Magazine’s Diaries.
Discussing his wider portfolio, Kai explains that he shot a series in Sierra Leone last year which also had a massive impact on him. “Home is where the heart is and it was my first time going back home after so many years,” he tells us. “I was thoroughly proud of the progress we are making as a country (even though it can be better), but being there and just experiencing home again… it’s was a fulfilling experience.” The images Kai took there are vibrant and expressive, their colourful tones communicating his warm feelings towards the place and the “true essence of the country and its people.”
Looking ahead, Kai tells us his main goal is to “continue inspiring the world through my art.” He has a “desire to show the beauty and realness of the world and people in general,” something he wants to achieve in London, Freetown and anywhere else he is able to travel. Clearly a photographer with an eye for channelling nuanced aspects of humanity into an image, we’re excited to see what Kai turns his lens to next. No matter what it is, though, it’s sure to provide yet another documentation of the importance of togetherness and understanding, as well as sharing the joys and beauty of the world around us.
GallerySama Kai Sundifu (Copyright © Sama Kai Sundifu, 2020)
Sama Kai Sundifu (Copyright © Sama Kai Sundifu, 2020)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.