In Kenya, Nairobi-based photographer Bobby Neptune, with the help of incredible crew members along the way, continues his ongoing personal and commercial project, Water Is Life.
Over the last few years, Bobby has been working with a wide range of NGOs in various countries to raise awareness of the water shortage issue. The portfolio of images displayed on his website is a collection of past projects that continues to grow as he photographs this ongoing assignment.
I think Western perceptions of Africa have painted it as a dry, hot and barren continent. The reality is much different. There is loads of water on the continent. Lake Victoria is the world’s second largest freshwater lake, and the Nile is the longest river in the world. We have both beautiful glacial streams and vast reserves of water below what we can see. It just so happens that the water is not all in the right places at the right time.
With a lack of proper infrastructure to transport water to the locations that need it the most, and because the seasons can be incredibly harsh, African countries are feeling dramatic effects stemming from a lack of available water. As a society that relies on agriculture, the adverse consequences of climate change are hard to ignore.
In the recent decade, we’ve seen a dramatic shift in our rain patterns and seasons, and because of this, our farmers are struggling to predict rainfall, our wildlife are unable to follow the seasonal migration patterns they have for years, and our populations who live in semi-arid regions are having to adapt and, in some cases, abandon ancestral land because there isn’t enough water. Where there is an over-abundance in one season, there isn’t enough in another.
Most of the NGOs Bobby has been working with are focused on bringing clean, safe water to rural communities that have been affected by water-borne diseases. With the belief that clean water is a fundamental human right, Bobby’s images attempt to empower the viewer to help out as much as possible, as opposed to discouraging the audience.
My photography of Africa is different because I like highlighting the issues by showing individuals who are overcoming their odds and dreaming big. I think this allows the viewer to dream equally as big. There is too much joy in Africa to only show the desperation. We have to strike a balance.
Capturing these images involves obstacles that Bobby has become well-accustomed to. From flat tires to overheating cars, to subjects not showing up, Bobby knows that circumstances change quickly and you have to go with the flow. His recommendation for a pre-production routine: a little yoga and meditation to de-stress before a shoot (and if you’re not a fan of meditation, he suggests a little whiskey!).
Bobby’s images have been used by many organizations to help raise donations, and he continues to photograph the water crisis in many parts of Africa.
Africa is an incredible place with beautiful and powerful individuals. Every time I see one of my images being used in a campaign, I get excited because it’s my way of introducing the friends who I meet here every day to the rest of the world. The images never quite do them justice, but I think it’s really cool that I get to introduce them and their stories.
On a recent trip to northern Kenya, Bobby talks about driving a land cruiser across what appeared to be a dried river bed. In reality, two to three feet under the sand lives an active, flowing river. Local populations had realized that even though the land appears dry, there is still running water to be harvested from under the soil. When speaking of this, he remarks this is one of his favorite parts of Africa – that nothing is as it seems.
In Africa, we have our rainy season and dry seasons and during the beginning of the rainy season, you can literally watch dry rivers fill up and as they do, they bring life with them. The flowers and trees begin to blossom and the grazing antelopes come to feed. It happens in less than 24 hours. The water makes everything alive and green and, I think in similar ways, we each have the opportunity to be water to a thirsty world around us. We have the opportunity to change things as we interact with them, and as we do, we make them just a little bit greener and a little bit more alive.
Bobby is currently running a funding campaign for the next phase of this project. He plans to photograph an aerial survey of water ecosystems across Kenya to get a better understanding of how the water and rainfall interact with the landscape. Bobby’s ultimate goal is to raise awareness for climate change and bring attention to the ways this affects human and wildlife populations. To learn more or get involved, you can reach out at [email protected].
See more of Bobby at bobbyneptune.com!