After traveling and studying extensively, photographer and story-teller Sam Vox seeks to tell the tale of his native country Tanzania. By capturing the day-to-day moments of Tanzanian people, Sam is able to give outsiders an snapshot of life in the country.
My full name is Sameer Satchu. But mostly known as Sam Vox on social media. "Sam" is short for my name and "Vox" is Latin for 'voice'. So basically my voice through pictures. I am a freelance photographer based in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
I enjoy story-telling and that's probably my main focus when I am out and about with my camera. People have so much to share. I'm curious about people's lives, cultures, traditions, languages and food. It’s the means of life. I've spent quite a bit of my teenage years studying abroad. I got my BA in Professional Communications in Malaysia and in total, I spent about 7 years in Asia. The countries I visited are; Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and India. Being so far away from home introduced me to many new cultures. I was so interested in people's way of living. This had an immediate impact on me. I stayed with so many host families that were equally curious about where I was from (Tanzania). But they had very little to no knowledge about Tanzania. This sparked my interest in sharing stories about my home. But it was difficult to do since I didn't feel like I knew my country to the fullest. It was also difficult because I didn't have any pictures to show from my country. Pictures that mattered, ones that had a story behind them.
How does photography influence the way you travel and see the world around you?
I picked up photography during my university years but It all kicked off after returning to Tanzania. I wanted to understand, live and see Tanzania before creating any sort of narrative about it. I based a lot my pictures on my childhood days. These involved kids playing football or just playing on the streets. I started documenting what I was familiar with, documenting things that bring back what it felt like growing up in Tanzania. I kept on going and I photographed people and places. I would go out every day with a small point and shoot camera and my phone. I would look for places in town where it's not too chaotic. Places where people are more relaxed or taking a break, so as to not interrupt their day/work.
What is your favorite approach to photography? Do you generally strike up a conversation with your subjects or just capture the moment?
I don't go out targeting specific people, for me everyone has something to share. I live by a quote by Bill Nye, "Everyone you meet, knows something you don't". I'd start a conversation with random strangers and later ask them for a photograph. Most of the time they would be okay with me photographing them, mainly because I don't treat them as my 'subjects', but as a new friend I just made. I would occasionally get a 'No'. The beautiful thing about Tanzanians is that they are very friendly. They could say no to a photograph today but change their mind tomorrow or after a few days. It's all about building a relationship and trust. This is what I enjoy most, when people open up and share with me. Telling me how their day has been or what they are look forward to. Not only do I enjoy the aspect of storytelling in my images but they also motivate me and inspire me in many ways. I am quite aware of all the struggles people face in their everyday life, but I like meeting the ones that are actually trying to make a change, either for themselves or the community.
How would you describe the local culture and life? What do you love most about living in (and being from) there?
Tanzania is one of the most fast growing countries in Africa. It's important to document all these changes. It's something the media doesn't shows. I don't necessarily have an aim or try to educate my audience. But I've noticed that my photographs and stories have changed many people's views on Tanzania and Africa in general. People I meet in Asia ask me if "Tanzania is safe”, this indicates that they are very much unaware of our African culture and way of living. My photography is a channel where I am able to share a small fraction of Tanzania's heart and her people. Ultimately my aim is to show the ordinary everyday life in an African country, by sharing stories of people, places and their different cultures and traditions. Tanzania is as safe as any other country, every place has it's on risks and dangers.
Where are some of your favorite places to explore and photograph through Tanzania? Why?
Tanzania is a very big country with so many places to see. I most of all have not seen enough as I'd like to think, but with photography I plan on visiting as many places in Tanzania as possible. If you are a traveler and would like to explore places and experience life in Tanzania, these are some of the towns that you should visit; Mbeya, Moshi, Arusha, Bagamoyo and Mafia Island. They are all beautiful places with rich Swahili culture. As for recent, I have been vastly interested in documenting Zanzibar. I love the people and it's culture.
What’s next for you? Any final words of advice?
I'm not sure what the future holds for me, but all I know is the harder I work the more opportunities have come my way. I am excited about this year and I am working towards my third exhibition in Cape Town. Which will hopefully be up by end of this year. There are no limits and never will be, instead the journey will be an ever continuing one… which I cannot wait to fore fill.
Images Courtesy of Sam Vox
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