A Thousand Words

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

| This is the 107th story of Our Life Logs |

I was born in Nairobi in early 1991 as a twin, and all my life, people would do a double take when they looked at my sister and me. I was the sixth born in a family of nine siblings. Though I was meek, being my mother’s last born offered me the protection I needed from my elder siblings, and a sense of authority over my younger-step siblings. Life with a big family meant something was always going on.

Despite our large family, my parents were always supportive and present in every way for each of us. Our life was comfortable, and our unity was formidable. Things were great until my mother passed away when I was just 11 years old. Her demise hit me hard. I was devastated. She was always so kind to me and was my main source of comfort in my youth. It was as if she took my voice away with her. I became withdrawn after her death, and my shyness became a deafening silence. Losing her changed me. Thankfully, my dad stayed strong for our sake. Through our grieving, his support never wavered, which gave me the confidence to chase my dreams as I grew up. Without him, I would have had an even harder time overcoming the pain of losing my mother.

Image courtesy of Pexels

My twin was another source of strength in my life. She was a support system I could not have done without, especially throughout my childhood. Back then, I struggled with shyness and anxiety. For a very long time I couldn’t just walk up to strangers and strike up a conversation. The only time I talked freely was when I was with my immediate family. I really didn’t know how to express myself with words. Nothing ever seemed to sound right. For the longest time, I only spoke through my twin sister.  Even just the idea of speaking in front of a group would bring tears to my eyes. She never mocked me for my fears. Instead, she would speak up for me when she knew I was petrified to speak. She was so brave and understanding. I admired that.

In life, maybe more than my dad, my siblings weaved my life into place. They lavished me in emotional and financial support, advice, and gave me a sense of a family. They took care of everything my mother would have done for me. I attribute my success to their support and teamwork.

For primary school, I went to Makini primary in Nairobi Kenya. It was a wonderful school that gave me the much-needed foundation I needed to learn the importance of responsibility and hard work. That school helped me become the woman I am today. The school had their students participate in a number of extra-curricular activities that helped me break my shyness. It was a very slow process, but over time it helped me better express myself. I played tennis, took piano, karate, and art classes.  I even skated.

Soon enough, I found myself embracing my creativity so much that it overshadowed my lack of social skills. I felt at home during all these activities, much different than my feelings during normal class time when the teachers had me speak up in class. I preferred speaking through my art. I took to arts as fish does to water. Even in high school my dad once told my art teacher, “I don’t see her read, all I see her do every day is draw.” Most of my life has been driven by different strokes of art.

My high school life was blissfully uneventful. I never really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I always dreaded that question. When I did finally think about my future, I tried picturing myself as a model, and that was easy to do. Like a typical girl fresh out of high school, I tried a lot of things after graduating in 2009. Looking back, I see how all of it helped bring me to what I do today. I had a jewel body art business that didn’t last long because it was hard to finance. I don’t regret trying it, however, because through the business I met photographers that would later help me organize photo-shoots by linking a group of people with photographers.

Me in November 2009.

In 2010, I met and fell in love with my partner. He has been very instrumental in motivating me to pursue my dreams and my biggest fan. While I searched for my passion, he supported me as I tried different endeavors.

Another avenue I tried after high school was modeling. I felt it was something I was capable of, and despite my shyness, I pursued it. I modeled for about two years, and I enjoyed the experience. As a model, I was constantly interacting with photographers and always found their job intriguing. I knew I wanted to get into photography after my very first photo-shoot. After I got back the photos he had taken, I found that I was more amazed with the work he had done than how I looked in the photos.

A photo taken of me during one of my modeling gigs.

My passion for photography developed as I worked with people that used them in the years that I was in search of my life’s purpose. Photography made sense for me. It was artistic, and I could express myself without words, something I had always preferred. It was perfect. It’s easy to look back now and see how my past interests helped lead me to my career today.

My partner has been the backbone of my career in photography, so much so that my first camera was a gift from him. He drove me to photo shoots and would patiently wait for me to finish the job. He has always had my back, which is more than I could ask for. He loves me in a way that is truly humbling.

I attended Shang Tao Media Arts College in Kenya to study 3D Animation and Multimedia in 2013. It became my second home as I honed my skills in photography. I had identified my strength and concentrated my efforts into polishing what I believed was my best channel of expression. My brother kindly paid my tuition fees, and, like my partner, encouraged me to pursue what I was passionate about. He loved that I found my voice through photography and wanted to give me every opportunity to speak up in my own way.

During college, I underwent a compulsory internship where I was able to get firsthand field experience. After being on set, I knew I couldn’t turn back or pursue anything else. I was meant for this. Thanks to my supportive family, I didn’t feel like I had to look for an alternative path. I graduated in 2014 and officially picked my tools of trade. Since then, practicing photography has just made me fall deeper in love with it as a career.

In 2015, my daughter, Zariah was born, and she completed our picture-perfect family. Being such a bubbly child, I found myself talking to people more often because of her inquisitive and happy nature. I often let her tag along with me to most of my photoshoot sessions.

Photography helped give me a purpose, but it also helped me overcome my shyness. I wouldn’t say I am the most confident person in the room, but I certainly don’t hide in a corner and try not to be seen. Talking to clients and asking strangers if I could photograph them during events has helped me work through my anxiety. I still get nervous, but I’m also more excited to talk and get to know new people.

One of my many photographs.

My most triumphant moment was taking my first picture, not just as a camera holder, but as a creator and director of an image. A true photographer. After learning the craft, the possibilities ahead of me never looked clearer. Looking at the pictures I’ve taken that I was ready to take over the industry. After years of letting my sister speak for me, I had broken free on my own. I had found my own voice, and I was never going to look back.

I have been able to photograph so many people since I’ve begun this career, and I never get tired of documenting these people in different stages of their lives. Every client is different and has a unique story. Telling their stories through pictures has made me grow in more ways than one. It’s wonderful to see that my sister and I have remained close even though we lead much different lives. I’m able to stand on my now, and that’s a great feeling. After years of shyness and allowing others to speak for me, I speak for myself. The greatest thing about being a photographer is the ability to shout through my pictures. I don’t shy away anymore. I roar.

This is the story of Tezera Yagomba

Tereza Gabriella Yagomba is a creative photographer. She goes by the name Essar in her photographic work. Art has always been the best way she could express herself. After years of relying on her twin to speak for her, Tereza now lives her own life, pursuing her love of photography. She has still remained close with her twin, who is her favorite person. She loves baking, doing DIY projects on a YouTube channel and is an accomplished photographer. Family and friends mean the world to her and having her daughter and partner has made her strive to be the best person she possibly can.

Tereza, 2018.

If you would like to view more of Tereza’s work, please visit the links below:

Instagram portfolio: https://www.instagram.com/essaryagomba/

 YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCG9CQx-pg_u-Bslp-T2lp1g

This story first touched our hearts on June 19, 2018.

| Writer: Maureen Opondo | Editors: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker |

#family #twin #loss #shyness #dream #photography #creativity #modeling #career #business

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