I am Julius Mwelu and I am the founder and artistic director of the Mwelu Foundation.
I was born and grew up in the ghetto of Mathare slum. I started taking photographs in the year 1997 when I was 13 with a help of an American lady called Lana Wong. To start, I was using a point-and-shoot disposable camera. In some of my first photos I had missed peoples hands and sometimes their heads! But after two or three months I become a better photographer as part of the MYSA (Mathare Youth Sports Association) “Shootback” project. A selection of the photos from this project were made into a book.
Later, with a help of Jasper Groen (a photographer from Holland), I managed to publish another book in the Netherlands called “Julius” all about life in the slum (this book was designed and sponsored by Stoere Binken Design). At the same time I was teaching some youths in Mathare how to use a camera too. Initially, most of the kids did not like the idea of being young photographers as most of them just wanted to play football. But after I explained to them what photography is many of them became very interested.
In Mathare there are so many youths. Some of them are not in school and some of them are on the street doing nothing, so I decided to put something back into my community and give a few youths a point-and-shoot camera. I encouraged them to start taking photos of their lives. And I tried to use the photos to show people the talent that exists in the slum and how the slum looks through the eyes of the kids.
I have learnt that if we invest in the future of today’s youths then we will make this world a better place for everyone to live in.