My day is perfect. Nothing makes me feel like rainbows and butterflies than a cramping abdomen dancing in my half awake body. Not forgetting the eerie of a swollen, infected tooth that makes my left cheek look like a small ‘kaimati’. I have a photo shoot today and I would rather be anywhere else than on Limuru Road. What should be lightly packed bag feels so heavy I am tempted to gift its contents to the homeless. The commute is the only thing smooth about today. No traffic. No conductor being funny with my change. Nobody half-seating in my chair. Nothing but peace.
I am here an hour and half early. It looks nothing like any studio I have seen in Nairobi and I have been to a couple. A brief half assed apology to the kind gentleman at the door who ushers me to the office. Studio space, huge kitchen, TV room and a gazillion other rooms. I am too lazy for a house tour.
“What time is your shoot?” he asks obviously puzzled at my presence.
“I know. Better early than late, yes.”
“I guess.” He shows me to the TV room and hands me the remote.
“Play whatever you want. You can change in here. Use this space to sort your outfits or just chill.”
After three songs I am bored. I grab a book. It’s 9:35am. May be I am here too early. Ruthie my make-up artist calls me to say she has come down with something. She is headed to a pharmacy and will be with me as soon as she can. Another half hour is split between praying that my cheek does not grow any bigger and a failed power nap.
Ruthie calls. I see her downstairs from the large windows that I am tempted to carry home with me. Ruthie and Ian, the photographer, walk in. There is hope. Quick brief to Ian on what I want from the photos is shortly followed by a brainstorm with Ruthie on how to hide the swollen tooth. Finally she says she knows what to do. Good. Because all I had was a frozen bottle of Daima water to put on my cheek after every shot.
First look. Ian listens. I can tell he has heard everything from clients as my many details don’t frazzle him one bit. He asks to clarify and we are finally on the same page. He is kind to me with the camera. He jolts when he gets a good shot. Yeah because I need to sit down. Then I see a farmilair face. What in the world is her name? Shareefa. We were in campus together. Big hugs and a thousand ‘How ah you’s’ later, we set up for the second shot. Soon the pain is forgotten. All of it.
They are making breakfast and I am dying to have some tea but I don’t want to rock the boat. Shareefa offers iced water as the others munch on snacks. They will never know how blessed they are to even swallow without pain. I am very clear on how my people are treated and they serve Ruthie her cup of hot chocolate exactly how she takes it. Who are these people?
The shoot is taking longer than we expected and my relief is short lived. We have just two more shots and the tooth is hellbent on making up for lost time. It’s throbbing so hard I imagine there is blood in my mouth. Ian and Ruthie cheer me up but my eyes betray me. The painkillers are not working. I dash to the bathroom because I am not one to cry in front of a studio buzzing with cool kids. We try again and we get the best shot. The last one and it’s a wrap. I thank Ian for his patience and Ruthie for good job done.
Sun Africa studios, I discover, is owned by Ben Kiruthi is such a good space that I have to go back. The team there is efficient and professional. They make you feel so comfortable. Not forgetting the technology in the studio is something out of this world. They are confident in what they are doing and that shared energy makes what would have been a disaster of a shoot, successful.
A few years back I went for a photo shoot to a studio advertised by one of the top photographers at the time. When I got there, the receptionist had the nonchalance of an overfed python. The photographer turned out to be an intern not the main photographer as promised. I thought, I am in intern back at the office and so is he, yeah interns! He had technique and wanting people skills. The changing ‘room’ was behind a loosely hanged drape made me so exposed that I wanted to be over and done with. My then make-up artist tried his best to manage the situation but we both wanted out of there. While picking the photos the editor blurted out to me, ‘Chagua tano’.
With the number of businesses opening every day, bad customer care is not a choice. One of my girlfriends goes to a salon tucked somewhere in Kinoo. She calls it ‘Salon ya mtaani’. She could go anywhere she wanted to get her hair done. However, she is treated so well at mtaani that every time she leaves she comes back. That is what service feels like. If you treat your clients well you make your marketing so seamless because your reputation precedes you. Thank you Sun Africa studios.
Oh another thing Sun Africa are so pocket friendly, it’s amazing!