Imagine losing your life time investment in a flash!!

Last week was one of the darkest in my life. And this is how an eventful and bright day suddenly went dark.

I was meant to travel to Gulu town, located about 400km north of Kampala, Uganda’s capital on Thursday morning to volunteer for a robotic training organized by my friends Solomon King and Sandra Washburn.P01

That morning, Taxi operators went on strike, protesting the increased operation fees. Transport in Kampala City was a mess. The over 5 million inhabitants of this city who primarily use public transport were held hostage. I was part of the statistic that day.P02

Sporadic riots were happening all over down town Kampala. Teargas was being fired from one side of town, bullets went off in the other. I was caught in between. For that reason, I didn’t travel. No one did.

I decided to take advantage of the situation and photographed a few exchanges between the protestors and the Uganda Police. It wasn’t for long. Because of the heavy luggage I had, I decided to jump on a motorbike, commonly known as Boda Boda and headed back home.P03

Later in the evening, I was back with my backpacks at Kisenyi Bus Terminal hoping to catch the second last bus to Gulu which departs at 7pm daily.

After being booked in a Homeland Bus seat 58, I squeezed myself into the back of the bus in preparation for my 6 hour night travel. Since a large number of people had not travelled whole day, the bus’ isle was chaotic with passengers, hawkers, touts, bus managers and ‘thieves’.P04

I was carrying three backpacks with a heavy tripod. The bags were as close to my heart as my life. There was some kind of mini stampede in the bus. My feet, was stamped on, my shoulders were knocked from one side to the other, but my camera bag was safe. At least for that while.P06

58 was an isle seat. My two backpacks were on my lap while the other was beside me. To allow the other two travelling passengers take their seats, I temporarily put my backpacks in the overhead baggage space.

In less than 10 seconds, before I could get back to my seat, I realize something was missing in the overhead luggage space. The most important backpack together with one other backpack was missing! Looking down the isle, my tripod too went missing. I climbed on bodies in a rush to check outside the bus, but it was too late. My life’s savings were all gone.P09

Distraught and confused, I disembarked the bus, sat on the dusty floor thinking about nothing in particular. Sorry was what the bus owners could offer. On the other hand close to Ushs. 40 million (USD 18.000) was stolen. And all they could say was sorry?P07

Canon 1D Mark IV, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 16-35mm f2.8, Canon 24-70mm f2.8, Canon 70-200mm f2.8, MacBook Pro 15 Inch were among the causalities.

P010

My livelihood and profession is dependent on taking pictures. It’s my hobby, my passion, my bread, my hope for today and tomorrow. Waking up the next day knowing I didn’t have what defined who I am, who I have become was a hard feeling to hide.P08When

Getting these cameras to Africa is a hustle. Affording them is even much more than a hustle. I saved every last penny over the past four years to invest in what I heartfully believe in. And for all this effort to be crushed in under a minute is mean. Out rightly unfair.P011

Thanks to friends who have encouraged me to move on. Friends who have constantly reminded me that my most important tool is safe in my eyes. They have gone on to create an account on Indiegogo Online Fundraising Platform “African Stories through Photography to source some funds to help me top up on my next gear. In Uganda, another set of friends have created a facebook page “Echwalu Photography Fundraisers” to source for more funds locally. The response from both has been amazingly high. Thank you.

For now, I remain unemployed.

68 thoughts on “Imagine losing your life time investment in a flash!!

  1. You must add the links to both the indigo go campaign and the facebook page so that people like me can tweet, share on facebook and in general try to gain some attention to this so people can donate and help you.

    • Ariane,

      I wanna say thank you. I will be following up with an email in the morning. Its 1am from my side of the world.

      • Edward, sleep well. I have shared on FB and twitter and have made a small donation as well. I am devastated to hear of this. You are so wonderfully talented. An artist. I am hoping all your fans will rise to the occasion and help, even if only to share widely.

  2. Is there a way I can send you a small donation from the US?  My son was a Peace Corps volunteer in Kitgum for 2 years…

    ________________________________

    • How coincidental. Gulu neighbours Kitgum and i have done extensive work in Kitgum. Its a town i could call my third home.I have over and again been to that town on photography project. I will soon share with you the photos.

      Linda, here is a link to the online campaign. http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/african-stories-through-photography/x/3713358 . I am thankful that you could identify with my problem! Thank you Linda.

      I hope your Son can come back to Uganda. I would sure love to seat down for a coffee and get to know about you and his work in Uganda. Thank you again for being generous and believing in me.

      Looking forward to hearing from you!

      Edward

  3. Dear Edward.. As you know I am such a fan of your work and was tremendously sad when I heard that you have lost your camera equipment which enabled the rest of us to see the stories of the real Africa through your wonderful eyes.. You have a unique talent which I have been happy to contribute to keeping working.. For anyone reading this please consider contributing to the fund to help get Edward back to work.. thanks http://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/EchwaluPhotographyFundraisers and you can donate here.. http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/african-stories-through-photography

  4. Pingback: Imagine losing your life time investment in a flash!! | Helen's Photomania Blog

    • Thank You Helen. Definitely my Number one believer! Its not the first time we are talking here..Its been going on for a good while now. Am gonna follow up with an email in the morning since its pretty late my side. Just wanted to acknowledge receipt of your generosity!

      Cheers

  5. So sad, so terrible, but I am sure it will work out in the end. Your most important tools are safe, your eyes, yourself, but I guess you must fell as if you are without arms or legs just now. Crossing my fingers you will be soon on tracks. And the photos illustrating this sad story: the best of the best…

    • Four times? As in four times? This once is breaking me down…I dont know if i ever reached four times…I think i would have collappsed..

  6. DEVASTATED!! I cannot believe this!
    So saddened by this, luv.

    Totally, joining the fundraising crew, I shall be posting it on my blog and Facebook as well as giving you my contribution soon.

    • My mystery fan! How are you? Well, with or without the contribution, you have been a very consistent supporter here. You have commented regularly on my posts and whats better than that? You have encouraged me to work harder to produce high quality work just so, i keep you visiting! Thank you mystery fan!

  7. In Western countries they also don’t value big price cameras anymore, the photostaff of numerous newspapers were fired completely, to ‘from now on use iPhoneography’ only… meaning that it’s not the fancy camera you can take these pictures with, but ANY kind of equipment. Don’t sit down, but go out with your phone, or small compactcamera. Show the world you can SEE and that YOUR eyes are most valuable. Ofcourse it’s a whole lot of money…but money makes you depending and you need to be independant.

    My advice: get yourself a small camera with a wifi mode and forget about the expensive stuff. I know from your images you CAN SEE and therefor you don’t need all fancy equipment. Get independant from your equipment😉

    • Fantastic piece of advice. Thats exactly what i have been pondering on. It could be my next step!

      I appreciate your detailed breakdown on the current trend and how we should refocus. I have bookmarked your advice and trust me, i wont forget this..

      thank you Melanie

  8. Reblogged this on The Earth Beneath My Feet and commented:
    Just when you think you are having a bad day (I’ve had two in a row this week), you will invariably find some one who has had a worse time. My heart goes out to Edward Echwalu, a freelance photographer from Uganda whose camera equipment was pilfered. I know he has saved long and hard for his equipment. His post made me really heartsore.

  9. Hat dies auf letters from mars rebloggt und kommentierte:
    Edward Echwalu, a passionate and very gifted Ugandan freelance photographer, who never gets tired of documenting life in Uganda and the problems the people face day by day, got all of his equipment stolen. His profession and identity as a photojournalist depend on taking pictures. Now his life’s saving are all gone. He saved every penny over the last years to invest in his photography. I can’t even imagine what it means to lose all of this in a blink of an eye after years of hard work and thousands of dollars spend. It’s a big struggle to get these cameras to Africa and affording them in the first place. To all you fellow photographers: If you can spare a dime, please support this outstanding photographer, so he can continue his important work on Ugandan society in the near future. His friends launched an account on <a href="http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/african-stories-through-photography?browse_v=old_no_dropdown"<indiegogo, where you can donate. Please check out his website. My thoughts are with him.

  10. Reblogged this on Living in England – What is it really like? and commented:
    What a terrible experience! I love to take photos but not on the same level as yourself. I had a cheap point and shoot when I first started driving everyone mad taking photos. I took that little camera everywhere with me, then one day when I was approaching my home one evening two small boys rode past me on their bicycles. I did not sense anything bad because they were kids maybe 11 or 12 years old. They grabbed by bag as they passed by and cycled off at full speed. I chased them but I couldn’t catch them. The only thing I was cross about was my little camera! How heart-breaking for you to loose expensive cameras that you use to make your living. Could you post the link to the appeals that people have set up for you. I hope you can replace at least some of your essential equipment.

    • Alan,

      Its absolutely a nightmare to get cameras, good cameras into Uganda. We cant buy online because the credit card system is not yet fully operational and there are no camera stores here…If you find any, they are double the price normally..

      Thanks for appreciating though!

    • Akiiki,

      Thank you so much! Its been a terrible period but with the help of the likes of you, am slowly starting to forgive and forge a way forward. I appreciate your kind words and visit too.

      Thank you for lifting my spirits.

  11. Dear Edward. Nothing’s so bad that it is’nt good for something. I’m a storyteller from Denmark, and I’ve said that sentence hundreds of time, and I know it’s no comfort, when shit happens. But now I have seen your excellent work – because Susanne Possing wrote about your unluck – and I have sent links to all my digital friends. And they too have seen your work by now. And they appreciate it.
    On my next storytelling I will mention you – you are a great storyteller – and the salery goes to your equipment.
    Peace and keep going

  12. They can rob you of your photographic equipment, but will never be able to steal your heart and eyes to shoot beautiful pictures. I will Reblogged.
    Strength and courage my friend.
    Cruz

  13. Lo lo siento – i am so so sorry that this happened to you. Having lost my camera and laptop and years’ worth of images, I understand a tiny bit how this loss has affected you. It’s like losing an arm or a leg. After hobbling along for several months without reference images for my art, I did trip into a new form of painting, one that propelled me into a totally new direction and one that resulted in museum shows and amazing public approval. I realize that i should thank those thieves, but I am still human and the sting still hurts.

    Your loss is showing you an amazing outpouring of love from strangers and from friends who support you and your work. One day you, like i, will look back and see where positive growth arose from your loss. You’ve already touched others by this heartfelt post and amazing images.
    lisa/z from ecuador

  14. Bambi, we hope and pray the universe will restore itself to the rightful order, and in the meantime, we shall share your story with the world. Somebody gave us an old Polaroid. Getting film for it is now even more expensive than before but if you would like to have it please inform us. We have appreciated your work.

  15. Hey, really sorry about that. Reading all the messages, I don’t doubt for a second that you will get back on your feet 200%!!! Lesson to take home from this should be: When (not if) you get more (and better) equipment, have it INSURED. It might seem a pain in the *** but its worth it for professional photographers. I know someone who also lost a fortune worth of photography equipment and she then went ahead and had the next batch insured. If I recall correctly, it was AIG-Chartis-AIG (or what ever they call themselves now) did it for her. Its not something they do a lot, so you’ll need to speak to people and find the right person to do it for you – or find another insurer that does that. But it is definitely worth it -I think!!
    and well, rest assured, that your talent cannot be stolen no matter what! so I wouldn’t say unemployed. I would say changing things up!🙂

  16. Pingback: Another time to share | Completely Disappear

  17. I am so sorry to hear what happened to your camera and your life savings. MY thoughts are with you and I hope that you will be able to purchase a new one soon with the help of people online. Best of luck!

  18. Your photography is awesome and your loss is heartbreaking! I did just try to make a donation to your indegogo campaign but they are having some technical difficulties – I will go back. I do think its a shame though that the story you tell here about how you lost your gear isn’t shown on the indegogo site – I think you would get more response if people really understood what has happened. I wish you all the best of luck!

    • Gayle, forgive me for replying you really late. I have been trying so hard to work on this project : https://echwaluphotography.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/food-across-borders-improving-food-security-through-improved-agricultural-value-chains-in-east-africa/.

      It involved extensive travels in rural Africa and could not easily come to my blog.

      It was difficult to deal with it at first but time has passed now and am slowly moving on. I have been renting cameras to work and its really been helpful.

      Thank you for the help. Sadly, indiegogo was acting up, but in my heart i know you did contribute and that means a lot to me. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, i appreciate Gayle.

      The world is becoming more and more individualistic and for you to show that kind gesture of generosity is unbelievable. Your good wishes is gonna get me back on my feet soon.

      And thank you for taking your time to pass by my blog as well. Am humbled.

  19. That’s so devastating! I had $15k of gear my gear stolen from me almost a year ago to the day. I’ve since replaced just about everything but there is not a day that goes by that I still don’t think about it. I get it, it’s more than the gear that was taken from you. It’s how you survive and all gone by someone who doesn’t have a clue of how to use it or what it’s really worth. I wish you all the best in repurchasing the gear and getting some peace.
    You are so talented I can’t wait to see more of your world when you are back on your feet.
    Best of luck!

    • At i do have someone i can directly relate my story with. Am telling you, it was tough. Really tough.

      I have been renting cameras in the meantime as i forge a way forward. The support from admirers of my work has been immense. Unbelievable.

      I am slowly getting back to my feet again and in no time, i believe i will have the basics to get me going as i reinvest in proper equipment again.

      Thank you for sharing your sad tale. It certainly helped me deal with mine and i look forward to more of your visits here.

  20. I am very sorry to hear about what happened to your camera and your life savings. Chin up and carry on. I am a huge fan of your photography and I hope that you recover quickly so that we can once again appreciate the photos and stories!

    • Kels, thank for your encouraging words. Yes, it was a tough one to swallow but am beginning to build the foundation afresh. I should be on my feet again soon. And it fills my heart with joy to note that i have a big fan out there..Thank you

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