Never Stop Being a Student of the Art – A Conversation with Photographer Kahlil Francis

Kahlil Francis

Kahlil Francis is not ‘just’ a Photographer. He is a lover, supporter, enthusiast and connoisseur of the art of photography.

Over the last 20 years, what started out as a hobby has developed into an intense love affair that has opened this artist’s eyes to a world that looks so much different through the lens of a camera. Kahlil attended Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts (EMCVPA) where he minored in Photography after participating in a one year leisure programme; he graduated with a Diploma in Visual Communication. After graduating Kahlil was eager to share his love and knowledge of photography and so leapt at the opportunity to have his own leisure programme at (EMCVPA).

Following many memorable years at (EMCVPA), Kahlil went on to work as Graphic Designer and Corporate Photographer at Advantage General Insurance Company Limited and NCB Jamaica Limited where he is currently employed. He has created marketing tools such as advertisements, print and web-based content, as well as, content for internal corporate consumption.

Kahlil’s work as a Photographer has not been limited to the corporate world. His extensive portfolio includes weddings, family portraits, landscape, flora and fauna and to some extent fashion photography. His true passion however, is in his personal works, his series and studies. His current focus is on the study of Jamaican Humming Birds in flight (‘Hummingbirds of Ja’). He has done series on the desolate beach, the pregnant belly and the female form which may be viewed at You can find Kahlil on Facebook:

The love affair between Kahlil and photography has produced multiple awards in National and Corporate competitions, such as, The JCDC National Visual Arts Festival, where he received silver and bronze medals in a variety of categories including landscape/seascape and portraiture.

As we Jamaicans like to say “Which part a Jamaica yuh come fram?”
Born a grow in Kingston… I still reside here…

How did you get started in photography?
After leaving High School, I decided Graphic Design would be a great career choice as art became my first love during my final years at Wolmers. To enroll full time at Edna Manley College, I had to develop a portfolio that demonstrated my abilities as a young artist. For one year I attended classes in Textile design and photography with Edna’s leisure progamme. Photography instantly became one of my most favourite hobbies. During my four year study with Edna, photography grew from a hobby to way of life… Winning national awards and seeing the true value of this wonderful art over the years encouraged me to consider it being a major career options as well…

What subjects do you love to photograph?
Well… That’s a tough one… My landscape work is very important… My hummingbird study… ‘Hummingbirds of Ja.’… And nude studies “Riva Mumma” a Jamaica folklore…

Holy Trinity Cathedral (Photo by Kahlil Francis)

How do you prepare for a shoot?
It depends on the project… It all starts with planning… looking at gear that will be used, getting information on location/s for the project, speaking with clients and exchanging concepts and ideas for the shoot.

What is best advice anyone has given to you about photography?
Never stop being a student of the art… The moment you believe you have mastered the art or there is nothing else to learn, you have failed being a photographer.

What inspires you when you a shooting pictures?
Whether for clients or myself, I am always thinking about having a final image that will help with the development/growth of my portfolio.

I love the collection you had with the doctor birds. How much time you spend trying to capture these very fast flying birds?
A very common question… Hours! days! Months! A typical shooting day can be six to nine hours… The first set I did took over six months to finish… I am yet to study all four species we have in Jamaica, so I have some time to go with this project… It takes time to find good spots where these animals will gather… Then a little more time to study the mannerism and feeding habits… They are super fast, so making images are very difficult which makes the failure rate very high…

Hummingbird (Photo by Kahlil Francis)

Do you use a physical dark room or an electronic dark room for your photos (Photo editing program)?
During my years at Edna, the wet darkroom was the only way I could have my Black & White images ‘finished’ as film work was the only form available then… I am actually now in the process of acquiring pieces to start my own wet room to facilitate the development of my print show.

What other famous people have you photographed?
Well…I have only photographed three so far… Michael ‘Ibo’ Cooper for the 2012 Advantage General Insurance Company Ltd. Calendar… ‘Celebrating Our Jamaican People’… Sean and Jodi Henriques for their maternity shoot in 2016.

Sean and Jodi Henriques (Photo by Kahlil Francis)

Where is the one place you would like to go and take photos?
For many years I have done studies in and around the Palisadoes area… It’s been great for my landscape work and my portrait assignments… It’s a special place to me as I grew up in Harbour View and spent quite a lot of time on the sands there.

Which was the last inspirational book you read?
I am not much of a reader… I am read a whole lot of articles which are related to my field…

Name 2 songs that you have to hear at least once a month?
Nesbeth’s – My Dream and Silentó’s – Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)…

What is the most amazing place in Jamaica you cannot get enough pictures of?
I recently started a new study with Turtle Bay Beach in Portland. It is maybe one of the most amazing spaces I have seen/experienced so far. Black River and Portland Cottage are also locations I have been wanting to explore for some time as well. I am sure there are many other outstanding locations around the island that will demand a great deal of attention, these three are at the top my list.

What project are you working on right now?
My landscape and figure studies which are blended together to develop a concept influenced by the Jamaican folklore ‘Riva Mumma’.

Thanks for the interview. Any final thought or advice for upcoming photographers?
Always respect the art as an art… Never believe you are above learning ‘more’…

See Kahlil Francis’s portfolio and follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

About the author

Xavier Murphy