The Big Picture: Student Photographer Launches International Career
Staff Writer, 5 March 2020
For Sikhulule “Skhu” Nkomphela, photography has always been more than a side hustle. While doing his Bachelor of Environmental and Water Science at UWC, he took every opportunity to develop his natural talent – as a student assistant at the University’s Department of Student Development and Support; a freelance photographer for departments in need; and in UWC Football’s Media Office (among others).
His talent for photography and passion for design has earned him acclaim (and awards) on and off campus, where he’s a regular fixture at sporting events, graduations and more. That talent has taken him from the small Eastern Cape town of Cofimvaba to Parliament to sports stadiums all across South Africa – and now it’s taking him around the world.
Nkomphela has been nominated to serve on the International University Sports Federation’s (FISU) Media and Communications Committee for the next three years – a part-time job at the second-highest sporting organisation (right after the Olympics) that will see him travelling to FISU’s Swiss offices and to sporting events around the world.
Cape@6 managed to slow Skhu down for a minute to chat about work, study and becoming successful by doing what you love.
What will you be doing at FISU?
Well, the job description is to write, edit, and distribute content, including publications, press releases, website content, annual reports, speeches, and other marketing material that communicates the FISU mission. I also have to respond to media inquiries, arrange interviews, maintain effective relationships with journalists, and maintain a media database, and act as a spokesperson for FISU. In addition, I have to seek opportunities to enhance the reputation of the FISU brand, and coordinate publicity events as required, maintain records of media coverage and collate analytics and metrics.
What attracted you to the FISU offer?
The experience. Somehow and somewhere I know it’s going to open doors for me. And putting aside all the benefits that come with this offer, most notably I’ll get a chance to document the world through my lenses.
What sparked your interest in media and photography?
I’m not really sure – the gift of photography is just something that’s been embedded in me since I was young. Every time I held a camera, I tried to improve on my skills – and once I really started associating myself with the media space, things just kept getting better.
What’s it been like, studying and working at the same time? How do you manage?
Honestly, trying to work part-time while attending full-time can be quite a challenge. You’re trying to juggle classes, homework, work, your social life – it’s a battle to stay sane. There were times where I felt overwhelmed at times and I found myself wanting to quit my job, school or both. In those moments, I remembered the end game, remembered why I started – and that made the sacrifices worthwhile.
What does success mean to you?
To me success means that at all costs you need to always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it, because success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm and your failures are the ones that pushes you to do your best then success takes care of itself.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
My goal is to have my own communication, media and marketing company that specializes in corporate and sport branding. And not only that, I want to go for the top – my dream is to work for the Olympics one day. And then I’ll come back to plough back to Africa with the goal of paying special attention to women’s sport.
Any advice for others who’d like to follow in your photographic footsteps?
Dream big, keep chasing your dreams, and never let anyone tell you otherwise. Hard work pays off (even if it’s not right now). Don’t be a follower. Be open to learning. Lastly – and most importantly – be humble.