Tag Archives: Nonprofit

Making the most of travel photography

The RPS (Royal Photographic Society) included an article I wrote in its Travel Group Travelogue Newsletter after I chatted to some members about my photography. While I haven’t made as many overseas trips to support non-profit organisations as I would like, I do have plans for more. It is an incredibly rewarding aspect of travel photography so I’ve reproduced the article here, with some different images.

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Rewarding Travel Photography

When I retired early from a stressful career with an international energy company I decided to re-engage with my creative side, develop my photography and to travel in a way that allowed me to get to know other cultures. Although I enjoyed these photographic adventures I still felt a lack of purpose and I wondered: “why am I making these images” and more importantly, “why am I here at all”?

Life has a way of solving such dilemmas. When a friend contacted me in 2009 to talk about her charity Testigo Africa, a project to bring clean drinking water to a Masai village, I immediately said “If you need a photographer, just ask me”. She did and a month later I was in Arusha, Tanzania. Tracey wanted images to help her fundraising efforts; the area had suffered a terrible drought and water was scarce, livestock dying and food hard find. It was my first really close encounter with another culture and I was very inexperienced but the warm welcome and friendliness made it a pleasure. The warriors slaughtered and cooked a goat we had paid for and the women prepared vegetables. They sat apart to eat but we were treated as honorary men. We drank tea in mud huts, met Masai of all ages, enjoyed the Masai adumu (dance) and watched the women making beautiful beaded jewellery. Iwas able to capture it all.

Tracey started the charity to help the women who walked miles every day to collect water, leaving them little time to do anything else. I returned with Tracey in 2012 for the inauguration of the water supply and to photograph her wedding to Emanuel, a Masai who has become part of her team. They have since established a football academy and a perma-culture project in many villages. Women can now grow enough food to sell in addition to feeding their families.

One of the many rewarding aspects of my second visit was sharing prints from the first trip and noticing how much the women had blossomed with good nutrition and less stressful lives. My images were used in a variety of ways by Testigo: calendars, video presentations, exhibitions and greetings cards. It was a privilege to be involved.

My appetite whetted, I joined a volunteer trip in 2011 with a charity helping prevent human trafficking in the villages of Northern Thailand. We travelled with the director, essentially funding his journey, to isolated villages where he works with village heads to change ingrained attitudes and traditions. The hill tribes comprise immigrants from Myanmar, China and Laos who have for generations lived a frugal existence unacknowledged by Thai authorities. Life is hard and gangs offering loans to families are repaid by the children working in the fields, factories and brothels. The charity approaches the problem with re-education rather than disapproval as the practices have continued for generations. We stayed with families, often sleeping in their beds, ate with them and through our guide were able to get to know them a little. I found it a very difficult trip emotionally, but felt some satisfaction when the charity used many of my images on their website.

Later in 2012 I travelled to Cape Town with Momenta Workshops to work with non-profit organisation James House, which supports the township of Mandela Park. An introduction to photojournalism, I was put in touch with James House and had daily critiques of my plans and images from the Momenta expert. I had to develop my own resources, work independently and I learned a lot. Two hundred and fifty fully processed images, which were used in their annual report, had to be completed before I left. I also developed a personal project called the “Little Chair” involving clients and staff of James House.

Medellin in Colombia is next for me, to attend another Momenta Workshop. I hope to be paired with a non-profit supporting women, to improve my Spanish and further develop my skills. To enrich the experience I always include side trips; going on safari, attending festivals and finding additional opportunities for travel photography. I cannot recommend non-profit work highly enough. It’s humbling, rewarding, often challenging and a unique way to connect to the world through your camera lens.

Website: lauramorganphotography.co.uk

Facebook Page: facebook.com/pages/Laura-Morgan-Photography/146565008692998

Laura’s Advice:
• Find a cause you feel passionate about and be clear about your motives for volunteering.
• Research non-profit organisations carefully and either contact them directly or look for a company that supports such trips (see links below).
• Understand the organisation’s expectations, most likely they will want images that reflect their success in helping people, not heart-breaking images of illness or poverty.
• Be open, genuine and positive and really connect with the people you meet!

Momenta workshops: www.momentaworkshops.com highly recommended.

Photographers Without Borders: www.photographerswithoutborders.org No personal experience but has been recommended to me.

Kaya Volunteer: www.kayavolunteer.com – helpful for a first time volunteer but doesn’t specialise in photography.

Project Exposure: www.projectexposure.org – I do not have personal experience of this organisation.

Photovoice: www.photovoice.org – participatory photo projects.

 

Project South Africa 2013 Rural Life, Oltepesi, Longido (8)

Northern Thailand

Northern Thailand

Project South Africa 2013 Grid for blog _MG_3330 tarnished iron mod V2

Villagers in Oltepesi look at photos from 2009

Villagers in Oltepesi look at photos from 2009

The exhibition is over …

Uckfield Art Trail turned out to be an excellent way of gaining confidence in my work. There was a lot of interest in my photography and visitors asked more about the nonprofits I had supported. We chatted about a shared love of travel, their own volunteering exploits and some suggested potential opportunities for me to follow-up. The Rotary Club asked me to talk to them about my work and being with a fun bunch of artists and photographers for a couple of days was a treat.

I look forward to hanging the exhibition somewhere else soon …

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Exhibiting at Uckfield Art Trail …

It’s so difficult to select a few images to show what I’ve been photographing recently. I’m exhibiting at the Uckfield Art Trail* to showcase my nonprofit work and promote the charities I supported. But how do I choose? How do I, inexpensively and pleasingly, present a coherent display in a small space to engage visitors? It’s tough and although I learned a little about editing in Cape Town, it’s still a massive challenge. Many of the visitors will expect to see paintings, fine art photography and craft work, to enjoy the community art fair and the work their children have produced … I need to entertain, not just hope to educate ….

As a founder of the Art Trail in 2005 I’m really pleased to be involved again. Thank goodness I’m only exhibiting and don’t have the burden of “herding cats” – I mean organising – talented but often scatty (sorry!) artists. I also had the pleasure of working with some local children on an Art Project inspired by the Testigo Africa Project and am really looking forward to helping them put together their display of paintings, sculpture and beads.

So if you are in the Sussex area, do come and say hello … I’ll be showing images from my trip to the Hill Tribes of Northern Thailand with COSA, the Water Project in Tanzania with Testigo Africa and my recent visit to Cape Town with Momenta and James House.  Come and find out more about the causes and my experiences and if you come to the Launch Party at 7pm on 19th July, you may even find a glass of wine!

Below are some of the photographs that won’t be on display. Hah, you have to come along …!

* Exhibition is at the Civic Centre, Uckfield, East Sussex TN22 1AE and at Bridge Cottage on the High Street.  Friday 19th July 3-9pm and Saturday 20th July 9am-7pm.

Longido Water Source

The daily grind of collecting water, Longido, Tanzania

Killing time, village in Northern Thailand

Killing time, village in Northern Thailand

Rural Life, Oltepesi, Longido (8)

Rural Life, Oltepesi, Longido

Project South Africa 2013

Ronald and his son, Hangberg, Cape Town

Project South Africa 2013

Driving through Khayelitsha, Cape Town

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Drinking goat’s blood, Longido, Tanzania

 

The Little Chair …

I joined the Momenta Workshop Project South Africa 2013 to improve my understanding and practice of documentary photography and photojournalism. The workshop led by Jamie Rose was immersive and challenging in so many ways; not least of all the thorough and honest editing Jamie provided. I was assigned to James House to develop a photo profile and provide images for their website, annual report and promotional activities.

The Little Chair Project, for me, came to embody the mission of James House, a nonprofit organisation based in Hout Bay in Cape Town. James House* provides a variety of community services to nearby Imizamo Yutha and Hangberg where poverty and unemployment can result in the breakdown of families and problems with drink, drugs and gang violence. James House helps vulnerable, abused and abandoned children and teenagers from these communities, providing support, education and life skills. The ultimate goal is for ensure re-integration with their families and the wider community. It’s a serious business but my memories are of warmth, fun and compassion. There was lots of laughter and jokes from staff, kids – especially the kids – and in the wider community. People there are resilient because they have to be and a healthy dose of humor goes a long way to making life bearable.

When I saw this tiny child’s chair abandoned in the middle of the play area at James House it simply struck a chord. I realised I could show in a different way the care and love shown by the staff at James House and the joy they bring the people they support. The chair for me is symbolic – and although there was a certain look of “is she mad” about my request for people to pose with it, they were mostly willing as you can see from some of the images below!

*James House website is currently under construction.

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Fleeting impressions …

Sadly my Momenta Workshop in Cape Town is over. It was an invigorating, exciting, frustrating and rewarding experience. Photographing for a nonprofit organisation all day and intensive editing and post-processing each evening meant we ate well, badly and not at all … but we managed to enjoy a few glasses of South African wine – well grapes are one of the five a day …!?

I am looking forward to sharing some of my impressions and images from the trip … here are some of the boys from Mandela Park enjoying the Safe Park at James House in Hout Bay.

Project South Africa 2013