In the jungle

Impressions from a fleeting visit* to the notorious refugee camp of Calais

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Their tents and shacks and shops are built on sand.

We’re almost on the coast of course: the camp, just outside Calais, sits among low dunes and scrubby vegetation – but I hadn’t pictured there’d be sand, and it adds to the transience of this place: a departure point, a stopover. Continue reading “In the jungle”

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Back to school

Taking tea - lowres
Tea break in Busembatia

I’m back in Uganda this month, and have just finished two weeks of training in the east of the country. In Busembatia, I worked with Women in Leadership (WIL) Uganda, training their four Ugandan volunteers in basic photography and computer use. WIL Uganda was started by a former lawyer from the UK, whose stint as a volunteer here last year convinced her that much more was needed to support women and girls. Cases of rape are all too frequent; many women have been abandoned by their husbands to raise children alone and without an income. Girls are often shy or reluctant to speak their minds.

One year on, and WIL Uganda’s volunteers now teach adult literacy and handcrafts to the women and lead career guidance and writing classes with the girls in one of the secondary schools. Continue reading “Back to school”

Stories of purpose

tumblr_static_7zp6wm11f5csw4owk4k8sg08wSince the spring, a team of us at On Purpose have been working on a collaborative storytelling project. A few weeks ago, we finally unveiled Humans on Purpose.

It’s not the first rip-off of the simple yet captivating Humans of New York idea – but it may well be the first to share stories of social purpose. We’ve got a pretty wide range: from CEOs and young entrepreneurs to former priests and ex-offenders. They’ve talked to us about their mums and their children; about pivotal moments and long-enduring passions; about anger and playfulness. People really are prepared to talk honestly about why they do what they do.

It’s the first time I’ve been involved in such a wide collaboration (we’ve had 50+ interviewers, 5 editors, and several people involved in the design and development of the site, plus numerous others organising the final event of the project). Here are some things I learned: Continue reading “Stories of purpose”

Images of India

Belatedly, a selection of images from travels in Kerala, Goa and Mumbai last month.

 

In Mumbai, I also met with the ‘incubator’ for social entrepreneurs, UnLtd India – you can read my interview piece published by Devex Impact here.

 

Making workshops work: Film & photo in Kazo

ConcentrationI’d had my doubts: I have no qualifications in youth work, nor do I have years of filmmaking/photography experience. “’If you can’t – teach’… eh??” remarked some guy I met in London, the week before leaving – and I wondered if he was right. Maybe I was being totally irresponsible.

But – with a first full ‘participatory photo/video’ project behind me, with young people in Kazo, Uganda – I’m glad I stuck with my instincts. Of course, the doubts didn’t disappear (for a blow-by-blow account, see here) – but I know a few people learned something. As for me, here’s what I learned. Continue reading “Making workshops work: Film & photo in Kazo”

The Uganda chapter

Making ofThis month I’m in Kazo, just outside Kampala (Uganda), working with a community organisation called UYWEFA – who I found via idealist.org, a great resource for non-profit opportunities all over the world.

I’m doing film-making and photography projects with young people, schoolkids, and HIV positive women – not to mention a few other unexpected tasks like filming the local football tournament. More details, pictures and videos coming soon – in the meantime, I’m blogging from over here.

 

Take the risk (and the picture)

JumaLearning photography means getting used to being told off – usually, for taking pictures. Sometimes, though, you get in trouble for not taking them.

Working at an aid agency in Dar es Salaam, I was responsible for documenting our fieldwork (and the one with the decent camera). When the heart-sinkingly inevitable time came to attend a funeral – the gardener/groundsman at our head office died after a sudden case of malaria – my colleagues told me: take photos.

Off we went, on a typically humid morning, to Juma’s home. A few hundred people had gathered under the awning. The women sat on the floor and wailed; the men stood or sat on wooden chairs wiping sweat from their brows. Continue reading “Take the risk (and the picture)”

Making magic

Cyanotype - rinsing“Oh I’m no good at that…”, said one lady who paused in front of our stall.

I was with the lovely folk at Fotosynthesis, who’d been asked to put on two photography activities at a community festival in south-east London. Inside, the studio portrait shots were a great success. People never hate being photographed as much as they claim, and thanks to the mini printer, they could leave with a (free) professional family portrait in their hands.

Outiside, it was a bit harder to convince people to get stuck in. Continue reading “Making magic”

And now, something a little different…

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Hogarth makes the cut

It’s not quite world-changing stuff, but you have to start somewhere, I guess.

I started with pugs. And learned a lot of unexpected, and probably not very useful, stuff along the way, like the fact that the crease on a pug’s forehead is supposed to be the Chinese character for “prince”, and that the pet cemetery at Hyde Park has three monkeys buried in it.

The LCC summer course in documentary photography, led by the endlessly energetic Anders Birger, gets you out shooting and putting together a photo story within two weeks. Sounds like plenty of time, but the hours just seem to evaporate. Before you know it you’re cramming in bits of text and agonising over which last image will make the cut. In a way, that’s the crucial bit. Which photos – and they might not be the most beautiful or the most technically perfect – tell the story you want to tell? And is it a story people can relate to? Will they care? Still mulling those things over – in the meantime, here’s my pug-inspired picture parade. Continue reading “And now, something a little different…”