Be inspired, Pixels of Mercy: an essay

As you may know, the workshop that we have planned and worked so very hard to promote, was put on indefinite postponement this summer as it became clear that the economic landscape was just too much to overcome. We hope that sometime in the future the times and interest will develop and alllow us to bring it all back.
Meanwhile, it was our most disappointing task to let our new friends at the partner organizations know that we would not be coming.

They were probably more disappointed than we were.

We did not want to let them down.

We decided to try a different tack.

We decided we'd put together a team of photographers to put together an essay that looks at the work of a number of these small organizations that are doing some pretty amazing work. By treating it as one essay, we could cover more ground in a short time and create an essay that blends four styles.

The thing is, these kinds of projects are not exactly cheap to pull off, especially on an economic landscape where publications buy pictures but do not fund essays.

The new landscape is more about crowd-sourcing and grant-writing to find the funds to give these people a voice in photographs.

It is with that in mind that we have launched a project fundraiser on Kickstarter.com to to make this project a reality.

Two things make such a campaign a success, a project that people believe in, and lots of networking: spreading the word, retweeting, Facebook posting, until so many people know about it that it must succeed.

This is really important because, through the Kickstarter model, the goal that we set to cover our project costs, must be met in pledges.

If we miss the goal, none of the funds are collected.

Spreading the word is absolutely key. 

Please visit the site, watch the video, meet my colleagues, learn a little about the organizations we will photograph.

Be inspired.


We have a winner!

As a kid, I listened to WDRC radio in Hartford, Ct. Every time they gave away something to the 5th caller,  they would play a little effect on the air to tell people to stop calling.
Spelled out, it sounded something like: "Budeleeblip, we have a winner"


BUDELEEBLIP, we have a winner!

Our website/blog follower, Nina Zacuto, was drawn from among the confetti of names thrown into a basket of Ugandan origin (no kidding!), to receive a Think Tank Rotation 360!

Nina is a retired television producer who spent 25 years at NBC News who has returned to photography, her passion since she was 16. She is now working on her second career doing photography and multimedia shooting for non-profits in the L.A. area.

Congratulations, Nina!

Be sure to check out Nina’s work at http://ninazacutophotography.com.

Thanks so much to all of you who entered and for all of your comments and support.

Just a reminder that we are nearing the deadline of June 3, for signups in the workshop and still need a few more folks before we reach the crucial minimum number. We feel like we have found some great organizations to work with to provide a truly real-world photographic experience, so if you have been holding off, now is the time to jump in with both feet.

We also want to thank Brian at Think Tank Photo for providing the backpack for the giveaway. Even if you weren't a sponsor, We'd think you rock!


Taking your time

Rwandan Doc makes his rounds in Bungwe.

Usually the most telling photographs in a documentary project take time.

Time allows the people you are photographing to become used to you and the presence of a camera. They often begin to relax, lower their guard, allow you see more of their real life, allow you to move more freely,

This, of course allows you to tell a real story.

In practice, it means a couple things: It means spending four or five hours rather than one, it means spending several days or weeks, developing a greater understanding of the dynamics of your subject’s environment as you continue to make more telling images.

Rwandan lab tech prepares to test for HIV.
Over time all of this happens while allowing you the perspective of the time in between to evaluate and identify the holes in your work, as well as the opportunity to make new discoveries, while re-shooting similar situations with fresh and different eyes. It gives people even more time to get used to you and allow you to become part of the surroundings.

A new HIV test is administered in Bungwe clinic.
A couple years back as a part of a larger project, I spent three days in a village in northern Rwanda at an HIV/AIDS clinic on another CRS project. This program trained and paid lab techs and counselors, doctors and nurses caring for general health as well as HIV for people in the region. The time I spent did all of the above, it allowed me to revisit things I wanted to examine again, it helped the staff to become accustomed and unphased by my appearance in their workspaces, it allowed me more autonomy of movement and led to a better selection of images overall.


Providing hope to patients

The organizations we hope to help with this workshop includes several full-service medical clinics. 

Hope Clinic

Lukuli  (Kampala suburb)
Hope Clinic is a 24-hour charitable health center serving the community in general primary health care situated in the village of Lukuli, a suburb of Kampala, on the shores of and overlooking Lake Victoria.  The clinic and NGO were founded ten years ago to deal with many health issues including immunizations, general illnesses/outpatient care, maternal and neo-natal care to name a few. Its founders and owners all live in the community near the clinic and in 2005 built and opened a larger facility.  As a visitor you will find a charitable health center serving the community in general primary health care.  Many of the 1,000 patients served per month walk to the clinic from the surrounding 2 miles and they range from new mothers with babies strapped to their waist, older relatives bringing grandchildren for care, to youthful students from the nearby colleges and ‘families’ of mothers, children, new babies, older boys and husbands.  

The Agatha Foundation Medical Center 
(Via Project C.U.R.E.)

Based on the humble background, Ronald and Agatha Wakyereza grew up looking after siblings and parents. Once married, the couple continued supporting family, including 13 adults, in food, housing, healthcare and school fees. They realized the need not only their family faced, but the community around them and created the Agatha Foundation.
A grass-roots, faith-based organization, The Agatha Foundation operates four clinics in the Jinja region providing access to general healthcare and specialties including, dental, maternity, obstetrics, and orthopedics, as well as diagnostics ranging from x-ray to Doppler ultrasound.
In an effort to provide solutions to reducing poverty, the foundation also provides educational support, helping children who are orphaned and of disadvantaged families to get an education. This support covers all grade levels including vocational and sometimes college.


Rapha Health Clinic Via Project C.U.R.E.

Kyanja (Kampala suburb)

     Rapha is a private health care business that was established by a team of young Ugandan doctors and entrepreneurs to provide affordable healthcare to the community. The for-profit center uses part of its proceeds to support the Kyanja Community Health Center which serves a community where people 80 percent of the population earns less than $3 per day. The center provides general healthcare services that are often not available to the poor in the community, treating for malaria, respiratory diseases, malnutrition, diahorreal diseases and dehydration as well as providing immunizations and health counseling. They are upgrading their dental center and are looking to set up an antenatal clinic and delivery ward (about 6 beds). Volunteers from the community help to build these facilities.
They also offer health education to the community and have been supporting the more elderly members of the community with general health checks and supplies such as adult diapers.


Looking for Play

After school program Kampala, Uganda
      All of the places I have been has shown me how people serve people all over the world.

      Foreigners and locals working together to serve those around them to try and make life a little better, to make a difference. In that process I have witnessed probably thousands of kids in dozens of sets of challenging circumstances due to station, and circumstance both natural and man-made.
Soccer in an empty pool Kosovar refugee camp, Albania

      I discovered something simple about those kids in the process of discovering smiles, laughter and play.

      Kids truly are kids world-wide.  They need food, they need care, they need guidance, but they will find play, regardless of circumstance, they do chores, they help to carry a parent's burden, deep down they may be living a difficult existence, but they will find the laughter in a refugee camp or a hospital, a barrio or a village.
Playground in the barrio, Guaymas, Mexico

Many places,
childrens faces.
in many languages,
they play,
they laugh,
they shout,
Children's association, Bungwe, Rwanda
they love.
Their stomachs are not full
their clothes are traditional
or not,
old and worn,
but still they laugh,
play and shout.
They inspire me as I listen and witness. 
We watch,
we laugh
we delight.
Children are the same all over the world
They are resilient beyond our own recall.
Under most any circumstance,
they look for play
They are poor but often they don't know it.
they look for play
they are removed from their homes
but they look for play.
Summer camp kids in their home, Guaymas, Mexico

Restored kindergarten classes, Yerevan, Armenia

Playground equipment, Western Guatemala

Vocational training while niece hangs out, Guatemala

Summer school program, Guaymas, Mexico


Meaningful Moments in Luweero

As we share our plans for this essay, I wanted to also share some incredible moments from the field while on past assignments. These are often the moments that make the experience.

From the journal: 06.06.07

     While on the job with Catholic Relief Services in Uganda I traveled to Kyenvunze Village near Luweero with Thomas, to document his counseling work in CRS’s Home Care program, this Uganda program works with the poor who are dealing with health issues including HIV/AIDS. The program also assists patients in developing economic opportunities such as raising animals for sale, food, and breeding.

      As Thomas and the patient, Awori, discussed the progress of her medical treatments and the growth of her piglets, her 10-year-old son, Richard, wandered in, looking for some attention. He sat on the floor studying his mom and visitors.

      While the adults continued to discuss life and challenges, such as Awori's medication schedule and her hopes for the pig market, Richard listened and studied.

      Just as I had moved into a position to show family in the context of the discussion, the 18-month old, Jacklyn, wandered in and sat next to her brother. Deciding it was naptime, the little girl laid down, using her brother for a pillow.

      Just then, all conversation stopped as the mom noticed with pride, as the boy started gently stroking his sister’s face. 

      Sometimes the meaningful moments are in the quiet gestures of a 10-year-old.

Be sure to take a look at our Pixels of Mercy campaign on Kickstarter.com and please consider contributing to make this project a reality.