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10.Q Interviews: Sephi Bergerson – Documentary Photographer

© 10.Q Interviews | Sephi Bergerson

Welcome to 10.Q Interviews.This section usually features interviews to Humanitarian, Cultural & Travel Photographers, their work and photography.

This week in 10.Q Interviews, Sephi Bergerson:

“After more than 10 years as an advertising and commercial photographer, it became clear to me that something has to change. I wanted to travel but it was obvious that I didn’t want to leave advertising all together. I knew I’d miss the fun of working with a creative team and the excitement of working on a campaign.
However, as the advertising world is a lot about planning, strategy, markets, budgets, commercial approach, and indeed sometime a lot of fun, it cannot work without a constant stream of new ideas and outside influence in order to stay alive. What I needed was a new approach to my work. This is why I moved to India.”
[More about Sephi...]

© Sephi Bergerson | www.sephi.com

1. Tell us about you and your photography. How long have you been shooting? What kinds of shooting have you done?

I am often asked what ‘kind’ of a photographer I am. A photojournalist? a commercial photographer? a food photographer? am I a wedding photographer? travel? lifestyle? what is it exactly that you do? This might not be a smart marketing strategy, but i have always refused to get into any of these boxes. I am a photographer. this is what I do.
My late mother used to say in Yiddish; “A sach meluches, a kleine bruches”, which would roughly translate to “you cant get any blessings in your work if you are not focused”. In other words, if you sell sardines than don’t be selling tissue paper. let your clients know what you sell and come to you for that. Be an expert. You must be asking yourself why am I saying this here?  well, because I am not one of those photographers who do one thing, and I often think of what my mother had said. It would be very simple if I decided to be a food photographer, or a travel, or wedding photographer, but I can’t. I love photography and I love doing different things all the time.
I’ve been holding a camera since I was 17 years old and started shooting birds as a teenage birdwatcher. It has been almost thirty years since then and I have probably covered almost any subject under the sun, from commercial studio work, still life, fashion, food, travel and photojournalism, to fine art. I have worked with large format and medium format, as well as with toy plastic cameras. I work on a personal project at all times and the assignments are there to pay for my life. I bring myself to the assignment. This is my USP and this is how I stay in love with my work.

© Sephi Bergerson | www.sephi.com

2. How and where did you get your vision for it, and what are your dreams?

I never met my grandfather. He was a photographer in Poland before the war and perished with the rest of my family. My mother and her brother were the only survivors of the entire family and I’ve heard stories about the daylight studio my mother grew up in, and the life of a somewhat ‘bohemian family’ in a small village. I guess some things do pass on in the genes.
Dreams are a completely different story. I was afraid of trying to peruse my dreams when I was younger. During my studies in Jerusalem I wanted to go to Italy and become a fashion photographer. Maybe I was afraid of failure as I obviously never did that. This is not who I am now. Twenty years later, dreams are the force that drives me forward and I try to fulfill mine in this life time. I was an advertising and commercial photographer in Tel Aviv for many years but after more than 10 years it became clear to me that something has to change. I wanted to travel and be a documentary photographer. This is why I moved to India in early 2002, and I’m still here. This was the best decision I made in my entire life.

© Sephi Bergerson | www.sephi.com

3. What are the biggest challenges in your photography business?

Not to fall asleep on my watch. Not to be stuck doing what I do for a long time just because it is safe and money is easy. The business is the biggest challenge as it has a potential to drain out all creativity. Many working photographers will tell you that taking pictures constitutes maybe 20% of their time. The rest is taking care of the business. I have a family that I need to take care of and of course some compromise is a part of life as a family man, but I try to minimize those as much as possible.
I started shooting weddings a couple of years ago when the recession started, and this is a very good source of secure income. The pay is much higher than of a documentary photographer and I am glad to be doing very well in this field. I could have been sucked in completely but I limit myself to not more than ten weddings a year so that I do not loose myself into it and still have time for other things as well.

© Sephi Bergerson | www.sephi.com

4. How do you normally approach people for your photography? Is story-telling important in your photography? How is your approach to subject-story?

When I was studying photography we had a semester-long assignment to produce a photojournalistic/documentary series of 8-12 images. Every week our teacher helped us go over the contact sheets and focus on the subject and what we want to say. The biggest lesson was that we started the series with something in mind but very often the point of view and the statement changed as we spent more time on the story. I try to remember this assignment every time I go out to shoot. I always have an opinion on the story from previous exposure, but it is always best to let the story unfold on its own and hopefully surprise you.
On the other hand, as much as we try to be objective, our photographs will show our own perspective. This is something that is impossible to avoid, and we should really not even try to avoid. I try to let the subject of my interest cary me into their own world. It is imperative to let people feel comfortable in your presence and I try to be a part of their life, even for a passing moment. On a longer story this kind of involvement is imperative, while many times when working on smaller assignments I simply shoot without asking permission so that not to lose the moment. Not everyone is happy about being photographed and it is in the eyes that the reassurance of maintaining their dignity is reflected. I try my best and I find that a smile and an eye contact are often the best ways to interact even over and above a language barrier.

© Sephi Bergerson | www.sephi.com

© Sephi Bergerson | www.sephi.com

5. How much do you travel every year? How do you manage your family time?

My family is the center of my world and I am grateful for having them with me. As much as I love being a family man, I do feel that if I was single there would be so many other opportunities open for me and I would have been able to travel for longer periods and produce more significant work. I sometimes envy other photographers who do not have this responsibility but I accept it and live with it. There are busy times and there are relaxed months. I generally try not to be away more than two weeks in a month but at times it is difficult.

© Sephi Bergerson | www.sephi.com

6. Who’s been an inspiration for your photography? How do you stay inspired? Do you read blogs? If so, which ones would you recommend?

Oh the list is endless. I’ve been influenced by many photographers over the years but I think we are mostly influenced by other artists who we actually meet in person. I wish I was as dedicated and focused as Sebastiao Salgado. He is a great photographer and a very impressive human being. I love Prabuddha DasGupta’s work, especially his recent book ‘Edge of Faith’. Raghubir Singh has been a hero of mine since before coming to India but I never actually met him. I am inspired by dedicated people.

For many years I used to sit at book stores and go through photography books. In the beginning I used to try and copy other people’s work and at one point this had changed and I started seeing my own reflection in my work. This is an illusive feeling but I try to find it again and again.

I do not study other people’s work anymore and try to draw inspiration from within. I meditate regularly, half an hour morning and evening, and find this the biggest source of inspiration. I try to be better at what I do and become a better person. It is a life long journey.

I read blogs naturally. It is a great source of information and opinion. Resolve (LiveBooks blog), A PhotoEditor, RAW File (WIRED), Conscientios and eyecurious.com are some.

© Sephi Bergerson | www.sephi.com

7. What are the characteristic that a good photographer in your field needs to have?

To mentions a few I would say social conscience, self dignity, a child’s curiosity and a burning passion.
I wrote a post about this subject. Being a photographer is about what you have inside your mind. It is the sum of all your life experiences and your point of view. It is where you’ve been, how much you cried, how much you’ve loved and been loved, how much you have experienced pain and how much you care. Photography is not about the ‘how’ but about the WHY. It is about the reason behind your images and not about the exposure or the focus.
Many photographers are more concerned with how to take pictures then with why they do it and what they want to say. A good picture is very simple to find but you must look for it inside first, and for this you need to experience life.

© Sephi Bergerson | www.sephi.com

8. Is social media/Internet important in promoting your work? How much time daily do you invest in it?

My life would not have been the same without internet! It makes it possible for me to live in India and keep getting assignments. We are planing to move to the Himalaya in April (2011) and this would only be possible as I need only an airport and an internet connection. Starting a blog and going deep into SEO had changed the way I work and have opened up new opportunities for me.
I enjoy Facebook and maintain a fan page but cannot measure the amount of work that comes this way if at all. I guess it is a part of a larger picture. Twitter is a great source of information and inspiration. I met some fantastic people there.
I think it would be safe to say that I spend too much time online but it is very addictive.

© Sephi Bergerson | www.sephi.com

9. Tell us about the last piece of gear that you deemed important enough to buy.

I bought a DROBO a few months ago to keep my back-up safe. So far it seems like a good investment.

10. What would be your advice for a photographer who is just starting out in this field? What is the biggest obstacle you see facing new photographers who want to work on this type of photography?

No one was born a great photographer. Patience and persistence are the key to success. Do not be afraid of failure and do not be hesitant to have a voice and an opinion. If you decide to do it, burn all your ships in the harbor so that you have nowhere to go back to. Total commitment is the absolute minimum requirement for success.

Social Media

Sephi in Twitter: @FotoWala

Sephi in Facebook

Sephi in Flickr

© Sephi Bergerson | www.sephi.com

Archive

10.Q Interviews: Craig Ferguson – Travel & Cultural Photographer

© 10.Q Interviews: Craig Ferguson

Welcome to 10.Q Interviews.This section usually features interviews to Humanitarian, Cultural & Travel Photographers, their work and photography.

This week in 10.Q Interviews, Craig Ferguson:
“One of the key aspects of life that we humans identify with is culture. We label people, places and events according to our ideas of what they are, ranging from the broader scale defined by tradition and place down to the small scale subcultures and tribes.
Craig Ferguson Images is consistently creating new visions in the field of cultural photography. From traditional festivals and customs to modern, urban subcultures, Craig Ferguson Images is in touch with the changing world. From our base in Taipei, Taiwan we are perfectly positioned at the crossroads of the ancient and the modern.”
[More about Craig...]

© Craig Ferguson | Phetburi, Thailand Feb 2005

© Craig Ferguson | Taipei, Taiwan, June 2009

1. Tell us about you and your photography. How long have you been shooting? What kinds of shooting have you done? Can you name any current or former clients?

I’ve had a camera in my hand for most of my life. I remember the excitement as a young kid when my parents would buy me a new roll of film for the Kodak 110 camera I had. I moved up to a manual SLR in my teens and then progressed from there. So all in all, I’ve been shooting in some form or another for close to 30 years if you inlcude the Kodak 110 days.

Travel photography has always been a passion, probably because as a child, it was on vacation that I had most opportunities to use my camera. Over the years though, I’d shot a bit of everything, but travel and culture remains where my true desire lies. I’ve been making a concerted effort over the past year or so to direct more of my energies towards the travel and culture related field and lessen the amount of work I accept in other areas. I’ve stopped almost all self-promoting in areas that aren’t related to travel and culture, but still pay some of the bills with portrait work and event photography. The aim is to be solely in the travel / culture field within the next 1-2 years.

My work has appeared in Asian Geographic, Lonely Planet, Unearthing Asia and a number of inflight magazines. On the client side, I’ve covered events for London International Group, New Substance Media, Urban Nomad film festival, and I do some pro-bono work for the newly created Taiwan SPCA, an animal welfare organization that a friend is behind.

© Craig Ferguson | Guandu, Taiwan, May 2010

2. How did you get into Cultural/Travel photography? Where did you get your vision for it, and what are your dreams?

There’s a tradition of sorts in Australia that after graduating from university, you head over to the UK for a year or two to work and travel. I did more or less the same thing, but didn’t actually make it past Asia. Landing in the old Don Muang airport in Bangkok on my own and with no hotel booked was the best introduction to travel I could ask for. I naturally started photographing everything around me on a trip that lasted a year across Asia.

I’ve always had a fascination with travel and distant lands, and that first extended trip almost fifteen years ago gave me the bug that I still have, to the point where I’ve spent the last seven years actually living in Asia, on top of the almost three years (spread between 1997 and 2002) traveling in Asia.

I see all cultures as equally valid and wish to show that to the world. I don’t just focus on traditional cultures – to me, modern, urban subcultures are just as important particularly because they are often misunderstood or seen as just plain weird by a lot of people. Through my photography, I hope to be able to share that importance and validity with the wider world.

3. How do you see the Cultural/Travel photography industry today? Is it exciting to be a part of it? Since you started, have you seen any major changes in it?

Right now, the cultural / travel photography industry is going through a lot of changes which makes it a very exciting time to be a photographer. I’m the kind of person who likes to see change and evolution which is what it appears is going on in the industry today.

For photographers, diversity is the key to success. It’s not enough these days to just be able to make strong imagery. Instead, a number of related yet different skills need to be incorporated in order to thrive. Multimedia and video are becoming a lot more important and will continue to do so into the future.

© Craig Ferguson | Yamdrok Tso, Tibet, September 2001

4. What are the characteristics that a good cultural photographer needs to have? How is that different from other fields in photography?

Patience and respect are probably the most essential characteristics needed. Actually, the same characteristics that make someone a good human being would make someone a good cultural photographer. Awareness, honesty, openness, curiosity are all traits that are desirable in any walk of life.

I’m not really sure it is different from other fields of photography but it’s applied in different ways. For the travel / cultural photographer, you might spend hours, days or weeks in a place before you start documenting it. You need a certain amount of patience not to jump straight in, but when you do start taking photographs, you need to get it right because you may not have a chance to go back for a second chance. A lot of photography fields have a similar long preparation period – think of the landscape photographer waiting for the perfect weather conditions to get the shot, or wildlife photographer sitting in a blind waiting for a tiger.

5. How much do you travel every year? How do you manage your family time?

Over the past couple of years I’ve cut back the travel a bit to focus more on the business and education side of things. That said, I’ve been an expat for over 7 years, so I’m living in the middle of a culture that I’m still learning about.

Business and marketing is not my strong point, so this has required a lot of learning on my part. After reading and speaking with consultant Selina Maitreya, I’ve basically taken her advice and used it to help focus myself as I go about building up a photo business based solely on travel and cultural related images. My wife and I discussed it before we got married, worked out an approximate timescale to aim for and are now well along the path, possibly even slightly ahead of where I expected to be. I have a couple of short trips hopefully planned to Hong Kong and Bangkok coming up, as well as a longer trip to Nepal early next year. If things keep going as they are, there’ll be a few more trips in 2011.

© Craig Ferguson | Fuxing, Taiwan, July 2008

© Craig Ferguson | Dajia, Taiwan, April 2008

6. Who’s been an inspiration for your photography? How do you stay inspired? Do you read blogs? If so, which ones would you recommend?

Galan Rowell and Steve McCurry were some of my earliest influences. I was in Malaysia earlier this year to attend one of Joe McNally’s workshops and had the good fortune to stumble across a Steve McCurry exhibition – I think it’s the first time I’ve had the chance to see his work outside of a book or magazine.

I really love the multimedia work that Matt Brandon has been doing lately. Seeing that inspired me to purchase a copy of Soundslides Plus and get into it myself, and I’m enjoying experimenting with it.

David duChemin’s books and blog were a key inspiration for my 2010 project to create a daily phototip.

Organizations such as Focus For Humanity and IGVP have been spurring me onwards recently as well.

I also find a lot of inspiration in music and some of the stories behind the success. I recently read a book that discussed at length Jimmy Page’s transition from session musician to putting together Led Zeppelin which I found very inspiring.

As for blogs, as well as the photographers above, I also look at Gavin Gough, Todd Owyoung, Chris Owyoung, Blackstar Rising (where I am a contributing writer) and I’ve lately started on Brian Hirschy’s blog.

© Craig Ferguson | Varanasi, India 1997

7. Who are the main clients for cultural photographers? Are magazines still a strong part of it? How is today’s economy affecting this industry?

For me, magazines are still essential. It’s obviously changing and editorial budgets are diminishing but I have a feeling that the introduction of the iPad and similar devices that are on the way will see a resurgence there. This is one area where multimedia ready cultural photographers will really be able to benefit.

I honestly don’t know how the economy affected the industry. Possibly because I’m in Asia and the financial crisis didn’t hit as hard here, or possibly because I’d planned to transition from generalist photography into more specialist area, so was fully prepared to have less money for awhile anyway.

8. Is social media/Internet important in promoting your work? If so, how? Is it over rated?
Due to this, have you been forced to change your branding or the way in which you do business?

Social media is essential but it’s only part of the story. The need for a multitude of promotion sources still exists, and I think those that achieve the most success are the ones best able to utilize a number of different avenues. I think there’s still a lot of value in the more traditional methods such as in-person showings of a print portfolio and direct mail.

My branding was changing regardless due to concentrating fully on the cultural travel side so it’s tough to say how much social media contributed and how much I’d have had to do anyway.

Twitter is a little different though. I value it more for the sense of community and inspiration it can provide photographers rather than as an avenue for promotion.

© Craig Ferguson | Danshui, Taiwan, June 2006

9. Tell us about the last piece of gear that you deemed important enough to buy. How about the one that’s been most important in your career?

The last piece of camera gear that I bought was a Lastolite Ezybox. I have received some pre-release flash triggers from a company to test since then but I got those for free.

The most important piece of gear is probably the multiple backup harddrives used for backing up RAW files. If I were to lose or break a camera or lens, I’d could replace it easy enough with a trip to the nearest camera store. I couldn’t however replace the images that I’ve already taken.

10. What would be your advice for a photographer who is just starting out in this field? What is the biggest obstacle you see facing new photographers who want to work on this type of photography?

Be persistent. Know that success doesn’t happen overnight and plan on at least 3-5 years until you can reach a level of comfort in your business. You don’t need to have the most expensive gear or even the newest. A plane ticket and enough money for 3 months living coupled with an entry level body and a 50mm lens will get you further than the latest pro-level body and no time or money to use it. The hardest thing is being able to keep going, especially when money is tight.

Social Media

Craig in Twitter: @cfimages

Craig in Photoshelter

Craig in Facebook

Craig in Flickr

© Craig Ferguson | Bodhgaya, India, December 2002

Archive

10.Q Interviews: Jerod Foster – Travel & Environmental Portrait Photographer

©10.Q Interviews | Jerod Foster

Welcome to 10.Q Interviews.This section usually features interviews to Humanitarian, Cultural & Travel Photographers, their work and photography.

This week in 10.Q Interviews, Jerod Foster:

“Jerod Foster is a Texas-based freelance photographer who specializes in on-location portraiture and natural history.
Growing up in a largely rural and agricultural community in North Central Texas, Jerod is no stranger to getting his hands dirty when working, and that is what you see in much of his imagery. Freelancing for half a decade, he has had the opportunity to photograph much of the State of Texas from a natural history perspective, capturing the quickly disappearing, unadulterated landscapes, the wildlife communities, the finite textures and layers that make up the Earth, as well as the human inhabitants of the afore mentioned.”
[More about Jerod...]

1. Tell us about you and your photography. How long have you been shooting? What kinds of shooting have you done?

First, I want to thank Heber for this great opportunity! The Internet offers a unique platform for community building, and even though Heber and I are many many miles apart, we’re able to connect on a personal and professional level via our passion for visual storytelling and the wonders of Internet technology! In addition, the set of interviews contained in this series is outstanding, and for any aspiring working photographer, no matter what industry, this is a gold mine!

I am a travel and environmental portrait photographer based in Lubbock, Texas, one of the flattest, most agriculturally intensive, and beautiful places in the world. Those familiar with Lubbock, or West Texas, might question that last description, but the people here create their own unique culture once the surface is scratched, and it’s nothing less than embracing! Aside from my own business, I teach photography at Texas Tech University, where I’m also working on my Ph.D. in Mass Communications and media sociology.

I have been shooting professionally for six years, and before that, I spent time as a magazine writer and designer for local agricultural and research entities. Since then, I’ve met and photographed many interesting people that have guided me to where I am now, and hopefully where I’ll be going in the future!

I spend most of my time as an environmental portrait photographer for different magazines and organizations in the state and nation. I’m infatuated with light! Not the type of light that seems to be coming from an omni-source, but rather that tangible light that brings us in to an image and sculpts the story within. I have no intentions of being over the top with my light, but I do want to use it to highlight those individuals I shoot in an impactful manner!

 

Before I started shooting as a living, I would never have thought I would be photographing people 75% of the time, but I love it, especially when it’s my job to put a whole story together in one shot. The other part of the time, I’m usually shooting natural history work and travel documentary pieces (the latter more for my site and future projects).

© Jerod Foster | www.jerodfoster.com

2. How and where did you get your vision for it, and what are your dreams?

I grew up in a small ranching town. Everybody knew everyone, and most people knew everything about you. I’m not a prying person, but I’m curious, and that’s what keeps me photographing. That need for knowledge about what people do and why they do it is the foundation for much of my portrait work. Starting out as a writer, it was my job to textually tell an individual’s story. The camera gives me a tool to visually do the same.

This is a unique time in my career, and several opportunities are opening themselves to me and other colleagues. My interest in photographing WHO people are is rooted deeply in Americana, but I feel it pulling me toward other, more humanitarian interests as well. To this extent, I have started making plans to do temporary work as a photographer and photography teacher in northern India. The short-term always leads to the long-term, and the opportunist in me tells me to take it all in.

 

Ultimately, like many of those interviewed on this site before me, the goal is not inward, but rather to help those stories that need to be told get out! Photographers that get in to this line of work worry less and less about anything related to the technology and more and more about what they’re saying with it. Karl Grobl is a perfect example of this, as well as a shining example of what a cultural/people photographer aspires to do with his/her work!

© Jerod Foster | www.jerodfoster.com

3. What are the biggest challenges in your photography business?

Technically, photography is achievable, but it’s taking the technical part of the craft and creating a personal technique and distinguishable vision that is often the most difficult. Most of the time, this vision isn’t even wrapped up in the technical details of an image, it’s in the purpose and delivery. The most challenging part of the business that I’m in is differentiating myself from others, both technically and in vision. I’m a lighter, and there’s a lot of people using lights out there! Hopefully, I’m just using them as a tool to achieve my vision, not just to use the technology.

4. How do you normally approach people for your photography? Is story-telling important in your photography? How is your approach to subject-story?

When I’m on an assignment, the best part about my job is that I get to ask a lot of the questions the writer doesn’t get a chance to in order to get the know the subject, or even better, find out information about the subject that is both positive to the photographic experience and to the story. All this information contributes to the story-telling, and the more information I have, the more equipped I am to make a successful image.

 

For non-assigned work, the experience is even better, especially if you’re truly interested in telling the subject’s story. Most folks are willing to allow some shots as long as you’re polite and genuine with them. Sometimes you see the shot develop during or after a conversation, sometimes you envision the shot, and then engage with the subject. Regardless, a humble approach to the individuals, no matter what culture, is the best way to work WITH the people you photograph. Knowing that photography is a mutual exchange between the shooter and the subject is the best perspective to enter in to that interaction. I learned this from Richard Avedon.

© Jerod Foster | www.jerodfoster.com

5. How much do you travel every year? How do you manage your family time?

Unlike many of the guests that have appeared on this blog series, I do the bulk of my work in the U.S., and primarily in Texas. This may sound cliché, but it’s a real big state! All in all, I spend about two to three months on the road a year.Fortunately, the state offers quite a few distinguishable environments, from mountains to desert, to forests and coasts. The people are equally as interesting. I spend a good amount of time on the Mexico-Texas border as well, and I have spent a fair amount of time in the Mexican states of Coahuila and Chihuahua. If you want to meet some interesting and gracious folks, come down to the Texas Big Bend!

 

Fortunately, I’m lucky enough to be married to a very understanding, very encouraging person, and although we don’t have children yet, we work together to devote as much time to family as possible. It’s difficult to be there all the time, on both our ends, but when we’re there, we’re actually there.

© Jerod Foster | www.jerodfoster.com

www.jerodfoster.com

© Jerod Foster | www.jerodfoster.com

6. Who’s been an inspiration for your photography?

Like all photographers, I have several individuals that have helped shape my work and what I envision and plan to do in the future. My good friend and mentor, Wyman Meinzer, initially spurred my interest in photographing for a living, and from a very practical perspective, he’s taught me how to work hard in the industry, as well as how to keep my head on straight and feet on the ground in a very challenging and competitive environment.At the same time, he’s showed me how to be passionate about the subject matter. His love for the land and people that inhabit Texas is the perfect analogy for success I see in other photographers more focused on vision and storytelling.

Another photographer whose work I completely adore is Arnold Newman’s, and his classic portfolio is why I shoot many environmental portraits. His use of context, lighting and character in storytelling is unmatched and completely accessible by photographers and consumers alike. There’s no second guessing his work, he wants you to know who it is he photographs, and in one shot, know what their life says to others!

 

The down-to-earth, appreciative and passion influences I get from Wyman and the beauty in light and character I see in Newman’s work is ultimately what drives me to shoot the way I do. My desire to photograph life as it is, now Americana, tomorrow, who knows what, is the result of working alongside one of these photographers and admiring the work of one I’ll never have a chance to meet.

How do you stay inspired?

I don’t believe you can stay inspired by only looking at more photography, although to some extent, I do stay energized by looking at a massive amount of others’ images. No matter if you’re a humanitarian, travel, cultural, or portrait photographer, life goes on around you in a way that influences and excites your creativity. My immediate source of inspiration are the stories I hear people tell, whether they are those I’m told while on assignment, or those I hear while talking to a local farmer I meet in a diner. As many of the readers of this blog I know are sure of, these stories are all around us, we just have to get past the rectangle world we photographers live in and listen for and to them.

Do you read blogs? If so, which ones would you recommend?

I’m a big fan of blogs, especially those that come from working photographers that take the time out of their schedules to reach out to the photography industry and much more broad community. When it comes from these folks, especially for one that is scraping a living doing the same thing, it’s more relational and tangible.

Many of the blogs I follow right now are geared more toward the humanitarian/cultural photography part of the industry, such as David duChemin’s PixelatedImage and Matt Brandon’s The Digital Trekker, as well as Gavin Gough’s blog and Amy Vitale’s site. There are a ton of great resources out there for those a bit more interested in the industry and having aspirations of pursuing this line of work as a career, including this blog, it’s just a point of diving in to what the world has to offer online.

www.jerodfoster.com

© Jerod Foster | www.jerodfoster.com

7. What are the characteristic that a good photographer in your field needs to have?

I tell my students all the time that versatility is a nice characteristic to have handy. This applies to how we interact with our subject matter, our technique and creativity, and our clients. Versatility allows a photographer to be able to find those defining elements about those whose stories we are trying to tell.

 

I’ve also noticed that many successful photographers in this area are veracious learners, and this high need for knowledge drives their ability to operate as a photographer and storyteller to a much higher level. Learn the craft and learn the subject, each and every one of them!

8. Is social media/Internet important in promoting your work? How much time daily do you invest in it?

I unabashedly state that Twitter was made for photographers! In all seriousness, though, the Internet and social media in particular has obviously changed the game for photographers in some sense, and instead of moping about how much it takes away from those yet to embrace it, it’s exciting to see the community created around certain photography topics and photographers themselves. We’re now able to easily communicate with others around the world about ideas and progress, and as a result, we’re seeing the industry take a huge leap forward, in both quality and mission.

Had it not been for Twitter, Heber and I would have taken much longer to find each others’ work, as well as many other opportunities. There are a number of new relationships I’ve formed with other photographers, publishers, editors, and others on Twitter or Facebook that I’m excited to see develop in the near future. Photographer Web sites and blogs are crucial, and each year I would say that 20% of my work is generated from visitors to my site. That may not sound like that much, but with other marketing and promotion efforts ongoing, I’d say it’s pulling it’s own weight!

 

It’s important to keep a fair distance away from time on the Internet as well. Nowadays, we’re always connected, and it takes effort in to providing useful content to viewers and potential clients, but it takes just as much effort to make sure you’re producing quality content regularly as a photographer. That’s why, as a working photographer, I respect and follow those image makers that can successfully do both. Hats off to you guys! Personally, there are times when I know I leave my blog and Twitter accounts dry due to work, but I’m also not trying to post every day or hour just for the sake of shooting a ton of links out there. I’m more interested in providing quality information or images and edifying those meaningful relationships I have with fans, followers, clients, and peers!

© Jerod Foster | www.jerodfoster.com

9. Tell us about the last piece of gear that you deemed important enough to buy.

It would be easy for me to say the Elinchrom Quadra lighting system (love this system and the applicability it has in my work), but the last piece of gear I deemed necessary was the Zoom H4n audio recorder. All my talk about vision, which is the most important in my work, masks my interest in gear, and although I’m more simplistic than some, if I can justify a piece of gear that will help me obtain what I see in an image, I’m going to get it and USE it. The audio recorder is my latest addition, and it’s a nice tool to have in the case of a surprisingly cool adult soapbox car race while on the road, ha! But really, I’ve had so much fun with it as an addition to my stills and my foray into HD video work. The sound is amazing, and I’ve spent a lot of time in a recording studio! I always have it with my cameras, just in case my storytelling needs to go one more sense deeper!

© Jerod Foster | www.jerodfoster.com

© Jerod Foster | www.jerodfoster.com

10. What would be your advice for a photographer who is just starting out in this field? What is the biggest obstacle you see facing new photographers who want to work on this type of photography?

This is where I don’t want to sound too prescriptive, but the one piece of advice I feel like I have any right to give is to not start out thinking about photography with blinders on (you know, those things they put on the sides of horses eyes to steer them straight). The worst thing I’ve ever seen one of my students do is go in to a potential career without acknowledging the industry as a whole.I mentioned earlier when I started all I wanted to shoot was landscapes. Then I started photographing individuals with unique stories and talents, and I quickly found my path in the industry. I still do a lot of travel/landscape photography, but I’m more involved with my portraiture and those people that I have the great opportunity to photograph!

The biggest obstacle may very well be the abundance of photographers out there wanting to do exactly the same thing you are doing for a living. This is good for the quality of the industry, but it’s not the most attractive facet of it either. Set yourself apart. Learn and make mistakes in order to get to a comfortable place that you can make more mistakes in; then you can start over, only on a different level…a better level.

Social Media

Jerod in Twitter: @jerodfoster
Jerod in Photoshelter
Jerod in Facebook
Jerod in LinkedIn

© Jerod Foster | www.jerodfoster.com

Archive

10.Q Interviews: Doug Klostermann – Travel, Cultural & Humanitarian Photographer

© 10.Q Interviews | Doug J. Klostermann

Welcome to 10.Q Interviews.This section usually features interviews to Humanitarian, Cultural & Travel Photographers, their work and photography.

This week in 10.Q Interviews, Doug Klostermann:

“Doug Klostermann is a travel, culture, and humanitarian photographer dedicated to documenting the work of international aid organizations.  He is based in Cambridge, MA. He has photographed and contributed images to numerous NGOs, non-profits, and volunteer organizations who have used his photography for documentation, publications, outreach, and fundraising.” [More about Doug...]

1. Tell us about you and your photography. Have you worked for any humanitarian organizations/magazines etc.?

Thank you Heber for this opportunity to talk about photography and about my work. I am a travel, culture, and humanitarian photographer, and am most interested in documenting the work of international NGOs as well as the cultures they work within. In my images I strive to tell the personal stories, struggles, and successes of people in a way that viewers, especially those who come from a background and environment different than that of the subject, can truly relate to. I enjoy experiencing and photographing people whose lives, cultures, and surroundings are very different from my own, and I try to share their compelling stories.

 

I’ve photographed for numerous small NGOs in Latin America and in the U.S., often on a volunteer basis as I started out. I’ve also submitted images to various humanitarian organizations and campaigns and to an NGO photography site called Photoshare. I was thrilled when the United Nations Development Programme selected one of my photos from Peru to be part of their Humanizing Development global campaign and traveling exhibit. And I achieved a long-time goal when a photo of mine was recently chosen for the cover of an upcoming travel guidebook.

© Douglas J. Klostermann | www.dojoklo.com

2. We all know that you don’t get into humanitarian photography to become rich, so what does humanitarian photography mean to you? What’s your vision for it?

For me, humanitarian photography means having the opportunity to contribute to an NGO’s mission and to the people they serve in a way that best uses my strengths, skills, and interests, while spreading awareness of their work to a wider audience. I hope that through my photography more people learn about and become concerned about global issues, and in turn increase their support of the organizations that are confronting these issues. My vision for humanitarian photography is that it continues to tell the stories of organizations and aid workers in the field, celebrates the lives and accomplishments of the people they serve, and promotes positive change.

3. How did you get into humanitarian photography? Where did you get the idea to shoot these kinds of people and groups?

I worked for many years as an architect and project manager. That career was interrupted after a vacation to Peru, where I saw for the first time the realities of life in a developing country. I felt compelled to return as a long term volunteer to try to improve the lives and futures of disadvantaged kids in whatever small way I could. While I enjoyed working as a volunteer and a teacher, I soon realized that I was most interested in photographing what I was seeing and experiencing. I returned to Peru the following year to continue my volunteer work and also to focus on developing as a photographer. I discovered that I have a true passion for this type of photography and that I enjoy working in the field, and I dedicated myself to this self-designed internship for several months. When I returned home I committed myself to continuing to learn and improve in every aspect of photography and digital editing, and searched for a way to make a new career of it. At the time, I did not know there was such a thing as a humanitarian photographer, but then eventually discovered Karl Grobl and David duChemin and was pleased to learn there was a niche I was beginning to fit into.

© Douglas J. Klostermann | www.dojoklo.com

4. What are the challenges of shooting for NGOs or non-profit organizations?

Shooting for an NGO typically means working in a culture very different from my own, so one of the challenges is trying to overcome a lifetime of western cultural influences and education, and all the assumptions and preconceived notions that I have absorbed over time.I aim to portray subjects accurately and truthfully, and so I always work to try to really understand the world from their point of view.

 

Another challenge is finding clients who are able to financially support this type of work. There are countless small NGOs, and many of them understand the power and value of good photography, but few have the budget for it. And the larger ones who are willing and able to pay a reasonable rate are often already working with photographers they are comfortable with. I enjoy volunteering with the small organizations, but I want to make a living at this, so I’m also reaching out to organizations I hope will offer paid assignments. I am learning a lot about how they work with photographers and their expectations, as well as about marketing and business practices. The business side is not nearly as enjoyable as being out in the field with a camera in my hand, but is essential to continue to make that happen.

© Douglas J. Klostermann | www.dojoklo.com

5. How much do you travel every year? How do you manage your family time?

When I started testing the waters of travel, culture, and humanitarian photography I spent 3 to 4 months a year living and traveling in Peru. Those were self-financed adventures, and at the time I was single so I was able to live that lifestyle. Lately I’ve gone on much shorter trips, less often, as I work towards building a base of clients who might offer and support assignments. And now that I am in a committed relationship, it is not reasonable to run off for several months at a time. But my girlfriend works for an NGO and sometimes travels herself, and so she understands the importance of what I do.

6. Who’s been an inspiration for your photography? How do you stay inspired? Do you read blogs? If so, which ones would you recommend?

After my experiences overseas, as I searched for a vocational path in travel and culture photography, I saw a Cornell Capa exhibit at the ICP in New York. When I read his term “concerned photographer” in the exhibit text, it instantly cemented my course. It was the role I had been searching for and that soon led me to discover the current, working humanitarian photographers. Capa’s photos have been an inspiration as well, especially his work in South America. I’m also tremendously inspired by the images of Sebastião Salgado and his dramatic portrayals of the world’s marginalized populations. I’ve learned a great deal about indigenous cultures from Wade Davis’s writing, and he is an excellent photographer as well. There are countless other photographers whose work, and methods of working, I study including the exceptionally talented Ami Vitale. I recently saw a stunning exhibit of James Nachtwey’s project documenting extremely drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB). I’m going to continue to study his images to better understand how he united the subjects with his compositions and points of view to create such powerful images.

 

As far as blogs, I’m a regular follower of the always inspiring David duChemin. I learned a lot about the practicalities of working in the field from Karl Grobl’s website. I follow sites like Lightstalkers and Scott Kelby to keep my finger on the pulse of the larger photography community, and Canon Rumors and DPReview to stay current with the latest equipment. I like looking at the White House photostream on Flickr because the photos include all the EXIF data and I try to deconstruct Pete Souza’s thought process as he captures his images. However, it is also important to seek non-photography related inspiration. As Jay Maisel noted, to take better photos, be a more interesting person. For me this means always learning more about global issues, about the cultures of places I plan to visit, and reading any book that involves a true-life Amazon adventure.

© Douglas J. Klostermann | www.dojoklo.com

7. How do you normally approach people from other cultures? What are your limits at the moment of shooting people in need, or in a complicated situation?

As I’ve read from many other photographers, I too have learned the key is to approach people as individuals, not as subjects. One cannot rush in behind a camera, but must communicate with people first to whatever extent that is possible based on the situation. Not only does this lead to more satisfying, authentic, and memorable interactions, it typically leads to stronger photographs. It is not always easy, and the impulse is to start capturing shots right away before they disappear. But I’ve found that the opportunities will remain, and even improve, through courteous, respectful, and genuine interaction first.

 

Regarding shooting sensitive situations, if it doesn’t feel right, I don’t do it. When I’ve been absorbed in the shooting process and found that I caught an improper moment, I’ve just erased the image rather than second guessing or debating over it. Working in a foreign culture that you can never fully understand is always a challenge. I feel it is extremely important to learn everything I can about the people and places I am photographing while being mindful that my own values and experiences always affect how I see the world.

© Douglas J. Klostermann | www.dojoklo.com

8. How do you promote your work?

First and foremost I promote my work through my website, www.dojoklo.com, and I also actively maintain my blog, Picturing Change. I have a category of posts on humanitarian photography that I hope others find helpful. I look for opportunities to exhibit my photos and to share my work with people and organizations who might be interested, and I enter photo contests. And as I mentioned before, I reach out directly to NGOs to continue to build a client base.

© Douglas J. Klostermann | www.dojoklo.com

© Douglas J. Klostermann | www.dojoklo.com

9. Tell us about the last piece of gear that you deemed important enough to buy. How about the one that’s been most important in your career? (It can be a lens, camera, accessory, etc.)

The latest piece of gear that I bought is the Zoom H2 digital audio recorder.Based on what I’ve read from other photographers, as well as audio slideshows I’ve viewed on websites like the New York Times and Chicago Tribune, I’ve become convinced an audio recorder will come in handy for interviews and environmental sounds to pair with slideshows. The Zoom H2 seems to be a quality, economical model.

 

As far as my important equipment, the story-telling ability of the 16-35mm wide angle lens is essential to my work, but I most enjoy using the 70-200mm for its intimacy and directness with portraits and candid images of individuals. I use the lighter weight f/4L IS model. What may be sacrificed in speed or optics versus the f/2.8 is made up for by the pleasure of using it throughout a long shooting day without dreading its weight.

© Douglas J. Klostermann | www.dojoklo.com

© Douglas J. Klostermann | www.dojoklo.com

10. What would be your advice for a photographer who is just starting out in this field?

First I would recommend creating, planning, and heading out on a self assignment before you invest too much in the process. This is the best way to find out if your ideas about working as a photographer match up with the reality of working in the field. I recently wrote a blog post that explains how one might go about this undertaking. Also, be dedicated to continually reading and learning as much about photography as you can. That is one reason I love this field – I don’t like passing a day without learning something new, and photography definitely offers this opportunity. Finally, as I mentioned before, broaden your horizons by learning about other subjects and ideas that interest you. Whether or not they relate directly to the photography you do, they will inform your perception of the world and thus shape the unique images that only your eye will see.

© Douglas J. Klostermann | www.dojoklo.com

http://www.dojoklo.com

Doug’s Blog

Doug in LinkedIn

Twitter: @dojoklo

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10.Q Interviews: Brian Hirschy – Cultural & Travel Photographer based in China

© 10.Q Interviews | Brian Hirschy

© 10.Q Interviews | Brian Hirschy

Welcome to 10.Q Interviews.This section usually features interviews to Humanitarian, Cultural & Travel Photographers, their work and photography.

This week in 10.Q Interviews, Brian Hirschy:

“Brian is a working photographer living in China who has a passion for teaching photography, participating in the growing photographic community, and doing good rather than complaining in an effort to give back. In late 2009 Brian helped start a company that facilitates one-of-a-kind Lumen Dei photo tours throughout Tibet.

Brian’s passion is unique photos of unique places and people while distinctly focusing on lighting techniques and the humanity, uniqueness and creativity that is found in every culture. Brian especially enjoy showing the dichotomy of modernization and it’s effects, both good and bad, on those cultures experiencing it for the first time.” [More about Brian...]

1. Tell us about you and your photography. What got you started in photography?

First of all, I live in China and run Lumen Dei tours on the Tibetan plateau. The bulk of my photography is the 6 major minorities that share this space. We love the diversity that exists in this place and we love living in China. My photography is a combination of a few things I love – lighting and travel. I often described myself as a studio photographer who happens to live in a semi-remote corner of the world. Because of the love for these things it was only natural for me to combine the two. Due to the fact that where I live is a popular photographic destination, I feel like I’ve seen just about every kind of photograph that could come out of this place – I try to approach my photography from a different point of view. I try really hard to approach it not from the over-simplified and nostalgic view of a westerner, but of that of someone who lives here and is viewing, whether I like it or not, what is actually happening – whether it be poverty, modernization, or cultural change.

I owe a lot of my direction into photography to an old Canon AE-1 that my father owned. When I was a kid, I would go into the attic and dig this AE-1 out of a storage box and unwrap it from it’s leather case just to look at the beast. I’d then just go around all day like I was a famous professional photographer or a private eye under cover. The sound of the shutter flap on the AE-1 is still embedded in my mind as one of the most beautiful sounds in the world. It was one of the coolest things a kid could play with while growing up, or at least it was for me.

After graduating from high school I worked at a summer camp. Among my jobs was that of the camp photographer. I spent an entire summer photographing hyperactive sugar-high’d kids with no parental supervision doing dangerous things. At the end of that summer my boss, who was a former photographer, pulled me aside and told me that he though I had a natural eye and that I should consider pursuing photography as a major. Honestly, when he told me that my first thought was “Yeah right! I’m going to college to get a REAL job.”

I lasted one semester in college studying for a “real job.” I ended up graduating college with a business degree but spent the majority of my time there working on what I really loved -graphic design and web design. I almost always was friends with people who would let me borrow their cameras, since I lost the Canon AE-1 somewhere on top of a car shooting long exposures of a meteor shower, which I have yet to forgive myself for.

Long story short, I’ve always been around photography in one way or another. After many years of working around the world as a designer, programmer, and web developer, I stumbled back upon photography. Ever since then photography has been eating into my desire to do the other things.

© Brian Hirschy | www.brianhirschy.com

© Brian Hirschy | www.brianhirschy.com

2. How did you get into Culture/Travel photography? Where did you get your vision for it, and what are your dreams?

After graduating college, I moved to China for a while to work for a friend who was designing high-end Tibetan rugs. While living there, I travelled quite a bit. I spent 2+ months traveling through the Tibetan Autonomous Region where I simultaneously feel in love with culture and travel, and China. Once that bug has you, it’s really really difficult to think about working behind a desk again. Furthermore, I was there long enough to be exposed to the social, economic, and cultural diversity that exist in a place like this. The seeds were planted.

The desire to actively pursue cultural and travel photography kinda came out of the blue. I was “trained” by an amazing landscape photographer but was always drawn towards portraitures and lighting. As I was starting to get more and more into photography, my wife and I pulled the trigger on moving overseas to start a web design/design/art studio of sorts that would train minorities to enter into developing/modernizing economies. It was what we knew and how we thought we could make a living as well, but along the way, we started to realized that photography fit the bill more more and more. By the time we had moved, photography made more sense and was what I was more passionate about.

From the time we moved back until now, I’ve spent significant time training locals how to photograph their own culture. I also started a company that facilitates multiple yearly Lumen Dei tours throughout the Tibetan plateau and provides jobs and stimulates the local economies all while fleshing out what it looks like to live as a photographer in this culture.

My dream is to see unique ethnic photography being produced by ethnic photographers as well as to further a career in doing something I love all while giving something back to the community we live in. Our goal is to provide unique experiences through culturally and socially responsible photography – and to just keep doing what I love!

© Brian Hirschy | www.brianhirschy.com

© Brian Hirschy | www.brianhirschy.com

3. How do you see the Cultural/Travel photography industry today? Is it exciting to be a part of it?

I think it’s very exciting to be a part of – if it wasn’t I wouldn’t be a part of it to be honest. Culture and travel photography are doing some amazing things in that they are raising awareness of culture, society, modernization, and humanitarian issues. I’m so proud of the work that photographers have done in Haiti for drawing awareness to those needs. This field of photography inherently has the ability to create change for good – and that’s an enormous draw for not only me but others I talk to in the industry.

Overall, I think the industry is healthy and changing. You are seeing massive interest in photo tours, photo workshops, and travel and cultural photography sources on the net. These things are good but come with some new territory.

I’ve noticed that more and more people are chomping at the bit to be labelled as “travel photographers” without a whole lot of consideration of what sacrifices come with the name. People see shots from remote places, remote cultures, and remote people and wish they could be “lucky” enough to have this job. Honestly, I’ve spent a lot of nights scouting photo tours in extreme sub zero temperatures. I’ve spent weeks without bathing or eating something that looked even remotely like food. I’ve been very sick in remote places at high altitudes. I’ve been in some really crummy positions because I’m “lucky” enough to have this job. As much as I truly love it, it can eat your lunch.

Furthermore, cultural and travel photographers either live a long way away from ‘home’ or they are consistently packing and unpacking, living out of a suitcase, and in general living a pretty grueling lifestyle. I wrote a blog post a while back that talks about the personally less glamorous side of the travel photography that talks about “when it just plane sucks” [here] that attempts to discuss some of the times people don’t think about.

Making your living as a travel/cultural photographer is really difficult. Most of the people I know who are full time travel photographers make the majority of their income through other means – whether it be book sales, workshops, ebooks, seminars, stock sales, iphone apps, web design, NGO work, or long term work with established clients. So much of a persons living is made on the peripherals of the industry, and I’m not sure how many would-be travel photographers are cautiously aware of that. In the last 4 months, personally, I’ve done quite a bit of web work for clients in the states, worked for an NGO, and done design work for local businesses – all while managing to plan 6 Lumen Dei trips.

In my opinion, a dark part of the industry that still exists ,especially where I live, is that of photographers hiring out a service to take them to remote places of the country for amazing shots of the culture without any regard for the social, political, and cultural impact they have on those people. They return home, publish a book that eventually ends up in the 50% off bin at Barnes & Noble and the locals never see a dime of that money. What was the point?

The alternate side that I’ve been really proud to see, from what I can tell, is a distinct shift in giving back as photographers rather than always taking. Guys like Marco Ryan, Mario Mattei, Matt Brandon, David duChemin, Gary Chapman, and Gavin Gough are prime examples of people who trying desperately to give back something to the people they photograph as well as the industry as a whole all while making a living with photography. Not only that, but they are all good examples of people who have other irons in the fire that enable them to do what they love.

© Brian Hirschy | www.brianhirschy.com

© Brian Hirschy | www.brianhirschy.com

4. What are the characteristics that a good cultural photographer needs to have?

Humility, respect, awareness, sacrifice, the ability to be uncomfortable – the same characteristics that make someone a good cultural learner. Maybe more so for us photographers because of our deep desire to capture the culture in it’s purest sense rather than to just experience the culture like a tourist might. It’s never appropriate for us to break known social and cultural rules to get a shot. I can’t even count how many times I’ve not taken a killer shot just because I sensed a person was uncomfortable There seems to always be that internal tight rope between being a respectful observer and being a photographer in this field that I’m not sure exists in other photographic fields.

5. How much do you travel every year? How do you manage your family time?

Lately I’ve travelled quite a bit, but we don’t have kids so I’m free to do so. This year I’ve been on two extended trips inland through the Tibetan Autonomous Region and also through Kham. I’ve been to Thailand, Hong Kong, and Malaysia within the last 8 months. Travel in SE Asia is cheap – my wife and I try to take advantage of that fact.

Because of the nature of our business on the Tibetan plateau – we usually have 4 tours a year that are about two weeks long. Each one of these scheduled tours include almost two scouting trips that can last from 4 days to two weeks. All together than can end up being quite a bit of travel.

As far as balancing it with my family, I don’t have kids so it makes it (from what I hear) exponentially easier. My wife and I end up going on a lot of the trips together so that makes it somewhat easier to manage. On a less obvious level, I have to balance my travel with my tiredness. If I’m tired from traveling all the time and I start to be snappy to those around me, and worst of all, my wife – I know I have to pull back. The good news is that the right amount of travel for me rejuvenates me but doing it too much turns me into a real grouch.

The rule of thumb for me is that this whole business comes second to my wife. I feel like it’s easy to say that but the implementation is always difficult. My wife and I talk about what my travel schedule looks like and she has significant say in what I do and where I go. Getting her involved and giving her firm veto power is one of the smartest things a travel photographer with a family can do.

© Brian Hirschy | www.brianhirschy.com

© Brian Hirschy | www.brianhirschy.com

6. Who’s been an inspiration for your photography? How do you stay inspired?

There are so many people that inspire me as photographers that it’s actually hard to name names right off the bat. Honestly, I get inspired by people who are hustling and don’t pretend to be something that they aren’t. I get inspired by those that take big risks in not only their photography but in business side of photography – those that are putting themselves out there. Being ourselves is the greatest asset we have as photographers – it really inspires me to see people doing just that.

To be more specific, Zack Arias is a huge influence of mine and just a solid guy. He’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of spending time with and just a real down to earth guy who knows what failure is like, knows how important family is, and knows the value of hustling.

Other guys that really influence and inspire me are Shaun Menary, Matt Brandon, David duChemin, Eric Dacus, Stephen Hunton, Philip Thomas, and Brett Harkey. These guys come from all different backgrounds in photography and all have their heads on their shoulders. There is such inspirational value in knowing who you are as a photographer, but maybe even more value in knowing who you aren’t as a photographer and these guys inspire me in that way.

I stay inspired a lot of ways. I pay the most attention to people who are just going for it and hustling to get where they want to be not only as photographers but as human beings. There is something about the human spirit that makes us turn our heads and applaud someone who is hustling – just going for it. It’s a beautiful thing. On top of that, I actually read quite a few design blogs that help my photography. I spend a lot of time talking with other photographers about their visions which helps refine mine and really inspires me to keep going and to get out and shoot as much as I can.

My biggest source of inspiration is my wife’s art. My wife is a stupid good painter. I myself not being classically trained in any sort of art, her images push me to understand composition and technique in ways that I don’t think I would be challenged to do otherwise. Furthermore, my wife strives for excellence but paints entirely for herself – “just because she loves it.” Very inspirational.

© Brian Hirschy | www.brianhirschy.com

© Brian Hirschy | www.brianhirschy.com

7. How do you normally approach people from other cultures? What are your limits at the moment of shooting people in need, or in a complicated situation?

Utter humility. I think my perspective has been drastically changed now that I live with the people that I photograph. I’m forced to respect them because I spend time with them and live life with them. I’m a strong believer that a photographer has to “pay” for a shot in the sense that a cultural exchange usually needs to happen- a conversation, a smile, an attempt to communicate, sitting with someone longer than you wanted to, letting them understand you as a foreigner, sharing nasty food with them. Not only does it allow a photographer to be accepted into a situation, but it’s just a part of giving back as a photographer. Plus it makes your shots better – I promise.

It really is complicated because you can’t always successfully navigate that “giving back” line. I’ve taken pictures of people without them knowing it and I’ve even angered some people by accident. There are some days that having a 30 minute conversation with someone just to get a decent shot just isn’t worth it to me – so I ‘take it.’ It’s so hard to walk that line, but the attitude of giving back needs to always be there somewhere.

To answer the question directly, I usually always approach someone if I want to take their picture and they are approachable. I usually start a conversation with the person before I ask if I can take their picture and I often times show them pictures of other people that I have seen that day. If I can’t speak the language I’ll often times sit with them and watch or do whatever they are doing as a sign of respect. So what if they say I can’t take their picture?

© Brian Hirschy | www.brianhirschy.com

© Brian Hirschy | www.brianhirschy.com

8. Is social media/Internet important in promoting your work? What are some downfalls of social media?

I participate in social media to be part of a community and to view, discuss, and understand other photographers work and viewpoints on the certain issues. If social media didn’t do one single thing to help my career, I’d still fully participate in it.

That being said, I’d be foolish to say that it’s not a powerful community and networking tool, which in turn has a positive affect on my business and has brought about some amazing relationships. The Lumen Dei tours we run with Gavin, Matt, and David are all promoted within social networking circles – blogs, twitter, forums, etc. In that way social media is a huge component of our business and marketing.

The opposite side is what we see happening more and more. You have some photographer who randomly follows 1,900 people on Twitter in order to have 300 follow them back. People know when you are being fake. I believe another downfall of social media is how it can seemingly replace the face-to-face networking that has been so important in my photographic career. Some of the most important business opportunities I have ever had have come from spending money and time to go meet with someone. I think that twitter is unfortunately starting to replace that in some ways.

Nonetheless, social media is truly awesome. It levels the playing field in so many ways for people who don’t have the money to market themselves to get out and do just that. It’s absolutely amazing to participate in a truly international community of photographers. Think about it – I’m sitting here writing an interview for a guy who lives in Iraq while I’m sitting in Western China.

© Brian Hirschy | www.brianhirschy.com

© Brian Hirschy | www.brianhirschy.com

9. Tell us about the last piece of gear that you deemed important enough to buy?

You gear heads are going to hate me for this, but the most important pieces of gear that I own is are a super low temperature down sleeping bag and a 800 fill down jacket. I know, I know… it’s not some sexy lens, light, or camera body, but hey… what good is a dead photographer? And no, this response was not produced under duress via David duChemin.

10. What would be your advice for a photographer who is just starting out in this field? What is the biggest obstacle you see facing new photographers who want to work on this type of photography?

My number one bit of advice is to be realistic. Be real about who you are as a photographer, the skills that you have, the weaknesses that you have, where you are going, and what it’s going to take to get to where you want. Photography can take a lot from you and it’s important to figure some things out before you are too far down the road financially and relationally.

I think everyones obstacles are a little different. My wife and I don’t have kids and debt, so those obstacles weren’t mine when we decided to do this. That being said, I think a big obstacle that a lot of photographers don’t expect is the pure business side of the industry. I spend more time writing proposals, writing emails, discussing business on skype, figuring out tour costs, talking to government officials, and doing a budget than I do behind a camera. Business doesn’t do itself and as narcissistic as it sounds, if you aren’t getting paid for something you aren’t going to be around long.

www.brianhirschy.com

Brian in Facebook

Brian in Flickr

Twitter: @bhirschyphoto

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10.Q Interviews: Keith Dunlop, Humanitarian Photographer. Documentary Photojournalism

© All Rights Reserved | 10.Q Interviews

Welcome to 10.Q Interviews.This section usually features interviews to Humanitarian, Cultural & Travel Photographers, their work and photography.

This week in 10.Q Interviews, Keith Dunlop:

“Keith’s photography style is best described as quiet and unobtrusive. He prefers to document an event as it unfolds naturally, capturing the moment in natural light, without any prompting or interference from the photographer. Keith’s style and his intuitive sense for the overlooked detail forces the viewer to look beyond the immediate and into a unique glimpse of an intimate world as seen through his eyes. Keith has logged thousands of miles traveling the world since 2001 to such places as Haiti, Nepal, Guatemala, Peru, Hungary, Austria, The Czech Republic, and Turkey, in search of intimate portraits of people and place.” [More about Keith Dunlop...]

1.Tell us about you and your photography. What kinds of shooting have you done? Have you worked for any humanitarian organizations/magazines etc.?

I was introduced to photography by my parents who bought me a 35mm SLR when I was a freshman in High School. I was immediately obsessed with it and was soon processing film in a small bathroom in our family home. I took photography classes in High School where I learned to print my own negatives, and in college I repeatedly registered for the same photography class so I could get access to the school’s darkroom. However, I am largely self-taught. I sought out information about technique wherever I could find it in books and magazines. I experimented with different formats, and took on a wide-range of small commercial assignments including portraits, weddings, and even architecture.

Ultimately, I never found a direction with my photograph that I was satisfied with, and I drifted away from it. There was a large period of time when I didn’t even own a single camera. At the same time, I was building a career in insurance claims management, and my corporate professional life had extinguished any interest in photography. Fast forward some 15 years and as I became more and more disenchanted with the corporate life I was leading, I returned to photography as a creative outlet, but also a form of therapy from my daily work stress. I also rediscovered my interest in documentary photography and developed a 5-year plan to build a body work that I could market and develop into a new career. With that in mind, I used the substantial income I was bringing in from my day-job and began traveling the world in 2001 starting with Nepal. Before that trip, I had never traveled outside the US, say nothing of a country on the other side of the world. Upon my return, I’ll never forget the emotion I felt when viewing the transparencies on the light table knowing that I had captured what I saw in my viewfinder. The conception of an image that I saw at the time I was photographing it, had been accurately translated to the film, and that revelation instantly transformed me. From that moment, I knew without a doubt what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

In 2006, I walked away from my corporate life for good, sold everything, and moved to the Central California coastal wine country of San Luis Obispo. I started a documentary wedding photography business in order to provide working capital to continue building a client list for my humanitarian NGO work.

Most recently, I was asked by a local NGO (MOSCTHA) based in The Dominican Republic to document their relief efforts in Haiti following the devastating January 12, 2010 earthquake. MOSCTHA is a major on-the-ground distribution partner for Direct Relief International, and provided me with an extraordinary amount of support and access to their operations. I returned to Haiti for a second assignment with MOSCTHA in April, and the images from both trips are now featured prominently in their marketing and fund-raising materials.

I am also proud to have been selected as a contributing photographer to Latitude Magazine — a new media venture featuring photojournalism for the iPad. The concept of Latitude Magazine is a historical record of the world as it exists on one day. On the 14th of each month, contributors photograph the daily lives of interesting individuals, communities or workplaces in a manner that expands our understanding of the world. My work from The Dominican Republic will be appear in the upcoming second issue.

© Keith Dunlop | www.keithdunlop.com

© Keith Dunlop | www.keithdunlop.com

2. We all know that you don’t get into humanitarian photography to become rich, so what does humanitarian photography means to you? What’s your vision for it?

Based on the experiences of my two assignments in Haiti, I think it’s very important for photographers and journalists working in areas of humanitarian need to have a very clear objective. Being so close to the US, Haiti became a magnet for a large number of photographers more interested in disaster tourism than true photojournalism. Others were there on spec using the crisis as a training ground for their own personal objectives. Myself, I only traveled to Haiti once I knew I had a specific client to work for who will use my images for the greater good of the Haitian population. It’s an unfortunate aspect of this type of work, but dramatic images are the thing that drive fund-raising for the NGO’s. It is my hope as a journalist that my images move NGO benefactors into action, and therefore ultimately benefit the victims of humanitarian crisis’ around the world. And, while I certainly don’t expect to become rich from the work, photographers such as myself can earn a very comfortable living, while at the same time seeing our work promote the goals and missions of our NGO clients.

© Keith Dunlop | www.keithdunlop.com

© Keith Dunlop | www.keithdunlop.com

3. How did you get into humanitarian photography? Where did you get the idea to shoot these kinds of people and groups?

The international traveling and documentary shooting that I started doing in 2001 gradually built a desire in me to see my work serve the humanitarian needs of the disadvantaged populations I was photographing. I was gaining valuable experience in terms of the logistic knowledge and the challenges of working in third-world countries, but I saw my images as self-serving. I decided at some point that I wanted to work directly with humanitarian organizations and see my images have a greater impact on the people I was photographing. I was literally on the phone cold-calling NGO’s on the 12th of January with CNN on the TV in the background when news of the Haiti earthquake broke. Within a few days I had made contact with MOSCTHA in The Dominican Republic, and I was on the ground with them shortly thereafter.

© Keith Dunlop | www.keithdunlop.com

© Keith Dunlop | www.keithdunlop.com

4. What are the challenges of shooting for NGO’s or non- profit organizations?

I think that one of the greatest challenges for a photographer working with NGO’s is understanding the business of the client. MOSCTHA, the Dominican Republic based NGO that I worked with in Haiti for two assignments following the January 12, 2010 earthquake, was faced with significant obstacles regarding obtaining relief supplies, and also logistical hurdles in the delivery of those goods. Unlike the major NGO players in regions such as Haiti that operate huge warehouses full of corporate-donated relief supplies, the Director of MOSCTHA at times literally drives the streets of Santo Domingo for hours trying to find enough material to load into the back of pick-up trucks for weekly runs into Haiti. As a journalist, one must understand the operational limitations of the client in order to best service their needs.

Photographers who aspire to do this kind of work also need to understand that there is no glamour or romanticism associated with working for NGO’s. Often times traveling with an NGO into a disaster area or region of humanitarian crisis requires adapting to living conditions not much better than the displaced population. During my two assignments in Haiti, I slept on a concrete slab on the grounds of an abandoned structure with no sanitation, running water or reliable electricity. The days were brutally hot with temperatures in the high-90′s and humidity to match. I got sick twice.

There are also very serious security concerns with working within a population desperate for aid. A photographer in Haiti carrying thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment becomes a very attractive target to criminals. One neighborhood I traveled to with MOSCTHA, the barrio of Gran Ravine, was virtually ignored by the major NGO’s following the earthquake due to very real security concerns. I was only able to photograph in the region due to the fact that one of MOSCTHA’s directors was born and raised in the neighborhood. He was known by the locals, and it was only owing to that fact that secure passage for me was possible. Another photographer that had previously worked for MOSCTHA had ignored warnings about traveling alone into Cite Soleil for the same reasons, and was quickly robbed at gunpoint upon entry.

© Keith Dunlop | www.keithdunlop.com

© Keith Dunlop | www.keithdunlop.com

5. How much do you travel every year? How do you manage your family time?

At present, my plan is to accept assignments requiring no more than 3-4 months of total travel, and to continue to service my wedding photography business the balance of the year. The wedding business now provides a steady source of income, and I will need to see my NGO work increase consistently to the point that I’m comfortable cutting back with my other work.

My wife and 6-year-old daughter are very important to me, and obviously, managing family and travel is a challenge. For now, I’m home more than not, so it’s manageable. We have a support system in place for the times I am out of the country. And, since wedding photography is mostly a weekend job, I get to spent the kind of time with my family that most people with 9-5 jobs don’t.

6. Who’s been an inspiration for your photography? How do you stay inspired? Do you read blogs? if so, which ones would you recommend?

I am inspired by a wide range of influences, most obviously the major photojournalistic giants of the last century including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, and Robert Frank. When I was young, I was obsessed with the photography in National Geographic and found myself trying to emulate such artists such as David Alan Harvey and James Stanfield, with varying degrees of success. But, whatever my level of success, I knew that I wanted to follow in that tradition of documentary photography. My hometown hero has to be Karl Grobl who I consider a valuable source of inspiration that constantly moves me work on improving my own images. He is also just a great guy and is always willing to dispense valuable information to other photographers.

Staying inspired and motivated to work, especially when working in disaster zones, can be a difficult task. It would be very easy to dismiss the work as too difficult from a logistic basis, as well as from the emotional toll it inevitably takes. One must remain committed to the work, and to the challenges inherent with working in such close contact with people in desperate circumstances. I find continued inspiration in the knowledge that my images can serve to benefit those populations in need.

I also find that there are significant lessons to be learned from artists outside of the specific genre of journalistic photography. I have a passion for what I consider fine-art cinematography and I have been highly moved by the works of Freddie Young (Lawrence of Arabia) and Conrad Hall (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) in particular. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the talent that is required to convey the human condition with the visionary eloquence of a moving picture sequence. It requires an ability to see not only the static frames of imagery in a particular scene, but to connect all of those individual images in a moving sequence that retains not only the visual imagery of the scene, but also the emotion of the time and place being documented. Still photographers trying to craft an effective picture story with a series of still images, can learn a great deal from moving picture imagery.

I don’t read blogs too much, but I am fairly active on photography forums such as Lightstalkers, the Leica Users Forum, and Fred Miranda. I also try to stay connected with what’s happening with NGO’s around the world with the Reuters AlertNet for Journalists.

© Keith Dunlop | www.keithdunlop.com

© Keith Dunlop | www.keithdunlop.com

7. How do you normally approach people from other cultures? What are your limits at the moment of shooting people in need, or in a complicated situation?

I have found that the best way to approach people from other cultures as a photographer, is to do so first without a camera in hand. People are naturally wary of journalists and cameras, especially in regions dealing with humanitarian disasters. It is always best to approach as a human being first, and a journalist second. Trust must be established between a photographer and his or her subject, and that takes a concerted effort on the part of a photographer to show compassion for the suffering of another human being. Once your subject has a sense that you’re not there to exploit, but rather to tell the story of their plight, most become understanding about a photographer’s job to document. Sometimes this process takes place within a short few moments; other times much more people-skill work is required. In Haiti, I made it a point to try to connect with the people I would be photographing by helping aid working distribute supplies, making eye contact, being very visible, waiting for supplies to actually reach the hands of people, and by that process, slowing allow people to accept my presence. Only then do I take my cameras out.

On the subject of Haiti, I also learned what my emotional limits were in terms of documenting human tragedy. On my first day of working with the NGO MOSCTHA, I traveled with them to a refugee camp where they would be providing innoculations to the children of the camp. After a couple of hours, the nurses ran out of vaccine doses and had to turn away a large number of people who had not been treated. While taking a private moment in a quiet area of the camp to process what I had witnessed, a small Haitian girl of perhaps three or four years of age approached me speaking a Creole word I did not know. She continued to repeat this word over and over, seemingly frustrated over my lack of understanding. The little girl then climbed into my lap, repeating the same Creole word, and looked directly into my eyes while she pointed to her upper arm. I quickly realized that she was begging me to give her the shot that she had seen so many other children receive. It was a heart-breaking moment to realize my helplessness to aid this little girl in need, and it was quite difficult to keep my emotions in check at that moment.

The following day I traveled with MOSCTHA to an orphanage in Leogane that had collapsed in the earthquake killing a number of children. A little girl of perhaps 5 or 6 years of age had survived the building collapse, but lost both of her legs below the knees when she became trapped in the rubble. MOSCTHA had taken her a wheelchair the day before and we were visiting, in part, to see how she was doing. I found it remarkable when I observed the little girl to be of high spirits — laughing and interacting with the other children of the orphanage as if nothing had happened. But for her circumstances, my initial photographs of her reflected an average happy child. Then, later in the day while I working in another part of the orphanage, I heard what sounded like cries and screaming of a child. I went to the area where I had heard these cries and discovered medical volunteers changing the bandages covering the stumps of the girl in the wheelchair. She was screaming in pain as the old bandages were being pryed from her damaged flesh. I took no pictures. There were no thoughts in my head about photographs in this situation. Instead, I found my thoughts moving to my own child and the horror of what the girl in the wheelchair was experiencing. It was impossible to control my emotions at that moment and I ran to an area out of sight of the others and cried uncontrollably for several minutes.

© Keith Dunlop | www.keithdunlop.com

© Keith Dunlop | www.keithdunlop.com

8. What are the characteristic that a good humanitarian photographer needs to have? What would be your advice for a photographer who is just starting out in this field?

A humanitarian photographer must have the ability to approach people with respect, both for the individual and the circumstances they find themselves in. A photographer has a responsibility to the subject beyond the commercial objectives of the assignment. You must gain the acceptance of your subject through a compassionate approach in how you communicate your intentions. If a journalist is not willing, or able to do this, they have no business working in areas of humanitarian crisis.

In Haiti, I photographed severely injured people laying in their hospital beds, and essentially, committing the most braisen form of personal privacy invasion one could possibly imagine. It would unheard of in normal circumstances for a person to walk into a stranger’s hospital room and start taking pictures. Therefore, when photographing in regions of humanitarian crisis or devastating natural disaster such as in Haiti, it is critically important for a photographer to approach the situation with a high degree of respect and empathy. When I photographed in the Haitian Community Hospital I took pictures, yes. But, I also talked to the patients, and spent time visiting with them and their families, asked questions about their lives, and in the best way I could, tried to convey that I wasn’t there just to take pictures and leave. By doing this, the people I was photographing accepted my presence, and understood that through my pictures they had a voice with the outside world. Through me, they had an opportunity to show people who might not otherwise donate money to an NGO exactly who needs the help.

9. Tell us about the last piece of gear that you deemed important enough to buy. How about the one that’s been most important in your career?

When I was working in Haiti, my iPhone was probably the one thing that I could not have done without. Even though I had my laptop, Internet access was very difficult to come by. However, I was able to use my iPhone to get email, access the internet, and keep my family informed about my welfare. The iPhone GPS function also provided to be a lifesaver since accurate maps of Haitian streets are hard to come by and there is no street grid system with the exception of Petionville.

It is difficult to think about what piece of gear has been the most important in my career. I consider my humanitarian photographer career to be just beginning, so come back in 20 years or so and I might have an answer.

© Keith Dunlop | www.keithdunlop.com

© Keith Dunlop | www.keithdunlop.com

10. How important is social media for you? How do you it in your work? Any tips to share?

I have been rather slow to adapt to using social media for my work, although I am gradually looking at which options would work best for me. I have a Twitter account, but I’m trying to understand how to best use it. I’m not the kind of person who has to tell people what I’m doing every five minutes — I just don’t get that. However, I can see how it might be useful in distributing quick promotional information to clients. I have a business Facebook page and I run an ad on the site as well. I use the Facebook page as a compact version of my two blogs (I try to keep my PJ and wedding work entities separate), and I post small samples of new images in albums and post abridged versions of any informational columns that first appear on my blogs. I have also begun to take Flickr more seriously as a way to connect with potential photo buyers. More and more photo buyers and other potential customers are searching Flickr for images to license, including the big hitters like Getty Images. In the meantime, my website and blogs are still the primary and most activity visited of my online entities.

http://www.keithdunlop.com/

Keith Dunlop in Facebook

Keith Dunlop in Flickr

Twitter: @keithdunlop_com

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10.Q Interview: Simon Sticker – Humanitarian Photographer, Documentary & Visual Storyteller

© All Rights Reserved | 10.Q Interviews

Welcome to 10.Q Interviews.This section usually features interviews to Humanitarian, Cultural & Travel Photographers, their work and photography.

This week in 10.Q Interviews, Simon Sticker:

“I love stories. That is what I’m interested in. And I love to tell them. That is what I do. Every person has a story to tell and while most people can share it easily, many people can’t. So to be more precise, I love to tell the stories of the unheard, the good and the sad stories. The stories that might be forgotten. Stories of problems and crisis. To tell those stories I’m always searching for extraordinary people and places, traveling the world, following the soul.” [More about Simon and FlowMedia...]

1. Tell us about you and your photography. What kinds of shooting have you done? Have you worked for any humanitarian organizations/magazines etc.? Could you name any current or former clients?

i’m a very visual person and when I discovered photography, it became for me my way of expressing what I see and experience. At some point videography took a bit over and it blended again in the years. Nowadays, I do both and try to push for myself the use of both in combination. Both forms of visual storytelling have it’s advantages and disadvantages but I think with a combination of it, we could do more powerful stories. That is also something what I was doing with my latest NGO assignments, it was all about the combination of both. The big advantage is that the pictures could be used also in other ways, so you create an extra value that pure video would not have but also pure photography would not have.
I worked with NGOs like the Baobab Family and MEDSAR in the last time. Beside that we started a project last year in Rwanda called ‘With our own eyes’ and in a first workshop taught Rwandan students in photography and telling stories with pictures, most of it done with their cell phones. The idea was to get their perspective and let them tell their stories and all that in a way that they are also able to use afterwards. Quite some of my work is also created for universities as a visual picture of their topics of research. And then there are the commercial clients…

© Simon Sticker | www.simonsticker.com

2. We all know that you don’t get into humanitarian photography to become rich, so what does humanitarian photography means to you? What’s your vision for it?

My motivation to do this are the people. I think it is important to tell their stories, that is what drives me. I think quite often there is a big misunderstanding in the western world. We all have seen this dark B/W pictures of the starving child somewhere in Africa. But I think it is important to tell more of the story. To get away from this point of view to show them as victims. I want to make people interested in the lifes of the people I photograph, not in a way of voyeurism but in in a way of curiosity. I want people to meet on eye-level and also see what they can learn from the people I photograph, so that it is not only about feeling pity for their situation but that they can see the richness in their lifes. I’m always moved by what I learn from the people I work with (way more than they learn from me I guess) and I think I want to pass on a little bit of it to the people who see my stories.

Why i do what i do. from Flow Media on Vimeo.

3. How did you get into humanitarian photography? Where did you get the idea to shoot these kinds of people and groups?

I did not get into humanitarian photography on purpose. It was a development over the time and has a lot to do with myself growing as a person and more and more feeling that I have to take responsibility to capture what I see. And to be clear, it took some time that I felt ready for that. One major tipping point for me was a trip to Kashmir in a time where the violence was pretty much erupting. And I was for sure not ready for it at that point. After that I spent time in Dharamsala, the home of the Dalai Lama and many other exile-Tibetians. I was talking to so many people and I was moved by all this stories they had to tell. People, younger than I, having gone through so much but at the same time with such a positive attitude. I think that was a major starting point for me to tell those stories.

© Simon Sticker | www.simonsticker.com

4. What are the challenges of shooting for NGO’s or non- profit organizations?

We often hear this money topic when it comes to working with NGOs and for sure that is an issue, but I think it is also about education. Not in a way to promote how great it is to have great photography but more to educate them how to use it properly. What are the possibilities to use it, what are the ways to share it. I worked more for small NGOs and this process to find out what they need and how they can use it afterwards has always been a part of the process. What is the value for a NGO to send a photographer when they don’t have good ways to share that? And at the end I’m the first one who says: Don’t send a photographer to cover your projects or shoot a specific assignment when you have no idea about how to use it properly afterwards to generate donations or any other value out of it. Small NGOs are often volunteer-based, enthusiastic people with great knowledge and value for the work they do but maybe not with someone who has knowledge about the use of media. And good pictures in a crappy website with ten hits per day will barely bring the value back. I like to think of assignments more in concepts, what not starts with taking pictures and ends with delivering them. Till now I was luckily always involved in the concepts behind it, what also gave me a great deal of freedom to tell the stories how I thought it would be best.

© Simon Sticker | www.simonsticker.com

5. How much do you travel every year? How do you manage your family time?

This is a difficult question. It depends a lot on the assignments. The humanitarian work is not the only stuff that I do, but also my other assignments most of the time make me travel. In the last years it has normally been around four months a year. Luckily I had my girlfriend with me on some of the trips and when i’m back home I try to organize my time that we could spent as much time together as possible. So till now it works fine but I also try not to be away for months in a row.

© Simon Sticker | www.simonsticker.com

6. Who’s been an inspiration for your photography? How do you stay inspired? Do you read blogs? if so, which ones would you recommend?

My main inspiration are the people I work with. Telling there stories has always been such a rich experience for me. On the photographic side I have to name famous photojournalists like James Nachtwey or Marcus Bleasdale. I have a love-critique affair with their work. Inspiring in so many levels and amazing in their power, yet sometimes it feels for me a bit to much focused on the dramatic suffering side of the story. But especially Nachtwey has been a big influence for me. I found so many of my intentions in his words that it in the first place even shocked me. For this whole multimedia part Mediastorm, Bombay Flying Club or Duckrabbit are a great source of inspiration.
I think it’s not so hard to stay inspired. There is so much out there, that there barely passes a day for me without new ideas. But especially blogs are a great source for getting knowledge, exchanging knowledge and also to find inspiration. Some great sources are here A developing story, innovative interactivity or the Rights Exposure Project.

© Simon Sticker | www.simonsticker.com

7. How do you normally approach people from other cultures? What are your limits at the moment of shooting people in need, or in a complicated situation?

I once wrote about that in my blog as this is a question I’m asked quite often. I think one of my tricks is time. Take time to approach them, get interested and make them interested, make them trust you and get a relationship. Sometimes it only takes seconds, sometimes hours or even days. The more open you are to them the more open they will be, that is my experience. The limits are a fine line. I think here the respect you bring to their situation and your sensibility for when it is time to put down the camera are key aspects.

© Simon Sticker | www.simonsticker.com

8. What are the characteristic that a good humanitarian photographer needs to have? What would be your advice for a photographer who is just starting out in this field?

Curiosity, respect and willingness to understand situations and livelihoods is what I think is important. That is also one of the reasons why I think it is sometimes a difficult concept to fly in a famous fashion photographer and make him shoot some fancy portraits. I think the highest quality of a photographer in that field is not his ability to shoot great pictures, more how he finds the pictures that represent a situation the best and leads to an understanding of the situation.
if you wanna start in that field, what is a situation where I see myself in as well, I think it is good to start working with NGOs. it does not have to be somewhere far away. Get in contact with local charities, where you can identify yourself with what they do, and start shooting for them. There is so much just in front of your doorstep worth doing a story about. And in general, go out and shoot, stay curious, try out, experiment, read blogs, soak in all information you could get, develop personal projects. This is all about learning, being curious and staying open at the same time.

© Simon Sticker | www.simonsticker.com

9. Tell us about the last piece of gear that you deemed important enough to buy. How about the one that’s been most important in your career?

Right now a Lumix GF1 with a 20mm will be my next piece of gear. As a little extra back-up but also to give me back the feeling of shooting only with prime lens in a small sized camera. And it is a nice tool when you don’t wanna be seen as the photographer right away.
The most important piece of gear I would say for this kind of work became my little 50 bucks Polaroid Pogo, a pocket printer that allows me to print directly from the camera wherever I am. The prints are small, but it is a great way to give something back directly and I will never forget this moment when I came back to some street kids in Rwanda that I was shooting with for some time to print them some of the pictures. It is both a great tool for communication and to give back.

© Simon Sticker | www.simonsticker.com

10. How important is social media for you? How do you it in your work? Any tips to share?

Social Media became a very important tool for me. Not so much for contacts with clients and assignments only, but also to share thoughts and exchange with inspiring people. it is both, a way of sharing your stuff but also to find inspiration and exchange with people. So I use twitter, facebook and the likes, run a blog where I share tips, thoughts, inspiring projects and work of others.

The private life of Ancille Mukabisangwa from Flow Media on Vimeo.

http://www.simonsticker.com

FlowMedia in Facebook

FlowMedia in Vimeo

FlowMedia in My Space

Twitter: @flow_media

flowmedia.1@gmail.com

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10.Q Interviews: Travel & Cultural Photographer Jacob Maentz

Welcome to 10.Q Interviews.This section usually features interviews to Humanitarian, Cultural & Travel Photographers, their work and photography.

This week in 10.Q Interviews, Jacob Maentz:

“Originally from the United States, Jacob Maentz is currently based in the Philippines from where he does considerable amounts of travel, working on freelance assignments and shooting stock photography for his collection here at jacobimages.com.

Travel is something Jacob grew up with as a young boy and that has given him the ability to easily adopt, be culturally sensitive, and see his surroundings from a fresh perspective. His travels to Latin America in college is where he discovered his passion for the camera. He was brought to the Philippines in 2003 when he joined the United States Peace Corps and has found himself repeatedly drawn back to this part of the world since then.” [More about Jacob...]

In the Philippine province of Quezon there are still a number of men who wear elaborate costumes while preforming their act of self flagellation. This unique costume with its colorful headdress called the "tukarol" and its skirt called the "saya" is the last of it's kind in the Philippine Islands. The ritual is preformed during the early hours of Good Friday with preparations taking place at the start of Holy Week.

© Jacob Maentz | www.jacobimages.com

1. Tell us about your photography. How long have you been shooting? What kinds of shooting have you done? Can you name any current or former clients?

My interest in photography started like a lot of travel photographers. I bought my first camera over ten years ago before taking a three month trip to explore Latin America. I wanted to be able to share my travels with family and friends and photography seemed like the best medium. I quickly got very serious about my photography that I started to take more trips with my primary goal being that of creating images. After some time away from the camera, about two and a half years ago, I decided to once again focus more energy to photography.

I am currently based in the Philippines where I live with my wife and two children. I originally came here as a US Peace Corps volunteer back in 2003 doing environmental conservation work on the island of Palawan. More recently, my family (my wife grew up here) decided to come back to the Philippines which has allowed me to start a career in photography.

Being relatively new to the professional world of photography, most of my current images are from the Philippines. I try to create images that tell a story and that show a side of cultures most people are unaware of. I enjoy going to remote locations to photograph local life and daily activities. Many of my images also reflect peoples interactions with their natural environment.

 

I don’t yet have a consistent base of clients, but my images have been used by universities, businesses, independent writers, and publishers in everything from books, calling cards, tv commercials, magazines and annual reports.

Thousands gather for mass at the Basilica del Santo Nino in Cebu during Sinulog week to celebrate their patron saint.

© Jacob Maentz | www.jacobimages.com

2. How did you get into Cultural/Travel photography? Where did you get your vision for it, and what are your dreams? What things called your attention back then?

I didn’t really get into this type of photography by a conscious decision. The images I like to create are more a reflection of who I am as a person and my life experiences. Every since I can remember I’ve had an interest in the outdoors and exploring the world around me. In college, I was fortunate enough to do a lot of traveling and I was part of a very active catholic outreach community. This community had a strong emphasis towards service and I joined them on multiple trips to Mexico and the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. It was during these four years that I realized I wanted live a life of service in some capacity. My personal interests in conservation and travel mixed with my life experiences, I feel have shaped my vision as a photographer today.

 

My dream is to make a make a decent living at creating inspiring images that can educate and motivate people to take action for the good of humanity.

A man carrying grass over his head in the mountains of Cebu island, Philippines.

© Jacob Maentz | www.jacobimages.com

3. How do you see the Cultural/Travel photography industry today? Is it exciting to be a part of it? Since you started, have you seen any major changes in it?

Yes, it is very exciting to be a part of the cultural/travel photography industry. Again, I am still fairly new to the industry and I am learning a lot every day. From my limited experience I would say that to make a living in this industry you have to diversify. That might mean selling stock, selling prints, having galleries, conducting workshops, writing books, teaching, creating videos, taking assignments, etc. I don’t know anyone making a living by doing only one of those I just listed. There are however quite a few travel/cultural photographers making a living by diversifying their skills and work.

4. What are the characteristics that a good cultural photographer needs to have? How is that different from other fields in photography?

I think good cultural photographers have a genuine appreciation for different ways of living and an excitement to experience and share that with others. Any good photographer has the ability to connect with their subject, allowing them to feel more comfortable and less intimidated by the camera. It’s the same for cultural photographers, but we often have to overcome the barriers of language, cultural differences and extreme environments to make that connection. Perhaps a good cultural photographer is one who enjoys this challenge and the journey that comes along with it.

Children Playing on Boat Anchor Rope, Malapascua Island, Philippines.

© Jacob Maentz | www.jacobimages.com

5. How much do you travel every year? How do you manage your family time?

I don’t do as much travel as I would like to do. This year I will be away from home for about three months, but that travel is not all photography related. I still have to take some short term work away from photography to support my family (I have two children under the age of three). I also take the occasional wedding (http://www.jacobimages.com/weddings) and portrait session to help supplement my travel photography income. I am hopeful that in time I will be able to travel more and continue to build my portfolio and client list.

 The Sinulog  festival is one of the grandest and most colorful festivals in the Philippines. The main festival is held each year on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City to honor the Santo Nino. The Sinulog is a dance ritual that commemorates the Filipino people's pagan past and their acceptance of Christianity.

© Jacob Maentz | www.jacobimages.com

6. Who’s been an inspiration for your photography? How do you stay inspired? Do you read blogs? If so, which ones would you recommend?

I find a lot of inspiration in other photographers work. Ami Vitale, Steve Mccurry, Art Wolfe, Frans Lanting, Randy Olson, to name a few. I also get inspired by the work of Gavin Gough, Matt Brandon and David DuChemin not only through their images, but their insight into the photography industry and their fantastic marketing ability.

I have about 80 different photography related blogs that I follow. When I’m not traveling, it’s part of my daily routine to read new posts and see what’s happening in the photography world. In a way I feel like I am back in school studying and absorbing as much information as possible. It’s actually been an important part of my development as a photographer. By filtering through lots of information day after day, I am able to get a better perspective of where my work fits into the photography cloud. I’m able to find other photographers I can relate to, explore business opportunities, and find camera and post-processing techniques that I’m more comfortable with. Ultimately, this helps me to define my photographic vision more clearly.

 

Some of the blogs I read include Mike Davis, Mitchell Kanashkevich and Dan Heller.

A Filipina child looking out of an old capiz shell window in Surigao del Norte.

© Jacob Maentz | www.jacobimages.com

Surigao del Norte is a province of the Philippines  located in the Caraga region in Mindanao.

© Jacob Maentz | www.jacobimages.com

7. Who are the main clients for travel/cultural photographers? Are magazines still a strong part of it? How is today’s economy affecting this industry?

Being a relatively new photographer I’m probably not the best person to answer this. From my own experience though, the majority of my clients are either small businesses, independent writers or book publishers. Most of these clients find me online while searching for a specific image. I get the occasional assignment, but most of my income comes from selling stock photos.

 

A Side Note: I have recently noticed that a lot of travel magazines (even bigger magazines) are looking for articles, suggestions and images from their readers. I follow a few different travel magazine fan pages on Facebook and they are all promoting this there. These reader submissions are of course used free of charge.

A women harvesting flowers in the mountains of Cebu island.

© Jacob Maentz | www.jacobimages.com

Two rice farmers in a field during harvest.

© Jacob Maentz | www.jacobimages.com

8. Is social media/Internet important in promoting your work? If so, how? Is it over rated? Due to this, have you been forced to change your branding or the way in which you do business?

The internet is the most important aspect of my business. Without my website and having a presence on the web I basically wouldn’t have any business. I spent a lot of time designing my first website optimizing it to get the most out of organic searches. Almost 90% of my current image sales come from people searching for specific pictures on Google and Yahoo. However, in the past month I have redesigned my website integrating it with Photoshelter. I wrote a blog post about that process and the reasons I changed sites here (http://www.jacobimages.com/2010/05/the-power-of-photoshelter).

 

I’m still not completely convinced that social media plays a big part in getting more travel photography work. It’s great for making contacts with other photographers and photo enthusiasts, but I just don’t think photo editors are going to Facebook or Twitter to look for photographers. However, on the flip side, I think social media is a must for more service oriented photography where your clients are every day people. Most of the weddings and portrait sessions I am booked for are from those people finding me on Facebook. Social media is definitely important, but I think doing well in organic searches such as Google and Yahoo is much more important for selling photos and attracting new clients.

9. Tell us about the last piece of gear that you deemed important enough to buy. How about the one that’s been most important in your career?

I recently bought Nikons 35mm 1.8 lens (I still shoot DX). This is my first 1.8 lens and I love how sharp and fast it is. I completely agree with the notion that vision is better than gear, but nice lenses sure do make a difference.

 

I would say that my laptop has been the most useful piece of gear in my career thus far, aside from a camera. My computer let’s me organize, connect, process and get my images out into the world. That’s pretty important.

Two boys pushing a bamboo raft on the Cagayan River.

© Jacob Maentz | www.jacobimages.com

10. What would be your advice for a photographer who is just starting out in this field? What is the biggest obstacle you see facing new photographers who want to work on this type of photography?

I’m a big advocate of hard work and believing in yourself. I’m still very new to the professional world of photography, but I know that to be successful you have to have perseverance. It can takes years to establish your brand and get to a point where you have consistent work. Keep learning, adapting your business and make the sacrifices necessary to continue in the direction you want to go.

http://www.jacobimages.com/

Twitter: @jmaentz

jacob@jacobimages.com

Archive

10.Q Interviews: Travel & Documentary Photographer – Mitchell Kanashkevich

© 10.Q Interviews | Mitchell Kanashkevich

Welcome to 10.Q Interviews.This section usually features interviews to Humanitarian, Cultural & Travel Photographers, their work and photography.

This week in 10.Q Interviews, Mitchel Kanashkevich:

“I am a tirelessly curious world wanderer and a travel/documentary photographer. My main passion lies in capturing disappearing ancient cultures and the human condition in unique, challenging situations.
My range of subjects is fairly broad, but whether I am photographing nomadic shepherds in India, life in the last traditional villages of Eastern Europe or sulfur miners working in a volcanic crater, my common aim is always the same – to capture the human element.
I freelance and shoot documentary photo stories on the above mentioned topics. Much of my travel/documentary photography is represented by Getty Images, while my cultural portraits, both colour and black and white are in the private collections of photo lovers and collectors worldwide.” [more about Mitchell]

1. Tell us about your photography. How long have you been shooting? What kinds of shooting have you done? Can you name any current or former clients?

I’ve been shooting seriously for about 4 years, though I’ve been dabbling in photography for much longer.
Most of my work centers on cultures, traditions and everyday life that is different to everyday life to where I come from (Sydney, Australia).
I don’t have clients as such. Most of my images are licensed through Getty Images, which kinda means that I have tons of clients each month and it’s impractical to keep track of them. I also sell prints to individual collectors and send stuff to magazines, you can find out more about that on my Blog.

© Mitchell Kanashkevich | www.mitchellkphotos.com

2. How did you get into Cultural/Travel photography? Where did you get your vision for it, and what are your dreams? What things called your attention back then?

I’ve always loved traveling. I guess I got a taste for travel and new cultures pretty early in my life, as my parents and I emigrated from the former USSR to Australia when I was 10. Then came our trips back to the “Motherland” and we’d make stops in other countries along the way, because I guess my parents too were interested in seeing some of the world, having been deprived of the chance for so long (living behind the “Iron curtain”).

I’ve just always been very curious and it’s always been interesting for me to see how others live. That’s why when I finished university I set out to do some extensive traveling. The traveling is what drives the photography, in fact photography is my excuse to travel and to meet all these amazing people and experience their cultures first hand.

If you mean to ask how I got into this professionally, then it was through some twists and turns. To cut a long story short, I put some images online, people responded well, I even sold a few images unexpectedly and I realized that perhaps there was potential there to make a living from this. I later submitted to a magazine called Black and White and won one of their portfolio spotlight contests. This was another eye opener in that as soon as the magazine came out people started emailing me wanting to buy prints of my work, I was again reaffirmed that there was potential to make what I enjoyed into something that brought me income.

Where did I get my vision for it? That’s something I have no idea how to answer, maybe we are born with certain talents/abilities and this is mine. My dreams? I am pretty much living my dream whenever I am on the road, when I travel, which is most of the year. My dream is to continue doing this and just to have even more freedom as far as where I can travel and what I can shoot. I’d also like to have a family and have like a whole travel team – m, my wife and a couple of kids, we’d be a nomadic family.

© Mitchell Kanashkevich | www.mitchellkphotos.com

3. How do you see the Cultural/Travel photography industry today? Is it exciting to be a part of it? Since you started, have you seen any major changes in it?

Cultural/Travel photography industry today – I haven’t been in this business for long enough to compare to the yesteryear, but it’s clear that everything is going digital. There are more photo buyers than ever before, but the prices that people are ready to pay for images are not necessarily as high, which can be frustrating, but not necessarily tragic because the numbers of buyers may very well make up for that.

It is certainly exciting to be a part of the photo-industry in general; we’re at a great point in time, where anyone with a camera truly has a chance to make a living as a photographer, with enough talent, skill and effort.

4. What are the characteristics that a good cultural photographer needs to have? How is that different from other fields in photography?

Genuine curiosity is probably the main thing and of course being a likable person helps, just being a decent human being. These qualities are no different from any line of work really.

© Mitchell Kanashkevich | www.mitchellkphotos.com

5. How much do you travel every year? How do you manage your family time?

I don’t have a set schedule for how much I travel every year, but usually it’s at least for 6 months, sometimes more, depending on whether I have to be home to watch my family’s dog or not. ☺ It’s been easy to manage family time, since the main part of my family – my wife has been traveling with me everywhere for the last few years. She keeps me sane and we are never lonely.

6. Who’s been an inspiration for your photography? How do you stay inspired? Do you read blogs? If so, which ones would you recommend?

There are a few photographers who inspire me. The obvious ones are Mccurry, Salgado, Olivier Follmi, but there are many more. I often come across amazing photographers on the internet and just spend hours looking at their work. There’s no shortage of inspiration out there, that’s for sure.

I stay inspired by just traveling and seeing life, I don’t understand it when people need some additional motivation to be inspired, I’m never not inspired, but maybe I’m still fairly young and naïve. ☺

I do read blogs. Pixelatedimage.com is one of my favorites, as well as The Travel Photographer’s blog – talk about inspiration – just check out some of the photographers he’s featured. Timothy Allen (a BBC photographer) has an excellent blog. I also check out blogs of some photographer friends I’ve made on the internet regularly. Matt Brandon, Gavin Gough. There are too many to mention really, I’m almost a blog junkie, when I’m home.

© Mitchell Kanashkevich | www.mitchellkphotos.com

© Mitchell Kanashkevich | www.mitchellkphotos.com

7. Who are the main clients for travel/cultural photographers? Are magazines still a strong part of it? How is today’s economy affecting this industry?

There are lots of clients who may not be exclusively cultural photography clients. A lot of companies need cultural/travel images. It’s hard to know who they are or it takes a lot of time to find out, that’s why I find it important to have work represented by an agency or to have a very strong internet presence where potential clients can find your work and come to you, rather than you having to chase them.

Magazines are certainly a part of the clientele, but it can be tough making a living just from magazine work, unless you regularly shoot for some big publications, which is not something that I’ve directed my energy towards.

The economy has obviously affected everything, but that’s not to say that there aren’t enough clients out there.

© Mitchell Kanashkevich | www.mitchellkphotos.com

© Mitchell Kanashkevich | www.mitchellkphotos.com

8. Is social media/Internet important in promoting your work? If so, how? Is it over rated? Due to this, have you been forced to change your branding or the way in which you do business?

Absolutely. I’m very much a product of the digital age. If it were not for the internet, I could never be doing what I do. The internet has just opened up so many doors and has broken down so many barriers. There are countless examples in how this has happened, for instance, with the internet, getting your stuff in front of a magazine editor is a matter of sending an email with a link to your work. I’ve had quite a few publications as a result of this. I got my contract with Getty Images the same way, whether as I hear that before people had to personally fly in for meetings with editors to show them their portfolios, which also cost them a few hundred $, now it’s all so much more affordable, so much easier.

As far as social media, it’s ridiculous how powerful it is. I don’t think it is overrated at all, if anything, a lot of people still don’t realize the potential of it. Having a blog is probably the best move that I’ve made as a photographer. I’ve established my web presence, I’ve been able to monetize by selling eBooks and licensing images and I’ve helped and connected with people along the way.

The internet and social media hasn’t changed the way I do business, it’s given me a chance to do business.

© Mitchell Kanashkevich | www.mitchellkphotos.com

© Mitchell Kanashkevich | www.mitchellkphotos.com

9. Tell us about the last piece of gear that you deemed important enough to buy. How about the one that’s been most important in your career?

I think I’m going to get a 70-200mm f2.8 lens and an underwater casing for my camera before my next journey, those are the things I deem important enough to buy because I’ll find great use for them in the photography that I plan to do in the near future. Most important – I guess it’s the camera body itself, I use the Canon 5D MKII and I really enjoy it.

© Mitchell Kanashkevich | www.mitchellkphotos.com

© Mitchell Kanashkevich | www.mitchellkphotos.com

10. What would be your advice for a photographer who is just starting out in this field? What is the biggest obstacle you see facing new photographers who want to work on this type of photography?

Most importantly – create a strong body of work; make sure you actually have something to offer. Once you do, establish an online presence. These days if your photos aren’t online – you basically don’t exist. Don’t get too carried away with all the social media stuff immediately. Just set up a solid portfolio website and a blog. Then start letting people know that you exist, get on Tweet about it, get in touch with other bloggers, cross promote etc.

There are no real obstacles for photographers these days; I really believe this. If you’ve got the talent, the skills and can think creatively from a business standpoint as well, then there’s nothing stopping you.

http://www.mitchellkphotos.com/

Twitter: @mitchellkphotos

mitchell@mitchellkphotos.com

Transcending Travel – A Guide to Captivating Travel Photography (Last published e-Book)

Archive

10.Q Interviews: Humanitarian & Peacemaker Photographer Lindsay Branham

© 10.Q Interviews | Lindsay Granham

Welcome to 10.Q Interviews.This section usually features interviews to Humanitarian, Cultural & Travel Photographers, their work and photography.

This week in 10.Q Interviews, Lindsay Branham:

“After living in the Democratic Republic of Congo and visiting many places of war, I began to see the role of peacemaker as both beautiful and urgent. And so I have dedicated my life to the process and art of becoming a builder of peace, through words, images and love. And trust me, I am very new at this and recognize with humility those who have gone before.” [more about Lindsay]

1. Tell us about you and your photography. What kinds of shooting have you done? Have you worked for any humanitarian organizations/magazines etc.? Could you name any current or former clients?

I have shot photography all over the world, but primarily in disaster, conflict and post-conflict areas; from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to post-earthquake Haiti, post-Tsunami Thailand and Indonesia to Sudan, Northern Uganda, Northern Kenya, and the list goes on. My focus is on editorial photojournalism that documents story and the human element, both dignity and beauty, in the midst of extreme human pain. In the humanitarian organizations category, I have shot for Food for the Hungry, a large international relief and development organization and Discover The Journey, a non-profit which creates media highlighting seven categories of children at-risk around the world and connects intervention partners to the situation until change is realized. In the journalism category, I have shot for BBC World News American, CNN and CNN International. My latest project, a full length documentary called “Rescued” about two Haitian children, aired on CNN this May. I shot photography and video for the documentary and was published in a photography book accompanying the film.

© Lindsay Branham | www.lindsaybranham.com

2. We all know that you don’t get into humanitarian photography to become rich, so what does humanitarian photography mean to you? What’s your vision for it?

To me, photography is relationship. The privilege and honor I feel to have gotten to sit with, witness, and know the people I have photographed around the world, is at its core, an expression of relationship. Because I have worked so often in places where people have experienced severe trauma, whether that is due to armed conflict or natural disaster, the act of telling their story can be quite healing. I take that very seriously. I am entrusted with someone’s story and their image and then am tasked with representing them in their truest sense to the rest of the world. I do not want story or photography to be another export from the developing world. I am struggling right now with how to sort through that. But one way is to always keep relationship at the centre of what I do, and thus my concern is ultimately for the person, not the story and definitely not the shot. There are times when I was in a situation that I knew would be an incredible shot, but I put the camera down because that relationship came first. This may separate me from the great photojournalists, and certainly the bold war photojournalists, but I am trying to strike the balance between capturing reality, because I have a responsibility to do that, while honoring and protecting the people in that reality. Thus, I am committed to non-exploitative photography – and this word exploitation can mean a lot of things. Essentially, I never want to misrepresent someone I have photographed, or use their image in a way that would take advantage of them in any form. But this does not mean I shy away from documenting harsh reality, for this too must be shared.
Story is the principal form of human learning, and photography is an element of that. My vision for my work once it reaches eyes in the developed world is that it would stir something in them to explore or learn or push outside of the bounds of their world. I hope that by giving someone else a chance to be a witness, they too will be changed by what they see, just like I have.

© Lindsay Branham | www.lindsaybranham.com

3. How did you get into humanitarian photography? Where did you get the idea to shoot these kinds of people and groups?

I had lived in Uganda twice, working with Congolese, Rwandese and Burundian refugees who had fled war and were trying to survive in a new country. I sat with my Congolese friends and listened to them tell me about this war that raged in their country. I was horrified. To learn that over the past 14 years, Congo had lost up to 6 million people to war and war-related deaths, shocked me. I wanted to go. I wanted to tell their stories, I wanted to capture their faces on film and show them to an unknowing world. A few months later, I was offered the opportunity to move to eastern DRC and work as a photographer and writer for Food for the Hungry. I went. I ended up living in the DRC and nearby Rwanda for a year and a half. And that is where I learned to be a photographer, in the homes, fields, roads, markets, villages, cities, rivers and lakes of Congo. There were many times I wanted to give up and go home. The pain I was witnessing was simply too crushing. But the strength I saw in my new friends lifted my heart just enough to keep going. During that time, a few friends and I from Discover The Journey discovered a group of former child soldiers who were struggling to reintegrate into their communities. We are now in post-production of a documentary, “No More Tears,” about these children, their friendships, their pain, their journey to become peacemakers. Two of these kids, Mwisha and Heritier, inspire me every day. I was told once to create your art for one person. I try to do this. In Congo, it is for them. In Haiti this spring, watching the earthquake ruin so many lives, I also found my one, a little girl named Cendy.

4. What are the challenges of shooting for NGO’s or non- profit organizations?

While shooting for NGOs, you struggle between that desire to be an un-bound story-teller, and the reality that you need to represent a particular organization with a specific agenda. But the beauty of it is that you get to find stories of hope, stories of success, stories of proof that help and love can really make a difference. This is a joy. Many organizations are doing incredible work and really need someone to come and elevate their story. This is a privilege.
Another benefit to shooting for NGOs is the access you gain to really remote parts of the world. I was shooting for Food for the Hungry in northern Kenya once and found myself in the middle of the Chalbi desert – an enormous expanse of cracked earth, hundreds of miles from anything. As a photojournalist, I would have wanted to get to a place like that but couldn’t have perhaps on my own. But with an NGO you are handed access to really beautiful, unknown parts of the world. And thus your work has quite a bit of meaning if you allow it.

© Lindsay Branham | www.lindsaybranham.com

5. How much do you travel every year? How do you manage your family time?

I travel very often. Now that I am not based in Africa but in Washington, D.C., I travel less. But as an example, in the last year I was traveling about 50% of the time. I was in Haiti three times, Indonesia, Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. I am not married and don’t have children so I don’t think I feel the impact as acutely, but it does impact relationships. I make a concerted effort to include my friends and family in what I am doing through lots of communicating, and I have an unbelievably supportive community who really gets what I do, encourages me and celebrates the stories I bring back.

6. Who’s been an inspiration for your photography? How do you stay inspired? Do you read blogs? If so, which ones would you recommend?

Jonathan Torgovnik is an inspiration to me. I got to shoot with him in Haiti for a day after the earthquake and was very humbled. Great photojournalists Marcus Bleasdale and James Nachtwey are also incredibly inspiring. James Nachtwey said, “I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated.” I agree with him. Nachtwey has been to the most difficult places on earth and seen the depth of the human capacity for suffering. And he shoots as a testimony. I, too, shoot to create a testimony. As a young photojournalist, I have this hope that my work could change things. I think it can.
I also stay inspired by beholding nature. There is almost nothing as perfect as the natural beauty around us. It is an important discipline for me to remember the beauty, when so often I am witness to pain.

© Lindsay Branham | www.lindsaybranham.com

7. How do you normally approach people from other cultures? What are your limits at the moment of shooting people in need, or in a complicated situation?

It is essential to have an understanding of a culture and place before you start shooting. Many of the developing nations have grown tired of western photographers, and in some places, that disdain can be felt. That is because they feel exploited. They see the photographer but never see the result of that image, printed in some magazine or ad or website somewhere they will never benefit from. This is a real moral dilemma. I am sensitive to this and in some places put down the camera, because I want to respect the people more than I want that shot.
Learning the basics of a language can allow you to ask someone for permission to take a photograph and to understand if something like eye contact is really offensive, for example. Because I lived in Africa for so long, I learned French and basic Swahili and then smatterings of other languages. This helped enormously to navigate cultural waters as well as to build deeper relationships. To be able to communicate directly with the people I am talking to has been really important to me. I want them to feel honored that I have taken the time to learn some of their language and it creates more authentic intimacy when we can speak directly to each other.
The limits of shooting in a complicated situation changes all the time. For example, when I was in Haiti this January, I was shooting a makeshift field hospital.
There was a pregnant woman who has having grand Mal seizures, and I was documenting her as the staff pulled her into a truck to try to rush her to a different hospital. In that moment one of the nurses asked me to help. And so I put the camera away and helped to hold the woman down on the bed so she didn’t hurt herself. Lines are constantly morphing between observer and participant, especially in emergency situations. But that’s ok, and that is the nature of this work. You might be there to do one thing, but end up doing something else. If your primary focus is the person, than these opportunities to tangibly help are welcome. So often I feel this tension. In Haiti, I wanted to help the thousands of people I saw in need. But I am not a doctor. I wanted to build them new homes, but I am not a builder. And so I had to remind myself that I am a photographer, a story teller, and that telling their story was still important. But I treasured the moments when I was just with people, not behind a lens. These moments are why I do this. This is real.

© Lindsay Branham | www.lindsaybranham.com

8. How do you promote your work?

I have a blog I have kept, musings about peacemaking, and stories I have seen from around the world. I have had my photography sold at benefits and featured on the non-profits websites I have worked for. And then of course working for CNN, I received great international promotion.

9. Tell us about the last piece of gear that you deemed important enough to buy. How about the one that’s been most important in your career?

The gear that has been most important in my career is a pen and paper. If I can’t document who I am photographing and where, than I have failed as a photojournalist.

10. What would be your advice for a photographer who is just starting out in this field?

Get in the field and shoot. Find any way to get yourself to a place you are interested in and then shoot. Embed yourself in a community, go under an organization, offer yourself to serve someone, and see what happens. The most important way to learn to be a photographer is to practice the art of photography. Starting out you probably won’t get hired to do a big assignment, but if you offer to help tell the stories of an organization that may not be able to afford an expensive media team, you could fill that gap and in turn have access to a place to practice. Curiosity and unquenchable interest is key in this field. Everywhere I go, I only get further inspired and interested in the world, in its people, in the way we work, how we operate, why we do the things we do. This curiosity has led me all over the world. Buy some equipment or borrow some, and go on a trip! What you learn there about the world and about yourself will help you discern if this is a good fit, and will provide fodder of inspiration for how that might look.

Web: http://lindsaybranham.com/artisandelapaix/

twitter.com/lindsaybranham

lindsay@lindsaybranham.com

© Lindsay Branham | www.lindsaybranham.com