I hope to gear my work more toward working with NGOs in the coming years... not just as a photographer but as a creative team.
NGOs (or non-profit organizations) have more presence here, in Guatemala, than in any other country in the world. A large number of these groups are religious based also many medical and women and children focused projects. All I worked with are seemingly very well-intentioned. One of my goals, as I volunteered to do photography for several groups, was to learn the image needs of these groups. I want to begin to work with NGOs to certainly create visual content but also to strategize ways to most effectively use imagery to raise funds and awareness for their causes.
NGOs require a slightly different style of photography. Despite all of the poverty, pain and suffering around, the imagery should show hope, connection and the beauty of the people.
For the most part I found warm, inviting and wonderful people who embraced my desire to help. I will be working with them creating books, print exhibitions and other marketing material. BUT I found that there was some resistance to a photographer offering services without a clear desire from the group. Some were quite happy in the place they were. Happy just posting their daily pics on Facebook and getting a bunch of likes. Those folks, I realized, were not my target client. My target client would understand of the value of quality photography and maintaining control over their visual brand in order for me to jump on board in the future. I realize that not everyone wants what I feel I can offer. I am used to people hiring me because they know what I do and they believe that quality imagery sells their product and maintains a level of professionalism that makes viewers pay attention. I also learned that I need to take it a bit more slowly and listen more before I volunteer and arrive with my agenda The school of life.
I loved working with the folks from HELPs International. Their Cascade medical crew from Oregon! was inspiring. Tears in my eyes, many times, seeing the work they do transforming lives. One little girl had been back around 5 times to get surgery on her congenitally deformed feet. Because the doctors come to the same spot twice a year, they are able to follow up on their patients which is priceless. Only one story of the many people standing in long lines in the hot sun to see these doctors.
They also have a joyous stove building crew who are working to get Guatemalan women out of horribly smoke filled rooms and cooking on efficient stoves. The people of the village of Xajacax were magical and so warm. In their traditional clothes and living in rustic homes the visuals were astounding. More than that for me was to be able to embrace them, chat with them and laugh with them. The stove teams were hard workers while being so respectful of the culture and homes where they placed the stoves.
An added bonus for me was to spend a day at the New Life School in Santa Maria de Jesus near Antigua. This school, run by Judy, a powerhouse woman from Houston, is a place for kids who have disabilities like muscular dystrophy, autism, Down syndrome, mental retardation and dwarfism. There was no place for these kids to fit in before Judy started this school 14 years ago. Mayan peoples often believe that a disabled child is a curse on their family so the children are hidden away. There are even several children who are deaf who had never attended school nor had any language before attending New Life. I wish I could spend many more days there!
These months in Guatemala (we only have one more!!) have been so growth filled for our little team. The quiet of the lake, the thundering of the volcanoes and the slow pace allow for simple and deep reflection. As I move forward in working with NGO's in the future these things are on my mind...
Listening better, moving more slowly, increased awareness of the importance of local/ grassroots ownership and connecting, connecting, connecting!!
I am posting a few selects below and also will be updating as the projects are more complete and more uses are found for the images.
I love a future where I can work with more of these groups!