Monday, 2 November 2009

The Power of Photography

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a photographic talk about Rwanda, given by Gail Ward, although I was prepared for it to be grim. I remember it as gruesome slivers seen on the news and I’ve become familiar with articles in the weekend magazines of broadsheet newspapers, the brutalised bodies of survivors illustrating horrific stories. I once went to a lecture on forensic archaeology, given by someone who had investigated the Rwandan genocide, where 30 or 40 people struggled not to throw up.

Instead of having me despairing, I was surprised to find myself uplifted. The focus was on business opportunities being developed so that women can support themselves and their children (there is a population imbalance as a result of the genocide) and shelters for street children, which give them the basics to survive and skills to support themselves as adults.

Seeing the teenagers from the shelter bursting with life and energy as they danced, radiating hope and joy in the moment , despite their poverty and either having run away from difficult family situation or been abandoned, was inspiring.

My favourite story was that of a young woman, who’d been taken in by the shelter and had become a skilled sewer. She sat at her market stall, beaming with self-sufficient pride over her sewing machine. I recommend checking these photographs out on her website.

Photography can be enormously powerful, and whilst it’s often photos of people that can change other’s perspectives and create support for humanitarian projects, Gail Ward is currently running a project where children in a Moroccan mountain village will use photography to directly enrich their own community. They will be given cameras, and the photographs they produce will be sold as postcards, cards and books, with the proceeds going to their schools.

If, like me, your old film camera has languished unused in a drawer since you went digital, this is the perfect opportunity to let it finish its life by helping these children develop skills and support their communities. These communities don’t have electricity or running water, so for the moment the project only uses film cameras, preferably compacts. They also need film and batteries.

If you can help these children help themselves and their communities, then contact Gail, on: info[@]gailwardphotography[dot]co[dot]uk , or visit the project’s Facebook page.

Interesting glimpses at MyWorld.
photo credit and copywright Gail Ward, 2009.


  1. Sad, but uplifting, too! Great post J! Thanks for the photo, too!

    Have a great week!


  2. We've visited Mali in 2002 (West-Africa) and started up some projects with a local NGO. People can do very much with a little bit support of us.

  3. Thanks for sharing this info about Gail Ward and Rwanda, and Morocco... there are whole fascinating worlds out there that we rarely hear about... places where maybe a few good things are happening (as opposed to the endless disasters purveyed by the "press"...

  4. very good post. one can never really underestimate the power of photos.

  5. Sylvia - Thanks. It was good to be reminded of the resiliency of the human spirit!

    Dirkjogt - That must've been fascinating!

    Owen - Yes, it's a shame there isn't more about this sort of thing rather than disasters, etc, it gives such a terribly unbalanced view.

    Lawstude - it's one thing I love about photography it can be so immediate and yet also linger with you in a way other medium's can't compete with.

  6. I remember the news of Rwenda day after day as the event unfolded and the how UN was totally helpless. It was very sad. Human seems is the only species that willingly killing our own kind. But as you said, it is also fascinating how people can bounce back when given a chance, no matter how bad the situation was.

  7. Sorry, I'm distracted by practicalities again. How will the film be processed and printed?


  8. Grace and Bradley - Perhaps that's the price we pay for being able to do things like invent and use photography?

    Lucy - Gail runs responsible photography holidays to the area, so will be there at times to collect film, and spend time with the children. Sponsorship is also being sought to support the processing, obviously where it will be developed may well depend upon this. Please feel free to email or facebook Gail and she will be happy to tell you about any details you are interested in.

  9. Lucy - I emailed Gail and she said that the photographs will be developed in Morocco; she's currently exploring sponsorships with Moroccan labs and multinational companies.

  10. Great post, Jane!

    I actually have a compact film camera just behind me. And I've been wondering what on earth to do with it...