In May I will embark on a journey to Peru to photograph the work of an NGO whose goal is to support local women through investment their creative skills and mentorship in business.
It was not more than four months ago that I applied with Photographers Without Borders. They are an NGO set up to support grassroots initiatives by linking them with photographers for assignments in remote locations worldwide. After a series of applications and interviews I was offered an amazing opportunity with Awamaki, in the little town of Ollantaytambo, Peru, 9,160ft above sea level. While there I’ll be documenting the process of Andean women who turn Alpaca wool into ethical fashion products, the support network that Awamaki provides, the community, as well as taking in the place itself. This will enable me to experience a completely new culture, living and working as part of a community so far from my comfort zone.
So what inspired this project you may wonder?
Well, to put it simply, I felt like I was in a purpose rut. Maybe this can be equated to that turning 30 what-am-I-doing-with-my-life feeling, maybe it was the move to New York.
While I love the pace, the vibrancy and the altogether outrageousness of it, seeing the impact of so many people existing in such a small land mass can take its toll. When you fly over Manhattan it is so densely populated that it looks as though skyscrapers shoot straight from the sea. Imagine you take your garbage out once a week to the street. Little black bags dotted along your suburban neighborhood block. Now imagine an apartment building with ten floors, 5 apartments on each and imagine their trash pile. I don’t even have to imagine because I’ve seen first-hand how much stuff gets thrown away every single day. Just so much stuff.
Seeing the implications of consumerism, and knowingly being part of this as a commercial photographer I longed to part of something meaningful again. Something which had a positive social and environmental consciousness.
The last remote volunteer project I worked on was the creation of a documentary on renewable energy in the Pacific Islands and is something I will never forget..
As a photographer I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to make a living from taking images. In saying that, jobs do vary and I do strongly believe that photographing what you care about, what you love is fundamental to your happiness. Ask yourself the question ‘can I be passionate about this project or cause for a long time?’
I aim to work with people whose brand and vision aligns with my aesthetic, and companies who are mindful of what their creating. Fashion brands who help support ethical production, food companies who identify the need to reduce waste, publications and clients whose focus is about experiences rather than things. All these have valid stories to tell and I feel I can honestly throw 100% of my creativity into them. No, it isn’t easy to say no to things that pay the bills, but it does free up time to get outside, explore and shoot for yourself. And because the assignments you choose to take are those you care about they take on a personal attachment. It is easier to keep the momentum going, stay motivated and ultimately makes you do better work.
Work = lifestyle = work, in my opinion.
This opportunity with PWB feels like not only a way to propel change and empower women in business, but also to shoot things the I love: travel and photojournalism. It’s a way to dig deeper into a culture, learn a little Spanish, and ultimately create something good while exploring.
How You Can Help – Fundraiser for Photographers Without Borders and Awamaki
I’m volunteering my time, skills and gear for this project. I want to raise $4,000 to help contribute to the cost of the project. To offset the on-the-ground costs, flights, insurance and vaccinations.
So I’ve set up this fundraising page.
My fundraiser has 7 days left and is at 50% of the goal, so not too far off! I’ll be in Peru with Photographers Without Borders from May 1-16. I’ll then fly back home to New York on May 18.
I’m putting in a few rewards for donations. Things like special archival prints, photoshoots, and these Alpaca cards I painstakingly drew on a rainy Sunday recently:
Any donation, of any size is very much appreciated.
Know that change does happen even in tiny, incremental ways. And know that even just by spreading awareness of the good things that people are creating is making a difference. I am so excited to work with Awamaki and PWB and appreciate any the support of any of my wonderful followers here.
PS Stay tuned for the next update while I’m on the ground in Peru!