My work with the Global Press Institute, as the photojournalism trainer and photo editor, continues to be extremely rewarding as I get to see that spark of excitement in the reporters as they start to see the power of a strong photograph, and then the thrill when they take an image that captures what they have intended. Having just returned from another training, this time at our news desk in Sri Lanka, I am filled with much gratitude for the experience and with excitement from watching our reporters develop an understanding of and passion for photography and how it can bring greater impact to their stories.
I had a feeling from the start, as soon as I met Cristi and I pitched her the idea of this photography project, that this had the potential to be transformative, for GPI but also for me. It is a privilege to get to bring another tool, visually storytelling, to these 135 talented journalists working in 26 countries across the developing world. Perhaps what has taken me by surprise the most is how it has touched me on a personal level to connect with so many brilliant, brave and fun women around the world. I count myself fortunate that with every training I come away with such amazing new friends, women who inspire me, challenge me and renew my faith in the role of authentic journalism to change the world.
One of the greatest learning opportunities for me has been sitting in on the editorial meetings we have at each desk and listening as the reporters pitch their stories and have discussions with each other about the various aspects of the stories and the issues they face in their country. I come away with a much better understanding of their communities through the insightful and often vigorous discussions they have around story ideas. This illustrates one reason why the GPI model works so well, because no outsider would know about half of these things, or have the contacts they have to try to get information to flush these stories out.
It has also been exciting and gratifying to have such an enthusiastic response from the world-class women photographers I have reached out to help me with this project. I have a list of photographers whose work I very much admire ready to go teach a training when we find one that works with their schedules and when we hopefully get the funding we need from the Kickstarter campaign! Newspace Center for Photography and Pro Photo supply sponsored a great event for our project in Portland last week, and photographer Joni Kabana spoke about her experience teaching the class to our reporters in Argentina last month. She came away with a profound appreciation for the importance of the work GPI reporters are doing and also a lasting bond with the women she had taught. How fantastic it is to have a group of women photographers and journalists around the world coming together to teach and support each other!
Many people have remarked to me that this seems to be what I was meant to do, and I can’t disagree. I have been able to bring together things I am deeply passionate about, journalism and photography, to help expand the platform women have to tell their stories and make their voices heard. Most of all I get to share my love of photography and see that spark lit within others. Within 24 hours of finishing the class, the reporters in Sri Lanka created a group photo essay about the celebration happening that weekend for the Buddhist holiday Vesak. As they develop as photographers through practice and ongoing visual mentorship, I look forward to the impactful photographs that they will continue to create.
Traveling to our news desks around the world, I have come to understand that GPI attracts truly exceptional women in these communities. They are often from different backgrounds, religions or castes, and they bring with them differing degrees of formal education and experience, but they share a strength, bravery, and intelligence that is truly inspiring to be in the company of. These women also share a commitment to working hard to become highly skilled journalists, and now photographers, with a profound passion for their craft and for the vital role they can play in telling the stories of their communities that the world isn’t hearing from other media outlets.
During lunch one day, a reporter thanked Cristi for walking the walk and talking the talk, for staying committed to high level ethical journalism and for making the choices time and time again that keep GPI in very limited company of news organizations that are truly independent and will do whatever is necessary, even sometimes turning down much-needed funds, in order to stay that way.
Cristi teared up, something you won’t see often from this hard charging entrepreneur and seasoned journalist, but it is truly very moving to hear our reporters talk about what GPI means to them. Global Press Institute is the result of 7 years of Cristi’s unceasing hard work and dedication to make her vision, one that many people told her would never work, a reality. She believed based on her own experience as a foreign correspondent, that the people who were best suited to tell their stories were people who lived in those communities, and that all they lacked was high-level training and a platform, two things she could give them.
Cristi’s vision of a new model for international journalism has been so successful that our reporters stories are read by more than 5 million readers a month and are picked up by newswires such as the BBC, NPR and Reuters among many others. Our reporters’ stories have had a direct impact in their communities, including prompting two law changes, in Nepal and in Rwanda. GPI is creating and keeping alive meaningful and balanced journalism in these countries, and delivering unique content to readers around the world. The addition of photographers at each desk will elevate the impact of their stories even more.
Do you believe in the power of photography to help people to connect with and understand a story in the most fundamental ways? You can be a part of this effort and help to insure the reporters have the visual tools they need to bring the world images of stories that otherwise might go unseen. Please consider joining us on this mission by donating to our Kickstarter campaign. We are in our final weeks and we must meet our goal to be able to provide photo trainings and cameras for reporters at 10 more news desks. Will you help? $100 will provide the photo classes and a year of visual mentorship for a reporter! If you share the campaign on your social sites and with friends, it will help us reach our goal and you will have played a critical role in empowering women photojournalists in the developing world. How great is that?
And be sure to become a regular reader of the Global Press Institute website to access the reporters’ award-winning stories and see the images they are taking. A photo gallery went up today by one of our most promising photographers, Comfort, who took the training last month in Cameroon. Imagine when we are able to bring cameras and photo training to all of our 133 reporters around the world, It’s so exciting to think about the impact that will have!