I will be at BlueSky gallery this Saturday showing my prints from Rwanda

Join me this Saturday March 14th from 1-1:45 at BlueSky Gallery.  It’s the last chance to see and purchase these prints from my project in Rwanda, which I was honored to have selected by jurors for the 2014 photography viewing drawers.

For more information: Portfolio Walk
2014 Pacific Northwest Photography Viewing Drawers

Saturday, March 14, 12:00–2:00 PM
Last chance to view work and meet several artists juried into the 2014 Drawers.

blueskygallery.org

Documenting a friend’s battle with Breast Cancer

I am honored by the opportunity to work with my friend and fellow photographer Kimberli Ransom, to help her document the day-to-day experience of her fight with breast cancer.

It is an act of trust to be allowed into these very real and difficult moments of her life and a show of her bravery to be willing to open up this way to the world.

I think we sometimes feel we have to protect people from the really difficult stuff, the reality of battling cancer, of being sick.  What it does to our spirit, our bodies, and our view of ourselves and our world.  We strive to put on a happy face for everyone, to show how tough we are.   Certainly Kimberli is one tough lady, and she has decided to use her art to help process her journey, with her project “Finding beauty in Cancer”.

She has partnered with many of her photographer friends here in Portland to create these fabulous fantastical photo shoots, playing with some of her dreams, fantasies and ways in which she can create narratives with them that speak to her search to find beauty even in her difficult battle with breast cancer.  www.findingbeautyincancer.com

But being strong and brave doesn’t mean you don’t also feel vulnerable, scared and overwhelmed.   The face you put on even for your close friends, often belies the truth of your daily reality, the moments behind the scenes, when you are alone with yourself, your daily challenges and thoughts, the constant doctor appointments and medication schedules.    The range of emotions that accompany a battle like this are staggering and unpredictable, changing from moment to moment.   Kimberli and I agreed that it would be an important piece of her project to also document the “real” moments, both good and bad, the daily reality that is her life battling breast cancer.

I understand some of these moments first hand from having walked this path with my Mom during her battle with Leukemia.  That has allowed me to have a connection with Kimberli about her journey, and though everyone experiences illness differently, to have at least some idea of what this is like for her.

Shooting this project has really taken me back to moments with my Mom, being in the hospital with her for chemo and being in her house surrounded by the towering piles of medical paperwork that make an already overwhelming situation even more daunting.

It is rewarding to know that while I will sometimes take a certain shot based on my own experiences with illness, when I show the image to Kimberli, it often resonates with her as well.   That’s why Kimberli’s project is so important, because so many cancer patients and survivors will be able to relate to her moments.

Our first shoot was during one of her chemo treatments, which began with walking down one those many cold and sterile hallways Kimberli finds herself in often these days.

Paige_130924_5747

I took the shot below because it reminded me of the feeling of being in the hospital for hours and days on end, where your life has largely come to a grinding halt and most things you do now revolve around this battle you are in.   Your world looks completely different now, but outside things go on as usual, the drumbeat of day-to-day life.  I distinctly remember during my Mom’s illness and before I went in for a surgery myself for a brain aneurysm a few years ago, looking out the window and feeling a disconnect from the world that was moving along outside.  Realizing that everyone else was going about their life as they always had, but you were inside this hospital, with everything riding on this surgery or this treatment.   We all go about our lives as if we are invincible and you just never know when your life will change in a moment.

The flip side to that is that when you come out the other side and are able to go on with your life, you will probably never take the day-to-day routine for granted in the same way again.

Paige_130924_5820

This photo is about the way you look at each treatment and the people who are caring for you.  You wonder will this drug do the trick, is this the one that is going help me win this war?   And how is going to make me feel, what will my body do with this drug in it, will I have a bad reaction to it?  You look to treatments with such hope and dread all at the same time.

Paige_130924_5797

You develop special relationships with the people who administer the drugs and help you navigate the medical maze, and your doctors who see you week in and week out, because you literally are putting your life in their hands.

Paige_130924_5852

Shared moments of humor help you get through it.

Paige_130924_5889

This one speaks to me about Kimberli and who she is.  At the end of the day here she is looking right at us, showing us her both her strength and vulnerability, that she doesn’t intend to hide away but is facing this head on and asking us to come along on the journey with her.

Paige_130924_5862

As an artist I suppose there is a willingness and even a need, to explore these difficult and complicated aspects of our lives and our experiences, for Kimberli and I this is an opportunity to do this together.

I hope in our collaboration I am able to capture some moments that will help her to tell her story.

Paige_130924_5830Paige_130924_5847Paige_130924_5773

I will continue to post pictures of Kimberli’s journey and updates about how she is doing.  So many of us have been touched by cancer, and so her battle is also our battle.

Please check out her project, and follow her blog.  http://www.findingbeautyincancer.com/ You can also donate to help with her medical expenses, since as a self-employed photographer she has limited insurance benefits and has only been able to work limited hours since her treatments began.

Thanks for joining me in sending Kimberli lots of great energy and support!

Help support photojournalism at one of the very few truly independent journalism organizations!

For those of you who are already readers of the Global Press Institute’s news wire, or who have read our reporters’ stories on outlets who syndicate our work like the BBC, Reuters or on NPR, you know that the women reporters of GPI, highly trained local reporters in 26 developing countries around the world, are doing nothing less than changing the face of the news that is coming out of their communities and their countries.

As I wrote in my last post, GPI is committed to being a platform for independent, community-based journalism created by highly trained reporters, but as a non-profit, that isn’t always easy and has meant at times turning down money from companies that expressed interest in having a say over the content of our reporting, something we won’t allow.

Now we are hard at work bringing photojournalism training and cameras to our news desks so we can provide our more than 5 million readers a month high level photography to accompany our reporters powerful stories, and we need your help.

Aliya Bashir, one of our reporters in Kashmir, did an in-depth story on the high rate of infant deaths at a local hospital, over 500 infant fatalities during a 6 month period.  Her story, in part due to her powerful photography, moved many to action included those who stepped up within days to donate new incubators and equipment to the hospital, and it spurred a government investigation.

G.B PANT HOSPITAL protest -01 (3)

by Aliya Bashir, Mother and Grandmother mourning an infant who died at the local hospital

http://www.globalpressinstitute.org/asia/indian-administered-kashmir/2012-infant-death-toll-passes-500-kashmir-hospital-asphyxiation-and

Sri Lankan GPI reporter Anuradha Gunarathne completed the photojournalism training with me just last month and took her new skills down to cover the deaths of 50 fisherman and the impact on their families from a powerful storm on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka.

GPINews_SriLanka_AG_ Fishermen _10

by Anuradha Gunarathne – A death notice hangs on a wall, a Sri Lankan tradition to inform the community of a death.

GPINews_SriLanka_AG_ Fishermen _6

by Anuradha Gunarathne – Sriyani Fonseka, 35, sits with her three children in front of their rented house in Dehiwala, a village on the southwest coast of Sri Lanka. Her husband died while fishing during the June 8 storm.

http://www.globalpressinstitute.org/asia/sri-lanka/sri-lanka%E2%80%99s-fishing-community-mourns-storm-casualties

Your support of our Kickstarter campaign, to provide this photojournalism training and bring cameras to reporters at 10 more GPI news desks will enable dozens more women photojournalists to be able to cover important stories like these.    Their words and now their pictures are doing no less than changing the balance and the quality of the news that the world gets from these countries.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1477211729/through-our-eyes-photojournalism-for-women-around?ref=dyqwtd

Please join us today!   We are down to the last 5 days of our Kickstarter campaign and very much appreciate your support, both donating and sharing this campaign with your friends and on your social media networks. $100 will provide the photojournalism class and a year of visual mentorship to one of our journalists!  $1000 pays for all reporters at one of our news desks to receive the photo training and mentorship, and makes the donor a sponsor of that desk’s photo program!   Every donation helps towards these goals!

Together we can train and support these 135 women photojournalists around the world.   We will also be creating a photography book telling the story of GPI,  as well as a portrait exhibit of all of our reporters so that people can see the powerful network of women journalists who make the Global Press Institute what it is and who work fearlessly and tirelessly everyday to bring the world stories from their communities that would otherwise go untold.

Sparking a passion for photography among GPI reporters in Sri Lanka – and their first photo essay!

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.

Manori having fun as we experimented with shutter speeds

Manori having fun as we experimented with shutter speeds

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.

Paige_120502_0186

The brilliant reporters of the GPI Sri Lanka news desk

Paige_120502_0203

Kumala, a GPI reporter in Sri Lanka

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.

http://www.globalpressinstitute.org/slideshow/6781?return=home

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.

discussing the importance of ethical journalism with the reporters at the GPI desk in Sri Lanka

discussing the importance of ethical and independent journalism with the reporters at the GPI desk in Sri Lanka

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?

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1477211729/through-our-eyes-photojournalism-for-women-around?ref=dyqwtd

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!

http://www.globalpressinstitute.org/slideshow/6795

Be a part of helping to arm GPI reporters with photography training and cameras! Check out our Kickstarter page!

Every where I go people ask me about what they can do to get involved and help support my project and the work of the Global Press Institute.  I am thrilled to say that our Kickstarter campaign is up and running and you can directly support our efforts in bringing cameras and photo training to our amazing women reporters around the world, as well as in the creation of a photo book and exhibitions to showcase their work and the story of GPI.

I felt the same way when I met Cristi Hegranes and learned about GPI, realizing that she had created that elusive thing, a program that brings long-term positive change to the lives of women in the developing world, and on top of that is creating a new model for international journalism.   On both the global level and in the lives of the women it employs, GPI is a changemaker.

Paige_130424_0337

Nakinti – GPI reporter in Cameroon

That is why I got involved as the photojournalism trainer to bring the power of visual storytelling to the talented GPI reporters, which we have now done in Nepal, Haiti, Cameroon, Kashmir, Argentina and later this month I will be going to Sri Lanka.  Help us arm the GPI reporters at 10 more desks with new cameras and photojournalism training to give them additional tools to tell the powerful stories in their communities.  And please consider sharing this with your friends and posting the link below on your social media pages.   With much gratitude from the reporters and the entire GPI team!

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1477211729/through-our-eyes-photojournalism-for-women-around?ref=category

Our project is also featured on the International Center of Photography curated page

http://www.kickstarter.com/pages/internationalcenterofphotography

“I thought only men were photographers”

Wed the 24th

As I have traveled teaching photography, in Rwanda, Nepal, Haiti, and now Cameroon, this is a common message from the women and girls I meet.  Based on their experience and what they see around them, photographers are men and so most of the reporters never thought of photography as something they would pursue.  When a reporter here told me “I thought only men were photographers”, it was after a day of photo training, when we had looked at a lot of photography and photo essays and they had begun to see the power of images and were realizing that this could be another form of communication for them and a new tool to tell their stories.    It’s so exciting to watch that light go on when they discover that they can and will be photographers and that they will be able to harness the power of visual storytelling.

Paige_130424_0361

The reporters of the GPI newsdesk in Cameroon with their new cameras

I am very grateful to Pro Photo Supply for their continuing support of my work and for becoming the equipment sponsor for our Cameroon desk by donating the cameras our reporters will be using here.  Nakinti, Irene, Comfort and our newest reporter Mosina, live and work in different towns so it was essential that they all have their own cameras.   It will allow them to be able to take photographs for every story, increasing the impact of their work.

Paige_130424_0309

GPi reporters during the photojournalism training in Cameroon

We continue to tweek the original curriculum that I had put together, as we learn about new challenges our reporters face, additional skills we want them to have, or when we find better approaches to some things.  One of the recurring issues we are seeing and realizing we need to address more, while true for photographers everywhere, seems to be even more of an issue in many of the reporters’ communities, and that is the difficulty in finding a comfort level with photography, both in taking the pictures and in trying to make their subjects comfortable.

Paige_130425_0456

Cameroon reporter Nakinti taking photographs for one of her stories

In Haiti reporters told us that they wouldn’t be allowed to take pictures, because people were generally suspicious of why you were taking it and what you would do with it.   I think they were surprised when we went to a local hospital to do a workshop and we had people lined up wanting to have their picture taken, and it was a good lesson not to assume that your subject will protest.    But I know that they and reporters at other desks have faced a number of difficult shooting situations, and it’s true that these are sometimes challenging environments in which to make pictures, in part because photography isn’t nearly as prevalent, in some cases there are cultural objections to photography, and there is not a paparazzi culture as we have in the US, where you know there is a possibility of having your picture taken around any corner.  So like photographers everywhere, the reporters are learning to negotiate those spaces, to find their own comfort level in photographing people and to teach their subjects about why they need to spend significant amounts of time taking their pictures, rather than just the quick snap shot that they are usually expecting.

“Picture no di Lie” – An inspiring and fun week in Bamenda, Cameroon

I just returned from Cameroon, my most recent trip to teach the photojournalism program to the fabulous women reporters of the Global Press Institute.

I did some writing while I was there, but it was one of the most challenging locations yet in terms of electricity and internet capabilities, so I’m finally sitting down to start posting my thoughts from the week.    It is just one more reason to admire the work that GPI reporters do every day, when you see how much of a struggle it can be just to get online and communicate with their editors, update their stories, let alone try to upload photographs to me.

Cristi and I received an incredibly warm welcome in Cameroon and had an amazing week, teaching, eating good food, making new friends, and learning a lot, including some Pidgin, my favorite saying being “Photo na da lie”, which the reporters inscribed on a picture frame for me as a gift.   The reporters taught me this Cameroon Pidgin proverb during a conversation in class about whether a photo should be considered a fact, or the “truth’.

Paige_130425_0571

GPI founder Cristi Hegranes with Cameroon newsdesk reporters Comfort, Irene, Mosina, and Nakinti

Paige_130425_0599

Me with GPI reporters Comfort, Mosina, Irene and Nakinti

 

As you can tell, we had a great time, which really reflects the tone and environment that Cristi has created at GPI.   Everyone works very hard and takes their commitment as journalists very seriously, but we also have a lot of fun and there is the very real sense that this is not a top down organization but instead it really is a team and the work is a collaboration.

Tuesday 23rd

It is so great to be here in Bamenda Cameroon with our GPI reporters, especially after a long journey of almost 42 hours including the 7 hour drive from Doula during which we lost 2 hubcaps from the many bumps in the road.   Every minute of the travel was well worth it, to finally get to meet in person the reporters whose photographs I have been working on as the GPI photo editor.

Paige_130417_0726 Paige_130426_1078

I am really looking forward to the week and to our first photography class tomorrow!