What makes a successful humanitarian photo coverage

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 32000, ƒ/14, 1/100

All the trips I have done overseas have been for humanitarian work. Humanitarian work is concerned with or seeking to promote human welfare.

This past trip to Nicaragua there was a lot of opportunity for taking care of basic healthcare needs. Now the difficult thing sometimes to do as a humanitarian photographer is to capture and compel the audience to act.

In the homes they didn’t have a medicine cabinet with your basic bottles of Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Aspirin, cough medicine and bandaids. If they needed an aspirin they would go to the city and buy not a bottle but just a few pills. That is all they could afford. I needed to capture the medically trained indigenous volunteers checking blood pressure or giving an IV, because handing a person a small ziplock bag of ibuprofen doesn’t read quickly to the audience medical care.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1250, ƒ/4, 1/100

The gravity of this moment with medical missionary nurse practitioner Traci Warner isn’t as clear to the audience visually as I would have wished. Dominga is the lady in the middle with the IV above her head. Her sister is to the left and had just paused a moment from waving the fan to keep her sister comfortable.

Dominga is dying from cancer. After we visited Dominga would die later that night.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 1600, ƒ/4.5, 1/100

Missionary nurse practitioner Warner has a lot more to offer than her medical skills. During this part of life that we all will go through Warner took the time to read Psalms 23.

Verse 4 really speaks to me:

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

This photo really captured for me why I like working with missionaries. They are caring for the whole person and not just their physical needs, but their spiritual as well.

Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4 DG Art,  ISO 200, ƒ/1.4, 1/100

If you are taking photos of humanitarian work you need to keep shooting. Sometimes when you are taking photos and thinking something better will come along is a mistake. You shoot everything you can and then later pick the moments that best capture the work going on and the soul of the story.

Here Warner is checking a skin condition on a lady with the Nicaraguan medical volunteer learning about the fungus condition.

I hope you are realizing at this point of my writing that the words are paramount to understanding what is going on in each of these photos. Take notes and be able to describe what is going on in a photo and why they are doing something.

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/160

I really like this photo of the young girl here. Now without text it is still a very compelling photograph. In context of the photos above the photo can take on even more meaning, but requires the words to help the audience feel even more impact than the visual can do alone.

This is the young granddaughter of the lady in the very first photo. The lady having her blood pressure taken has high blood pressure that they monitor. Due to the medical team not just giving her some medicine to help lower the blood pressure they helped her through educating her on her diet. Today she is no longer needing the blood pressure medicine, but just needs to monitor it.

By saving the grandmother we saved the care taker of the granddaughter. Now she has someone to watch her and take care of her as her parents are both out working trying to make ends meet for the family.

Many young girls like her are raped and abused due to lack of adult supervision. Who would think that humanitarian aid through medical training and some blood pressure pills would help save this young girls life?

This is why I love traveling the world and helping make people’s lives better. How do I make things better when I am not a nurse practitioner? I help tell these stories and get people like you to give and go to make a difference.

Here are two opportunities this year for you to do the same thing and learn how to do it as well.

First we have two openings left for our Storytellers Abroad workshop in Togo, West Africa.

Next opportunity is traveling with Gary S. Chapman and myself to Honduras, Central America.

Honduras, October 29 – November 5, 2016 – $2,600 

Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art Lens, ISO 450, ƒ/8, 1/100

This is not a classroom class only. When you are done you will have had the opportunity to produce a complete project that will do exactly what you would be doing if you were capturing the story yourself. The difference is you have teachers/coaches to help you navigate all the hurdles of storytelling.

If you want to do coverage like I am doing overseas, then here is your chance. The students we have finish the Storytellers Abroad Workshop have now shown to the missions agency ABWE their skills and also let the organization get to know them. Many are asked to tell more stories of missionaries around the world.

Sign up today and I will see you in either Togo or Honduras very soon.