|A young boy in the village of Konadouga, Burkina Faso where the native language is Senara and the formal language taught is French. This is just a mile or so from the Ivory Coast boarder where rebels had been fighting.|
Photographers for the most part are some of the most compassionate people you will ever meet. They want to help organizations they encounter, but often find most of their photos never seeing the light of day.
Pretty often I am getting emails of photographers returning from overseas and having a collection of photos they want to share. They want to get the stories in front of people.
A typical email will look something like this:
“I would like to ask for your advice. I want to send the photos to different magazines and newspaper with the hope that the photos will help generate interest and donations for the organizations I covered. How should I approach these media outlets?”
Here is my advice for anyone wanting to do humanitarian photography and want to help those organizations by getting their work published.
Remember throughout that your purpose is to connect the audience to the subjects. If at anytime you forget one of these you will be unsuccessful. Why should your audience care? Why do the subjects need their story told?
|Letzia stays at home and her husband works in the fields in Akil in the Yucatan region of Mexico.|
Before your go
The time to connect with media outlets is before you go and not after for many reasons. The major reason is that had the media outlet knew you would be doing the coverage they could have given you valuable direction that would increase the chances of being published.
If you can write or do video as well then be sure and offer these skills as part of the package. I know many humanitarian photographers who offer some of these skills for their clients:
- Twitter feeds while on the field
- Blog posts when they return for the client
- Multimedia package
- Audio recordings for the web
Very often an editor might direct you to cover a certain angle that would appeal to their audience. If you are really interested in getting interest for the organization then you do what you can to get the organization in front of the audience.
The story will change before you even go if you take time to reach out to as many media outlets as you can. It is quite possible that they may have a story for you to cover while you are there as well.
While you are there
It is rare that I have ever been on an overseas trip that the story we thought we were going to do doesn’t change after we arrive. In some form or another they will tell you that you just missed it or that doesn’t happen while you are here. This doesn’t matter if you did all your research to perfection. Often people heard something different than what you said, or they just didn’t want to risk telling you the truth and you not come to help them.
Be sure you get names of people in the photos, the places you were when you made the photos and a good description of what is going on in the photo that isn’t always understood when looking at the photo.
Types of photos
Everyone smiling and looking at the camera are snapshots and memory joggers. For the most part this is not what the media is looking for at all.
I have written on the three types of photos: 1) “Literal” Snapshots; 2) “Artistic” Snapshot and 3) “Expressive” images that are taken for others and not yourself. for more about those three styles you can read this earlier blog post:
Here are some major mistakes photographers make while doing what they call is “humanitarian photography.”
I wrote about them before but I think this warrants repeating here again.
|Street scenes in Tikul in the Yucatan, Mexico|
Some clues that you have crossed the line into narcissism:
|Mexican side of the border in Agua Prieta, Mexico which borders Douglas, AZ.|
|Night time along the Mexican and US border in the town of Douglas, AZ.|