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5963: Re: 5514: Giving back as a photographer (fwd)

From: Jetphire@aol.com

I have been working with at risk youth, homeless families, and street 
children for over 10 years, and in many of the cities and communities where I 
photograph, there are folks who do not want their pictures taken. When I am 
in that situation, I don't take the picture. Why I am there? Because I'm 
truly interested in my subjects and the way they live their lives. Some of my 
friends and family have said I respect my subjects to a fault, and in some 
ways they may be right, but I feel that I alone cannot tell their stories. 
With most of my long term projects, I ask subjects to write something about 
their lives so that personal quotes can accompany the photographs. Everyone 
gets more out of the project when there is personal involvement, and it is 
also more meaningful to the outside viewer to help gain awareness of other's 

In Haiti I have been working with street children for 4 years documenting 
scenes from their daily lives and teaching photography workshops. On 3 
different occassions, I brought my own slide projector and 300 slides of the 
photos I had taken to give the kids a show of their photos and mine. We 
needed to use a generator and I even paid for the gas, but the effort was 
amazing. Hundreds of children who had never seen their photos were counting 
how many times their faces lit the screen, laughing, calling out names, even 
standing in respect when photos of Titid were shown. On some evenings, when 
word of mouth spread the news, the slideshows became a sort of crazy event 
for friends, advocates, teachers, and other interested folks. But in the end, 
it was all for the kids. From the Photo Workshops, all the children were 
given notebooks with their names and photos, and I've even been able to give 
money to a few from their photos I've sold (and they are amazing 
photographers!). I've gotten small donations from friends, family and people 
that just heard about what I was doing to assist in this endeavor, but 
otherwise these projects are completely self funded and, no, I am not rich by 
any means. Some of the photographs have been used in publications for the 
Aristide Foundation, in cards, and in exhibitions, but the proceeds go back 
into the project. Each time I return to Haiti, I also bring donations from 
all sorts of generous people of school supplies, toothbrushes, clothes, and 
other goodies (vitamin C candy). 

There are so many people who are taken advantage of, and when you work with 
people who don't have anything, it can mean a great deal to give something 
back. People love seeing their picture and enjoy being remembered instead of 
being completely ripped off because they were visually amazing.It can make 
such a huge difference. Haitians have seen journalists come and go because of 
so many newsworthy situations. The job of photojournalists is to get the 
shot, get the pictures, and go back home. It is a way of life and the job has 
to be done, but that doesn't mean we're all insensitive. I've had major help 
from a couple of other photographers who just wanted to do something to give 
back because Haiti has meant so much to them. It's a beautiful thing when you 
can find that woman who sold you a cold drink or that young boy with the 
beautiful smile, and give them their photo and see them laugh and shake their 

Jennifer Pantaleon