For most of us the act of washing clothes is a pretty easy task given the machines we have that do nearly all the work for us. But for many people in the Cuchumuela district of Bolivia that simple act is a time consuming burden where access to water for washing clothes usually means walking long distances to a nearby stream or hauling jugs weighing up to 40 pounds back to your home.
That was the scenario before my client, Water for People, and their local governmental and NGO partners worked together to create a sustainable solution to this issue. While the solution may not be what we would consider significant progress given our way of life, it’s a huge time saver for these people who don’t have the same level of lifestyle we have, yet.
As a photographer/filmmaker my challenge was to convey the improvement that this system provides to the life of this woman. I’ll have to be honest, at first she was a little hesitant when she saw the cameras. But with some reassurance that we were there to portray her with dignity rather than pity, she quickly agreed to allow us to work while she went about her chores. What we ended up with, went beyond our expectations and proves that in the right hands, a camera can be a powerful tool.
Lajas is a small remote Bolivian village where the people live simply and close to the land. Water access has always been a challenge so collectively they decided to change that. With help from the local municipality and Water for People they were able to raise the funds and build beautiful blue water tanks that serve the households. When we saw these tanks from a distance we knew that would be the visual thread for the still and motion images we were creating for the annual report. With that in mind, I set out to create a series of portraits and stories with those beautiful blue tank playing the supporting role.
One of our days in Bolivia included shooting stills and video of a local entrepreneur harvesting mushrooms near the small village of Villa Victoria in the district of Cuchumuela. The village has a fairly sophisticated water delivery and monitoring system that allocates water for pine seedling growth that they plant in a nearby forest. After a few years when the seedlings have grown taller they create a perfect environment for growing these amazing mushrooms. My challenge was to capture the images that tell the story in the most compelling way. This wasn’t a “how-to” type shoot or purely documentary in nature. We were going after the type of imagery that makes the viewer stop and look. The video portion of the shoot is a bit more process driven but the shot selection and editing work to weave together a short story of successful and sustainable outcomes.
I’ve just returned from a multi week assignment in Bolivia shooting stills and video for a non profit client’s annual report. We were based in the Cuchemuela district about an hour’s drive from Cochabamba near the majority of the projects they have in operation. With a team that consisted of a creative director, marketing director, writer, translators, drivers, local ngo liason’s, government officials and myself, we packed into two SUV’s everyday with the goal of telling the story of how my client works to ensure that everyone has access to water and sanitation in this region. I’m planning to post a series of images over the coming weeks that illustrate the work they’re doing as well some of my favorite images accompanied with a little backstory.
This particular image was shot from the balcony of my room at the hostel where we were staying in the small village of Villa Rivero. Each day we would return from shooting and traveling continuously and start the process of downloading and backing up the stills and video. On this day I checked to see what was going on out in the street and was delighted to see this woman cleaning up her front door in preparation for the upcoming carnival festivities. I shot a series of images at different focal lengths capturing her as she went about her business. This is one of my favorites because of her gaze and posture as well as the great color combination of the pastel blue door, pink dust pan and her multihued clothing against the amazing texture of the crumbling adobe wall. This type of image, while not literally about water or sanitation, is the type of shot we strived to capture because it highlights the people and the lives my client’s work impacts rather than focusing on themselves.
In this video, photographer and Moving Walls exhibition co-curator Susan Meiselas discusses documentary photography’s potential to connect and move audiences by “expanding the circle of knowledge” about human rights and social justice issues.
The video also features a variety of work by photographers supported by the Open Society Institute Documentary Photography Project. The project funds photographers who go beyond documentation, using images to foster civic engagement, organizing, advocacy, outreach, public awareness education, and media attention.
This was shot with the Canon 5d Mark 2 one afternoon on Clear Creek near Golden Colorado.
This is some footage I shot of the church at LaGarita Colorado in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. There are dozens of places like this in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado where there’s a unique blend of culture and spirituality (see my last post for another site south of LaGarita). If you’re interested in seeing the church it’s south of Salida on the road to Penitente Canyon, another fascinating place in it’s own right.
Looking back at my travels in Morocco, I’m struck by the similarities between that nation and others I’ve visited in regards to water. Having travelled extensively in regions where water is a scarce resource, it never fails to surprise me how difficult it is for the vast majority of people on the planet to get access to one of life’s most basic necessities. Clean water is such a luxury, yet we here in the “developed” world treat it as though it will never run out and will always be available. Living in the semi arid west of the United States, I know that the day will come when neither of those will be the case. And at that time, we’ll have to come to grips with our ways and learn some lessons from people like these kids in Morocco.
A couple of days ago I was out scouting/shooting locations for a project I’m working on about fly fishing and came a cross these guys. It reminded me that summer is over but the cool days of fall promise clear days, beautiful colors and some amazing fishing and shooting!