This week I've been taking the Below the Line challenge, spending only £1 a day on food for five days. Live Below the Line is a campaign aimed at challenging the UK's response to poverty. Extreme poverty is defined by the World Bank as having the equivalent spending power of $1.25 USD a day. Whilst I've been hungry at times this week, and living off a very basic diet, I know this is nothing compared to the desperate reality faced daily by 1.3 billion people. My £1 has to cover food costs, but not everything else. I know that there is a roof over my head, in a warm house, I've access to clean water, if I were to get sick I could go to the doctor. My life is full of opportunity. Yet this is exactly 1.3 billion people are denied daily.
When I think of extreme poverty I think of this image. I took it in 2010 in Cité Soleil, a desperately poor area of Port-au-Prince in Haiti. The children are standing in front of mudcakes, a cottage industry which exists in Cité Soleil, producing 'cakes' made of mud and salt then dried in the sun. The very fact that there is widespread production of these across the slum, points to the utter desperation that exists throughout a community where people are prepared to eat mud just to have something in their belly. When I visited this slum it was with The Good Samaritan Foundation, a Haitian NGO that was providing feeding programmes across schools in the slum. Pastor Vincent from The Good Samaritan Foundation believed that education was the key to changing children's like these futures, and giving them a meal that day meant they could achieve that goal.
I know this week I've been challenged to do more about global hunger, and have been exited to engage in the Enough Food If campaign. The Enough Food For Everyone If campaign has been formed buy a number of NGOs in the UK to hold the G8, hosted this year in the UK, to account on tackling global hunger. There are four big issues it is seeking to address:
Enough Food For Everyone IF we give enough aid to stop children dying from hunger and help the poorest families feed themselves.
Enough Food For Everyone IF governments stop big companies dodging tax in poor countries.
Enough Food For Everyone IF we stop poor farmers being forced off their land and grow crops to feed people, not fuel cars.
Enough Food For Everyone IF governments and big companies are honest and open about their actions that stop people getting enough food.
I believe we all have a role to play in ending global hunger, and eradicating extreme poverty. I hope I can play my part. Find out how you can engage here: www.enoughfoodif.org
Filmed on location in Russia, Mozambique, Haiti, Switzerland, and the UK. With many thanks to the NGO's I have had the joy of supporting:
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This summer I had the opportunity to cover the London 2012 Paralympics for an NGO called The Dream. This was a dream come true for me. I have been working on a documentary following the story of Leon, a man who lost his wife, eight children, and use of his legs in the Haitian earthquake of 2010. Since that time he has been fighting daily, against all the odds, to be among Haiti's first ever Paralympic team.
The Dream was set up to celebrate different ability, by enabling Haiti to have it's first ever representation at the Paralympic Games. Through this they hoped to not only empower the athletes, but change the mind set of a nation, where to be labelled 'disabled,' is to be labelled 'worthless.' It is our hope that this documentary will smash that misconception, and open the eyes of a nation to the potential they have hidden among them. My time at the Paralympic Games certainly did for me. - All images rights reserved Thomas Williams Photography
I’m currently waiting for a flight to St Petersburg after a stopover in Tallinn, as we are going to visit my wife’s friends and family in Russian Lapland. I’m really excited about using this time to get out into the wilderness in Karelia and the Kola Peninsula and shoot some raw timelapses of the epic landscapes of Russia.
In 2004 I saw the Russian Landscape exhibition at the National Gallery, and was in awe of the artists ability to capture the vast nature of the Russian Landscape. I had also never seen light used in this way before, particularly in the paintings of Arkhip Kuindzhi. Ivan Shishkin's paintings reminded me of large format photography, with the scale, depth of field, and a lifelikeness so real you could step straight into them. Here's hoping for some good light!
Two years ago I saw the delivery of baby incubators to a hospital in northern Haiti, which was planning to open the only properly equipped maternity ward in the north of the country. I also visited the state hospital in Cap-Haitien, where tragically I witnessed a child dying due to lack of equipment needed for a simple procedure. Haiti has the highest rates of infant, maternal, and under-five mortality in the western hemisphere, and it is terrible injustice that so many die for lack of access to proper healthcare.
Back in Haiti last month however, I had the joy of witnessing two children's lives saved before my eyes, thanks to the staff of the newly opened surgery and maternity ward at Haiti Hospital Appeal. It was a beautiful moment seeing a child being bought to life, thanks to the dedicated staff, and fully equipped operating room, which until recently was simply not an option for mothers in the north of Haiti. To see a child being spared from death before my eyes was truly humbling, and I hope these images bear witness to the transformative power of aid, and the dedicated and tireless work of the staff at Haiti Hospital Appeal.
I love looking at other photographers travel gear posts to finesse packing my equipment. Gavin Gough has a helpful one here. Whilst packing for my upcoming trip to Haiti, I thought I'd post up a list of what I take on humanitarian photography trips, as I'm always trying to refine what I'm carrying to get the perfect weight/equipment ratio. Not to mention the ever challenging issue of getting all your gear onto carry on.
- 2x Canon 5D MkII
- Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L USM
- Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS USM
- Canon EF 50mm F1.8 II
- Gitzo GT2541 Series 2 Mountaineer Tripod
- Acratech GV2 Ballhead
- Canon Speedlite 580EX II
- Sennheiser HD 380 Pro Collapsible Headphones
- Rode VideoMic Pro & homemade Dead Cat
- Zacuto Z-Finder Pro
- 5x Canon LP-E6 Battery & Charger
- 4x 16GB Lexar Professional 600x CompactFlash
- 2 & 4GB SanDisk Extreme III CompactFlash
- Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro/2.8GHz
- Transcend USB 3.0 Multi-Card Reader
- Bulked up Lifesystems Solo Traveller First Aid Kit
- Lifesystems BoxNet Mosquito Nets
- Steripen Portable UV Water Purifier
- Silk Sleeping Bag liner
- Alpkit Gamma Headtorch
- Spare Batteries & Phone Charger
- Spare Lens & Body caps
- Blurb Portfolio, Notebooks & Business Cards
- Suncream, Mosquito repellent, Malaria tablets
- Passport & Yellow Fever Certificate
- Air Blower & Bag Cover
- Surge Protected Worldwide Travel Adaptor
Things I plan to get:
- PacSafe 55 Secure Backpack Protector
- Zoom H4n Digital Recorder
- Seagate FreeAgent 1TB USB External Hard Drive
- Peli 1060 Micro Case
- Singh-Ray Vari-ND Filter
Amazingly this all fits comfortably in my F-Stop Loka which is inside the carry on size regulations. Other things I'll be taking - The Passionate Photographer by Steve Simon - a fantastic book.
After almost two years I am heading back to Haiti later this month. Last time I was there was in August 2010, on behalf of the NGO Global Hand which matches corporate resource to NGO needs. We were following up on a number of donations which had been made in response to the earthquake that devastated Port au Prince, and left two million people displaced. One of the charities we visited was Haiti Hospital Appeal, who had just opened up the first spinal care clinic in the north of the country, and received a number of patients who had suffered acute spinal injuries as a result of the earthquake.
One of those patients is a guy called Leon. I spent some time interviewing Leon on my visit to HHA, and learnt of how his wife and eight children had all been killed in the earthquake, as their house fell on them, crushing his spine, and leaving him without the use of his legs. Leon talked of his determination to not give up, on life, and his rehabilitation. In the face of such devastating loss, Leon has said about his time at HHA: "When I think about my wife and children I always shed tears but I refuse to get discouraged, I keep on fighting. I think about my future, I'd like to go home, I'd like to get a job. I'd like to have my own house and work in an place just like this."
I'm excited that now I'm going back to document the work of the hospital, I will also be contributing to a documentary film for 'The Dream.' The Dream is a campaign to bring Haiti's first Paralympic Team to the London 2012 Paralympics, and Leon is training to be a part of that team!
This time I will also be going back with inspirational Team GB Paralympian Anne Wafula Strike, to complete the documentary footage. Anne is a wonderful lady with a tremendous heart & I can't wait to start filming with her. It is a joy to be going back to Haiti, to see Leon & the team there again, as they keep on fighting, and as they get closer to bringing the first Haitian Paralympic team to the world's biggest sporting event.
Devastated to hear about Adam Yauch today. The Beastie Boys have played a huge part of my seminal years, the fun & creativity that they always bought to their work is a huge inspiration. Here are a few of my favourites:
In the midday sun of this tropical paradise, hundreds of ornately decorated tribes people glisten with sweat and pig fat as they sing and dance their way around a sports pitch. Toothy grins with teeth stained red from chewing beetle nuts, a mild stimulant, meet my camera lens wherever I look.
The annual gathering of the Mount Hagen Show in the western highlands of Papua New Guinea is a joyous event, which celebrates the incredible and beautiful diversity of the tribal groups and traditions in this remote country.
With over 800 indigenous languages Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally diverse countries on Earth. It is also remains one of the least explored with many undiscovered species of plants and animals thought to exist in its interior. It therefore is a treasure trove for anthropologists, botanists and zoologists alike.
The Mount Hagen Show has taken place annually for over fifty years, celebrating identity through culture and tradition, and was devised to promote unity, harmony, and peace. It was decided at an early stage however, in order to avoid tribal feuding over the results of best presented group, that instead everybody would win. Although seemingly charming, this sadly reflects a deeper reality for Papua New Guinea, one of division and tribal conflict.
Mount Hagen itself has the feel of a frontier town, a remote focal point for surrounding tribes and villages, it is often the fulcrum of inter-tribal feuds. Disputes over land, women, or pigs, can easily escalate into conflict and even murder, endangering the whole tribe. With the introduction of firearms to Papua New Guinea this threat is all the more present.
The United Nations Development Program say that: “Papua New Guinea is a very poor country and poverty impacts on the daily lives of almost all of the population. Poverty is exacerbated by among other things; extreme rural isolation; high rates of crime and violence; a burgeoning HIV/AIDS epidemic and recent political turmoil.”
A beautiful country, largely untouched by civilization, Papua New Guinea has a rich cultural history, and is rich in mineral wealth and ecological diversity. The people I was fortunate enough to spend time with were wonderfully open hearted with a beautiful spirit. Papua New Guinea faces many challenges as it emerges into the global economy, but will for a long time remain a hidden gem, one to which I long to return.
Take a few minutes out of your day to refresh your creative vision. I promise you will be challenged, moved, & uplifted.