What would the African story look like if it were told by Africans?
In August of 2017, ten students picked up cameras (some, for the first time) and began to document their lives, families, and communities. They learned photography basics and progressed into documentary storytelling through photography. In class, students discussed African stereotypes, the responsibility of being behind the camera rather than in front, how to bring dignity to our photography subjects, and how to convey truth through the camera lens.
They told the story of individuals in Jinja and beyond: hard working fishermen on the Nile River, a blind couple in love, the recovery of a man after nearly being burned to death, and portraits of Ugandans who define the spirit of beauty, resiliency, and joy which run deep in this country. Being African gave them intimate access to the lives and stories of Ugandans, and their photos show this connection and trust.
This project was made possible by Sole Hope, our incredible partner organization, who is making a tremendous impact in Uganda as they combat jiggers and other foot-related diseases. Learn more about their work at www.solehope.org.
In addition to classroom instruction, student field assignments included:
- Photographing an anniversary celebration for the king
- Interviewing and photographing people recovering from serious parasite infestation
- Delivering donated solar lanterns to multiple villages and following up on how they changed the lives of the villagers
- Various street photography assignments documenting life in Jinja
James Akena, a Ugandan photographer with Reuters News Agency, was one of our guest instructors. He shared his story and expertise of 30+ years in the African photojournalism industry.
JP McLeod, a Jinja-based cinematographer, conducted an intensive film workshop with the students and creative professionals from the U.S.
Rosa Lisseth Umanzor Diaz, Picture Change’s very first student in 2011 and now a professional photographer from Padre Ramos, Nicaragua, served as an assistant instructor. She connected with our Ugandan students in a personal and profound way. Despite being half a world apart, their stories and struggles were so similar.
“We understood there was opportunity with photography, but after hearing Rosa’s story, we knew that success was possible for us too.” ~ Paul, student
In September, a group of creative professionals from the United States collaborated with our students and Sole Hope to cover in-depth stories of individuals around Jinja. They documented the story of a man rescued from a debilitating 2,430 jiggers and the impact of solar light for women living without electricity. The Creatives and our students also teamed up for a city-wide photo scavenger hunt which was an exciting and artistic way for the students to share their city with our team from the USA.
"Every way I've tried to explain my trip since coming home has sounded cliche, but it really was life changing. I've been on lots of solo adventures, but collaborating with the other creatives and Picture Change students was so much more fulfilling. In telling these stories we had up-close, hands-on, off-the-beaten-path experiences that I wouldn't trade for anything."
~Steve Ettinger, Creative trip participant
Gallery Show becomes a Dance Party
Every Picture Change project culminates with an exhibition of the students’ photography to provide them and their families with a public, tangible event to be proud of and give the community a show to remember. This one was held at Source Cafe in downtown Jinja. While both locals and international visitors attended, it was an authentic Ugandan celebration - the displays were constructed by a student’s family, food catered by local restaurants, and the entertainment was provided by Maro, “The King of Ugandan R&B” who turned the gallery show into a true Ugandan dance party. Maro, a celebrity and role model for many young Ugandans, praised the students for sharing their work and championed their role in African arts and culture. It was truly an unforgettable night!
Each student made around $55 selling their photography and some students quickly used that money to build their own photography businesses around Jinja. We are excited to see what is next for these determined students in this incredible country!
Meet The Photographers
My name is Barbara Langero and I am 24 years old. I was born in Jinja but I am originally from the northern part of Uganda (Gulu). I am a teacher by profession and I have been a photographer for two months. This has been a great adventure.
The major obstacle I have faced in life has been the inability to believe that I can do anything and the lack of good equipment to carry out the exercise. My favorite subjects to photograph are portraits and nature because the portraits tell a lot about a particular subject through the different expressions and nature the beauty of creation.
The message I want share about my work is that there is always a story behind every photograph. Photography has influenced me a great deal in that I see things from a different perspective and has taught me how to make a photo and not to just take a photo.
As a photographer, I hope that people will be encouraged by my work and have the desire and will and also be able to make money through that as well.
Thanks goes to God and all that stood with me and also believed in me and my ability, and also my teacher as well for working and being patient with me. God bless you all.
My name is Demetrious Duarte. I am 22 years old and full of life. I was born in Nairobi, Kenya .
I am a carpenter by profession though haven’t done much with it. While in school I did two years of photography as a business but professionally it’s been two months. One of the obstacles I have faced in life is when my parents divorced in 2005 but I thank God it all turned out to be a blessing.
My favorite subject to photograph is how children live their daily life, smile, laugh, sadness and everything else through photography. Some times it’s challenging but I encourage myself to be brave and never give up on whatever am doing. Since I began doing photography, my life has changed a lot. I see everyday things differently, I think differently, especially when I see my favorite subjects. Photography has also made me meet different people.
I hope the best for my future life; I hope that I would be productive in whatever I do. I hope I continue with my photography as a job.
I thank Picture Change for showing and teaching me more of photography, I thank them for their efforts to impact me through photography; they have made a difference in me that can be seen.
My name is Gideon Muwawu and I am 25 years old. I was born in Mukono, Uganda. I am a social worker by profession but currently working as data entry personnel at Sole Hope. I have done photography for two months now. The major obstacle I have faced in life is poverty or lack of money.
My favorite subjects to photograph are, first, people who had nothing but they are somewhere now. Secondly are young people. I personally love kids and I feel good taking their photos. The message I would like to share as a photographer is that photography shouldn’t be minimized because it can play a big role in changing life and the country as well. On top of that, it’s a source of income.
Photography has influenced me in a way that when I see and think of photos, I feel like taking photos for all my life. I hope to be the best photographer in the world in my life.
A word of thanks goes to everyone who has played a role for my photography class. Special thanks goes to Sole Hope for allowing me take this class. Can’t forget my good and caring teachers Kate, Rosa, and JP for the great work they have done. THANK YOU
My name is Jackson Mwiru and I am 21 years old. I was born in Kantenga, Kuuka District.
I am a photographer and have done photography for two months now.
The major obstacle I have faced in life is I have trouble talking to people sometimes because of language barrier. My favorite subject to photograph is people because it is easy and every time you want you take photos. I am proud to be a photographer.
The message I want to share about my work is that every photo has a piece of me and I want people to know more about photography through my work.
Photography has influenced me to be focused and be good on whatever I do.
I hope to make money with photography in future and for my work to be known world wide.
Lastly, I would like to thank my teachers Kate and Rosa for putting in more efforts. Also to everyone who has given me much attention.
My name is Jackline Atim and I am 29 years old. I was born in Kampala, Uganda. I am a social worker. I have been a photographer for two months. One of the obstacles I have faced in life is not growing up with my parents and siblings.
My favorite subjects to photograph are Nature, Animals, Water Bodies and different events. The message I can share about my work is the passion for photography because with photography you are able to tell the story behind the photo taken. It also helps in knowing things which were destroyed but have great value to the people that love what they have in their community.
Photography has influenced me in a way that it can be very helpful in solving certain problems. Photos are also used to create awareness and seeking for support. Also, photography has influenced me because I can be able to earn a living through taking photos if hired also be able to love and help my community.
I hope to be the female photographer in my community and improve on my photography career so that I can be able to help my community to communicate through photography.
I thank God for enabling me to finish this class of photography, my director, and my teacher and fellow students for the support given to me.
Jennifer Mugisha Orient
My name is Jennifer Mugisha Orient. I am 21 years old and I love being 21. I am a teacher by profession and still can’t believe I enjoy being a teacher. I have only done photography for two months and I love it already, I feel like I have done this my whole life. The major obstacle I have faced in life is my father being sick.
My favorite subjects to photograph are people because there is always much more to every human story. I want to tell stories words can’t tell through my photography. I want the untold to be told through shots of photos. I want people to be inspired through my work and be filled with hope.
Photography has influenced me in a way that I see all things beautiful. It doesn’t matter because I have realized that all things are beautiful but not everyone knows that. I have started appreciating the beauty in everything.
I hope to have a happy and fulfilled life. I hope to grow more in my photography and change my life and the world with my photos.
I would like to thank Picture Change for this opportunity and also thank all the viewers for appreciating my work and, finally, thank my family and friends for supporting me.
THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS YOU.
Paul Kawaga McKenzie
My name is Paul Kawaga Mckenzie and I am 24 years old. I was born in Jinja. I am a junior photographer I have been a photographer only for two months. Poverty has been a major obstacle in my life. It can never allow you to get the resources you need in life. Personally I like taking photos on the subjects of nature, nature is so beautiful. Well I love taking pictures of moving subjects too, mostly when you anticipate a great shot.
Well all I have to say about my work is that all my subjects have a beautiful story behind them. Take a deep breath and enjoy my stories.
Talking about photography, it has influenced me positively, way back before joining Picture Change class, I used to look at photos and end at that, but now at least every photo that I see, I must ask myself about the story behind it. Also, most importantly, photography has made me very vigilant because I never miss out on great subjects.
I hope I become a senior photographer, probably do a course of photography.
My sincere gratitude goes to the Picture Change organization for having given me this wonderful opportunity that has brought more joy and hope to me.
I am Yusuf Musambu. I am 24 years old. I was born in Nawanyago, Kamuli district, located in Eastern Uganda. I have been a photographer for two months. Growing up with a single parent, and seeking an entrepreneurial profession as a graphic designer and business owner, I understand the hard work it takes to achieve my dreams.
My favorite subjects in photography are taking portraits and candid photos. I would love to tell stories of current affairs and my personal experiences through photography. I believe photography is a strong tool that can store and share information for generations.
Photography has greatly influenced me in that I always want to document everything I see using different principles of photography discipline. I hope for a positive future since I have gained many skills in photography. In the future, I want to be an event planner and a photographer for corporate organizations.
My name is Hozey Ziwa and I am 20 years old. I was born in Buikwe District. I have been a photographer for two months. I have faced many challenges but the most of them was when I was forced to drop out of school. Thank God I am now back to school. I love photography and my favorite subject is street photography, wedding and animals.
The message I would like to share about my work is it’s filled with people who love photography and it tells us about what is in the country and teaches me more. Photography has influenced me to see things which are hard as easy.
I hope to be more professional with my photography and get the experience in my country and in other countries.
Great thanks go to Madam Kate and Rosa for teaching me and to Picture Change as a whole.