This article was originally written for Terrascape, a travel magazine where I write a monthly column on photography.
As photographers, we often travel far and wide in search of beautiful subjects. We take time off from our schedules to visit mountains, beaches, wildlife sanctuaries and other places where we find enough photography opportunities to come back with memory card full of appealing images. While it is a good effort in discovering a fulfilling hobby and grow our expertise in photography, there comes a time when we should move to the next level. One such avenue beyond making beautiful images is to work on making your photography contribute to the society, focus on documentation that helps in someway to make life better for people around us.
When I propose this to photographers around me, the first question I get is – ‘how do we get started?’ It is not always easy to become a one man army that goes around with a camera to change the world. But it is always possible to join people who are already at work in making a better world.
A good start can be made by approaching NGOs in your neighbourhood. From my past experiences, more often than not, non-governmental organizations tend to be working with very limited in resources. They have their hands full working on their cause and have little time for documenting their work and spreading the word about what they are doing. But documentation is important for them to spread awareness of what they are doing and go back to funding sources who need a good understanding of the work being done. This is where you can pitch in, with your camera.
Approach a non-governmental organization that is doing some good work in your area and offer to do a visual documentation of their work. More often than not, they will be happy to accept an offer of help. To begin with, try to find an organization that you may be already familiar with. This helps you in quickly understanding the work that they are doing and merge with the flow of their activities.
When you eventually start working with an organization, be prepared to work for months together without expecting any immediate rewards. You may choose to dedicate time whenever you have a bandwidth available, but stick with an organization or one project until you have a body of high quality work that tells a story of their efforts very effectively. At the end of it, you will see that this work is far more fulfilling compared to making images that only have a visual appeal.