As the decade draws to a close I’ve spent some time, not too long, but a little pondering on 2010-2019 and the events that have played a part in my professional life. For the majority of the decade I worked for a global photographic agency as Director of Photography, news EMEA, quiet regions! Flicking through the rolodex of stories in my mind makes for pretty grim reading, a decade defined by struggle, conflict and turmoil. From the Arab spring that initially brought so much hope, the migrant crisis, acts of terrorism, political upheaval at every turn across the globe to stories that will always fill me with horror like the downing of MH17 over Ukraine. My memories are littered with events that will define this decade as one of tumult. Still, we’ll always have London 2012 though won’t we?
2019 has seen a change of pace, no more Getty Images, I launched twentynine, working with organisations to create stronger photographic identities. One project in particular allowed me to fall back in love with photography, with the importance of storytelling and using it to engage, inspire and educate. Women by Women for ActionAid UK celebrated inspirational women from the global south in front of and behind the lens. I went on a voyage of discovery, researching and finding both the subjects and the women photographers who live alongside them. I learned a lot. I learned that there’s some incredible work being done by women – small business owners, healthcare professionals, hip hop artists, fashion designers, Yoga teachers (trickier than it sounds if you live in Kabul), brilliant young women activists in South Africa, political campaigners, a kick-boxer and a street artist. All of them breaking down barriers in some way, making a difference in their communities. The women photographers – Pamela Tulizo, Esther Mbabazi, Tahmina Salim, Farzana Wahidy, Miora Rajaonary, Morena Joachin – talented, knowledgeable, committed, creative, exceptional. It was a privilege to work with them all.
Then there was Marceline Budza. Living in the war ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo. She is a passionate believer and advocate for women’s empowerment and economic stability. Marceline, along with a couple of partners recognised the importance of coffee to leverage economic opportunities for women on Idjwi island. She formed a collective called Rebuild Women’s Hope, gave training and the tools needed and hey presto, 1,800 women working together, not only exporting coffee all around the world but living in a stable community supporting their children and wider families. Marceline has just been to Paris to receive the International Prize for Human Rights 2019 from the French Republic, recognising her work to rebuild hope and dignity for women in the DRC and she is my woman of the year. Using her drive, passion and beliefs to create something so fundamentally brilliant is beyond inspirational and its something that we should all aspire to.
So, farewell to a tumultuous decade but thank you 2019. This year I discovered that there’s thousands of untold stories, women (and men) who work to tirelessly to make their world a much better place for others. You may not know them, you may never have heard of them but they’re there, women like Marceline Budza.
Finally I’ve replaced some of the horror images of this decade with images of strong, resourceful, intelligent women and its these stories that I’m choosing to take with me into 2020.
If you’d like to know more about my work, how we can collaborate to tell your untold stories then please do get in touch.
Wishing everyone a happy, peaceful, fulfilled and empowered new year. Bring on the Roaring Twenties!