Photographs for the launch of a campaign for VIRAL HOPE, an outreach program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Viral Hope collects unused antiretroviral meds to support the HIV positive patients in Nigeria. 3 weeks after launch the message went viral in over 20 countries that helped raise money, medication and awareness.
Amidst the steep valleys and rainbow-earth colored mountains of Peru’s Andes mountain range live some of the world’s most high quality threads —on the backs of the alpaca.
Peru’s Sacred Valley of the Incas is scattered with villages and a way of life still steeped in culture, history, and artistry that originated with the Inca and is now carried on and adapted by the modern day Quechua people. Organizations like Awamaki Peru provides a modern means of income to a tradition of weaving sculpted by centuries of practice and perfection by the Quechua people.
To document the work of Awamaki Peru, I had the opportunity to witness the process of thread to product. This began with the Yupanqui Mamani Family, who own about 200 alpacas that live nomadically atop a rural mountainside above their village and brought me to the homes of artisans like Mirabel, who transform the fiber to thread and, later, into cloth.
For the outside observer like myself, it is impossible not to be stunned by the level of artistry, skill, and intricacy wrapped into every piece of the process and yet —the story of alpaca fiber to thread to cloth is one of everyday life to these artisans and families.
In my work with other artisan-related nonprofit organizations, I’ve found that many market themselves as a means to raise communities out of poverty or to provide alternate, fairer means of income. This is not to say that this isn’t an admirable mission, but what I admire about Awamaki is how they distinguish themselves from this narrative; their intent is to primarily to showcase the tremendous level of artistry mastered by the Quechua, which can then become a tool to build better, sustainable development among Peru’s indigenous communities. As a photographer, I always seek to partner with organizations that tell these kind of stories that focus on people, not poverty. These are the stories that push us as photographers to craft stronger work —after all, with so much incredible artistry surrounding me, how can I not be inspired to improve my own?
One of the things that we could use more of is schools and medical facilities. I went down to Juanga in the state of Odisha in India. A corner of India that doesn't have the tourism like other parts of India. Its a very rural part of India. Fellow Explorate member James Cole and I spent a few days there documenting the NGO Citta's schools and the hospital there. Children from the surrounding villages come to their schools as well as the hospital. The organization has touched the lives of almost all the residents in the area. The goal was to create content that speaks about their commitment to the children's happiness and well being.
I was documenting a woman’s journey through breast cancer years back when my friend Lisa (a filmmaker) suggested I should meet Wendy Black-Nasta, founder of Non-Profit Artists for World Peace.
Little did I know that she would change my life.
Wendy told me about her humanitarian work worldwide and before I knew it I was on a plane to Tanzania with her in 2012. It’s been an amazing experience filming and photographing the projects they are doing - I went to Africa three times and continued working with AFWP locally as well.
Which brings us to the trip I am embarking on right now. After running an extremely successful eye clinic in Tanzania, we are going to open the first free eye clinic on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota, serving around 1200 tribal members. The Native American community is extremely neglected when it comes to access to proper health care, education, housing, food, etc.
I am very excited to be part of this project in our own country - I often get asked why I am traveling all the way across the world to do good. I don’t think it matters where you help - as long as your heart is in it and you are making a difference, even on a very small scale.
I met this cast of characters on a road trip through Rajasthan I organized in November 2017. Being stuck with some like minded people for almost three weeks created some very interesting conversations over paneer masala. The biggest theme was photography of course....How can we do more relevant work?, How can we get more attention paid to the causes we dedicate ourselves to?, How can we collaborate? and so on....So it went like this for almost three weeks. As the end of the trip came, and we were working together on an NGO project it became clear that the way to go was to find a way to work together in a more organized fashion. A couple of weeks after we got back home "explorate" was born in an Indian restaurant on 27th street and 2nd ave in NYC where we started over some paneer masala.
It's going to be interesting!