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ATAURO, EAST TIMOR – AN EXCITING PHOTOGRAPHY ASSIGNMENT

Coconut palms in Atauro, East Timor

Coconut palms in Atauro

I have an unusual photography assignment. I am to go to East Timor and photograph the island of Atauro in East Timor for a research programme taking part there. They require photos for a website, articles and perhaps a book. I am excited. This sounds like the sort of work I particularly love.

Beachfront at Warunwan village, Atauro

Warunwana Village, Atauro

As I skim through the pages of google I see photos of turquoise waters, palm trees, multi coloured coral and fish and the excitement grows. I discover that Atauro has the most spectacular reefs and the biggest biodiversity of reef fish and coral of anywhere in the world. There are few places to stay and few tourists, most of whom are divers and come from nearby Australia. My job however, is to photograph the local people, their lives and their environment.

Children running on the beach at Beloi, Atauro

Children running on the beach at Beloi, Atauro

The only way to arrive in Atauro is by boat from Dili, East Timor’s laid back and sprawling capital. The boat crosses a very deep channel where schools of whales and dolphins can often be seen. In windy weather it’s choppy to say the least!  After about an hour and a half we approach the coast, cross over the reef and are soon in the clearest waters.  The boat tethers just outside Barry’s Place where we will stay for our first couple of nights before venturing inland.  The palm roofed bamboo huts are set in gardens on the beach. It’s a comfortable, friendly place. There are some tourists, researchers, aid workers, English teachers and me.

Woman digging for shells in Beloi, Atauro

Woman digging for shells in Beloi, Atauro

Within minutes of arriving and being designated a hut I am walking along the beach with a camera on each shoulder. One of the projects the researchers are working on in Atauro is the work of the women.

Woman in Atauro carrying empty water bottles

Atauro, Woman carrying empty water bottles in Adara

At this time of the year each day or night at low tide, they are out digging for shells.  It isn’t an easy job, they are looking for food, there are several varieties and it takes them hours to fill their buckets. We are lucky, low tide is at the end of the day, just before sun set. The beach is a hive of activity. Farming seaweed is also a major business. Bodies of men and women in shallow water are bent over tending to the seaweed. Women are digging for shells, small boats are out fishing and children are running and playing with starfish that have been marooned on the wet sand.

Child in Beloi, Atauro collecting starfish

Child collecting starfish in Atauro, East Timor

There are so many photographs to make as the sun goes behind the hills and disappears to the other side of the island where we will go in 2 days. The next day we take a truck up the hill behind Barry’s Place that leaves us along a fork in a dusty road. We walk on to the village of Warunwana, dropping back down to the coast passing mangroves and sweet water pools shimmering in the early morning light. There are palm trees everywhere, I learn of the many varieties that exist. Photographing palm trees and their uses is part of my assignment.

Woman walking between cultivated seaweed in Atauro,

Atauro, Woman looking at her seaweed cultivation

As we approach, a man is high above us, cutting down coconuts and we are immediately given one. It is delicious and thirst quenching after our walk. We stop and talk to the people who I find are always smiling and friendly.

Chopping down coocnuts in Atauro

Atauro, Chopping coconuts

Time to move on, there is another village to walk to, Akrema. Atauro is an island that has to be discovered on foot. We walk a lot, every day for hours. Sometimes a truck or a jeep will take us to a certain point but from there the only way forwards is on foot. There is a fixer working with the researchers and he is excellent. He also carries my camera bag, which is great as some of the walks are very steep and dangerous. I yell ‘Thomas!’ frequently as there is always something I’m stopping to photograph and inevitably the lens I need is in the bag.

Mangroves at lowtide in Atauro, East Timor

Mangrove at low tide in Atauro, East Timor

Over the following days we visit more villages. We cross rocky beaches, jungle paths and see hundreds of ancient shells still lying around. There are caves that have been painted thousands of years ago, destroyed by the Protestants who believe them to be ungodly. We sleep in cabins on the beach and lie in hammocks for a brief rest before taking off on another hot dusty trek.

Smiling children in Atauro, East Timor

Children in Atauro, East Timor

We stay at night at Thomas’s in the mountain in Anartutu. As I learn to differentiate the palm trees and their uses, I learn that an important one is the one used for making palm wine which is very appreciated by the local people. I photograph the work involved and we all drink together.

drinking palm wine in Atauro

Drinking palm wine in Anartutu,

We see the blacksmith at work, children in school, women weaving on looms using palm thread, and the daily quest looking for food. They grow corn and beans, rear chickens and pigs and use every edible plant and tree. Most of the people on Atauro are on avery low income but are some of the happiest I’ve ever seen. Photographing them was a pure delight.

Woman carrying bottles Atauro

Atauro,Woman carrying empty water bottles in Adara

In the main town on the island called Vila, there is a co-operative workshop, Boneca, run by women who do intricate embroidery using sewing machines.  They produce very pretty bags of all different shapes and sizes and various dolls all made of material. It was set up some years ago by an Italian woman who trained and set them up. Unfortunately as the currency in East Timor is US$, the products are very expensive but most visitors try and buy something to help support them.

Atauro, women weaving with palm thread

Weaving palm thread

 

Atauro is a sizeable asset of East Timor, it will eventually be exploited for tourism but before this happens roads will need to be built and the problem of water shortage addressed. From what the researchers have found, the island has been inhabited for thousands of years. The existing families are organised in clans and they explain their traditions and show us hidden places that are sacred. They are very religious Christians, most of whom are Protestant.

Atauro, women sewing at Boneca

Atauro, sewing in Boneca, a women’s co-operative in Vila

We find time to snorkel during the time I’m on Atauro. It is absolutely stunning – I wish I had an underwater camera but I had so much stuff to carry that I didn’t and kicked myself for forgetting the GoPro. I shall no doubt return to Atauro to finish the photographic project as there was not enough time to cover everything. As a photographer you are dependent on circumstances, weather, activities taking place and in this case, the tides.

 

 

 

 

The Impact of photography on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Projects

Senegal#fishing#octopuspots#children

Senegal CSR project: Donation of octopus pots to fishing community in Yenne

The impact of photography on Corporate Social Responsibility projects is paramount in illustrating the company’s social and environmental activities that enhances their overall reputation. Photographs depicting people whose lives have changed thanks to the presence of a company that has invested in worthy local projects talks volumes for itself.

CSR is a way to minimise the negative aspects and maximise the positive ones. Bringing out a brochure full of colorful photographs on the company’s corporate social responsibility programmes of a particular year will show its shareholders and investors that it has integrity and high business ethics. It is no longer an obligation that a company feels it has to develop, but one that is now an integral part of their business. Many, in fact most Corporate Social Responsibility schemes I have photographed are sustainable with a long-term outlook.

Kenya#water#tanks#Turkana

Kenya CSR project: installation of Water Tanks in Turkana

I work a lot in the oil and gas section, often in Africa, so I have photographed many local waste management companies that have developed with financial aid or have expanded and grown thanks to part of a CSR programme. This in the long term will reduce costs to the corporation and immediately benefit the local community creating employment.  A company I worked for recently in Senegal supported a plastic re-cycling project set up by a young girl who 2 years later employs a number of local people and is expanding her business. Re-cycling and waste management are both popular sustainable development projects that relate directly to the business and show those businesses as responsible and caring.

Over the years I have photographed all sorts of sustainable corporate social responsibility programmes. Installing water tanks and bringing drinking water to outer reaches of Kenya and Ghana, and the setting up of schools and medical centres in remote areas. I once bounced along for 4 ½ hours to witness hundreds of malaria nets being delivered to local communities in Cameroon, and same for Ghana. I have photographed colorful openings to new projects presided over by African chiefs dressed in all their regalia in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Mozambique.

Africa#Mosquitonets#rural#villages

CSR Project: Donating mosquito nets in Africa

Not all the corporate social responsibility programmes around the world are directly related to the actual business. Many help women who are in dire need of making some money thus acquiring financial independence. The training of women in various different skills that they can earn money from has multiplied all over the world. Microfinance has been crucial in this, allowing people to take out small loans that they repay over short periods of time with low interest rates. I have worked for several companies who have invested in this, taking pictures in rural villages of happy women working whilst their children go to school. Investing in education is another popular project that is often part of such a programme.

The company’s logo is often represented on tee shirts, uniforms and overalls and buildings. Great, colorful images of those local people getting on with sustainable jobs are an important form of communication to the investor and shareholder in addition to photos of the product, the manufacturing and the workers.

Senegal#Women#feedingproject#

CSR Project: Women packaging cereals in Senegal

Corporate Social Responsibility has become so important that Forbes has come up with the top ten rated companies in the US over the last few years and has written numerous related articles . https://www.forbes.com/sites/karstenstrauss/2017/09/13/the-10-companies-with-the-best-csr-reputations-in-2017/#cb6f10c546bf

Not surprisingly these are also some of the largest corporations, but medium and small businesses are also investing and it’s global. What better way to advertise and communicate this tendency than by photography!

I am basically a reportage photographer. For years I have worked for many magazines and weekend supplements, often on stories that I had discovered and implemented myself, so photographing Corporate Social Responsibility projects is simply part of doing what I do best. It has also become an integral part of my work, as more and more companies are realising the importance of it photographically as an important part of it’s advertising and communication in brochures and annual reports.

Ghan#children#football#CSR project

Children playing football infront of poster advertising a CSR project

 

 

 

Industrial Photographer? Photographers Rights are Shot!

oil rig, aerial oil rig, landscape, lake turkana.

Oil Rig lost in the landscape near Lake Turkana

As a professional corporate photographer the most effective way of obtaining new clients is to constantly update my portfolio with stunning new images and video clips. These can then be sent out to my agent and potential clients by email for her to promote. This is easier said than done, for a number of reasons that many aspiring photographers may not realise.

aerial, clearing land, road through the desert,

Preparing a future camp in Mozambique

There is the job of choosing which new pictures you think will make someone want to hire you as oppose to someone else. It might not necessarily be the shot that took 4 hours to take against all odds, or the one that your client raves about.  I do a lot of industrial and oil and gas photography but never know what to show, so I usually end up narrowing it down and asking a couple of other visually minded pro’s their opinion.

For most industrial, landscape and lifestyle  I especially ask Melody, my agent http://www.melodygeorge.com whose judgement I trust.   However I digress, as this is not my point.

The main issue is copyright and the right to publish your own work. I work mostly for large international corporations and my contracts with them are often 30 pages long. Written into every single one of them are paragraphs about copyright, sometimes very artfully worded but inevitably denying the photographer the right to publish any pictures appertaining to the brief of the photo shoot.

oil and gas worker, worker on rig, safety harness on rig,

Man in safety harness high on a rig in Africa.

As far as the client is concerned, I am working for them, they pay me and all my expenses, so therefore the work is theirs. As a photographer I will argue that I made that picture the way it is, therefore, although they have all rights to use it as per the contract, the actual image belongs to me! I have had many long discussions over copyright with agents, other photographers and lawyers on both sides. It is a sticky issue that is becoming rapidly in favour of the client.

oil rigs, oil pipes, oil and gas photography,

Oil pipes

I understand their reasons, particularly in oil and gas photography, which is a controversial topic anyway. There is a big market in stock photography and some of it comes from assignments paid for by companies for their self-promotion and they do not want to see it misrepresented elsewhere. Publishing images of people without model releases is a dangerous way to go anyway. All main agencies such as Getty ask for all images to be rights free.

In view of the above, the best I have negotiated is to be allowed to use my images to promote myself. This means publishing them on my website, in blogs and sending out some recent images to prospective clients as copyrighted images. I hear you say, ‘that is not so bad’, except that I have to ask them first and I have had a lot of  ‘we would rather you didn’t show that!’

Personally, I have always protected my clients and never irresponsibly sold my images. A couple of years ago I was contacted by someone who saw one of my oil and gas images in my portfolio and asked me if her company could buy it for use in an external marketing campaign. Although it was tempting I had to refuse. I told her why and she congratulated me on my integrity. ‘You are exactly the sort of person we would like working for us’, she said. I’m still waiting!