One girl’s complicated relationship with travel and how it inspired her to create Photography For, a photography initiative for humanitarian and conservation issues at home and abroad.
romantic in concept, but undoubtedly one of the most glorified terms on social media.
It’s more complicated than sunset drinks and nights spent under the stars. More complicated than traversing down the road less traveled on rickety, old dirt bikes that buckle under your weight. More complicated than running away from the real world and living a life completely enveloped in fantastical elements.
Hi guys, I’m Christina – a traveling humanitarian and conservation photographer – and I’m here to tell you that travel is so much more than envy-invoking, perfectly-crafted Instagram pictures; for better, or for worse.
For better— it has broadened my understanding of the world. It has introduced me to the kindest of souls. It has taught me invaluable lessons that no at-home experience could ever afford me.
For worse— it has landed me in the hospital more times than I can count. It has broken my heart into a million pieces. It has catapulted me into the loneliest of places, both mentally and physically.
And while I have somewhat of a distaste for the term “wanderlust” and all that it embodies, I can’t help but return to it. Every. Damn. Time. Call it a toxic relationship, if you will.
I’m warning you all now, if you have yet to fall into the love/hate relationship between your logical mind and your nomadic heart, run! Fast and far. Because once swept away by travel’s tempting allure, there is absolutely no turning back.
Cut to: The Power to Do More
I’d like tell you all, first and foremost, how incredibly fortunate I feel to travel for work, so please excuse me when I say how frustrated I become when caught between the mutterings,
“You are so lucky to travel.”
A phrase so seemingly innocent, but loaded nonetheless.
The frustration does not come from my inability to acknowledge how lucky I am to experience far off places. I will be the first to tell you that hard work can only get you so far without being met with opportunity, which yes, I am so incredibly blessed to have been given from time-to-time.
The frustration stems, instead, from the gap that lies between what the travel industry invariably displays and the people that it caters to. The gap that is so wonderfully convoluted and full of life’s beautiful complexities. One that should not be overlooked when we travel to foreign places, but one that should be embraced and given serious thought to.
This is Where Things Get Deeply Personal: Photography For Women’s Rights
In 2012, I worked on an archaeological dig in Ethiopia. In 2013, I worked on two, one in Ethiopia, and one in Kenya. In 2014 and 2015, I worked for a non-profit in China.
Of course, I was told how lucky I was for each work opportunity abroad.
And I was, but here are the gaps that I sincerely feel I have failed to share with everyone (warning, this may be graphic for some):
The children riddled with flies, infections and hands worked to the bone. The people blinded and crippled by ailments because they couldn’t afford a simple cure. The women who did not want their pictures taken for fear of exploitation by an outsider. The indigenous people whose land was being stripped away from them from corporate greed. The women dying next to me as I was unfairly catered to as a westerner. The sexual assault I have experienced as a solo female traveler. The high dropout rate of my female students, many of whom become married at 12/13 years old. The male teachers who refused to acknowledge my female presence, who preyed upon my girls, and who both verbally and physically abused some of the local women teachers.
Each experience has given me a broadened understanding of the world, and in my firm belief, the responsibility to do more. Thus, the creation of Photography For, a photography initiative for global issues, and its inaugural project, Photography For Women’s Rights, which will focus on women’s rights in South(east) Asia, specifically Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal and India.
Photography For seeks to raise international awareness to global issues through the power of an image, believing that awareness sparks conversation, which in turn sparks action for positive change. Through the first initiative, I hope to utilize photography and social media as tools to generate a more global understanding of and activism for women’s rights, believing that both internal and external action are necessary for sustainable impact for the improvement of gender equality, which in turn equals the improvement of human rights overall.
A Plea From the Heart: What You Can Do
I want to take you on this journey with me. A journey of impactful measure. A journey that seeks to connect you all with the world I’ve been so lucky to experience. However, to make Photography For and the associated projects a reality, I wholeheartedly need your help.
Travel has undoubtedly provided me with the skills and necessary confidence to do more. I can only hope that you, on your travels, listen deeply, feel completely and experience wholly. Ask questions, become involved, discover your purpose and fight, always, for a more just world.
At the end of the day, you are the most important component of the success of Photography For’s projects. I hope you will travel along with me, join the conversations and become a part of the movement to bring forth positive change through the power of photography and social media.