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Photo Writing is the web version of the Photo Writing mini-magazine produced by Limephoto and Emil von Maltitz since 2010. As of 2015 it is now completely online. Feel free to browse through the articles and please leave comments in the comments section if you would like to engage with us.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The advantages of working with a community development arm

Particpant at the opening match of the Macambini Sports ground - paid for in whole by Tongaat Huletts and Simamisa
Something I have come to really enjoy and appreciate with one of my clients is the level of charity work that I have automatically come to be involved in. By nature I am lazy. It’s not something that I like to admit, but I don’t seem to be able to have enough energy to do the things that I know I need to do. So, having a client that forces me to be out in the community is fantastic. The client in question is the Community and Rural Development Unit at Tongaat Huletts. The unit is under the steerage of Nkonzo Mhlongo (a remarkable and tireless woman who never seems to sleep). I mentioned her in a post that had it’s genesis photographing her in early 2013. At any rate, thanks to Nkonzo and her team I have found myself up and down the length of Kwazulu-Natal photographing rural schools, HIV clinics, paediatric wards and rural farmers associations.

Learner at Bhekeshowe during the KZN Rally to Read.

The cynic would point out that I get paid to do these photo shoots. There’s more to it than a pay check though - I need to feed, clothe and school my children after all. There’s a reward involved in photographing community members and actually being part of a team that is trying to help that goes beyond any material reward for the work done.

There is also the eye-opening aspect to the work. Photographing ‘wellness-days’ at the paediatric HIV clinic at Ndwedwe over the last two years has been emotionally draining. The images I capture are not meant to show the destruction and devastation of the ravaging disease. Rather, they are supposed to show hope and the ability of children to overcome. There are images of smiling children, some very sick, children with a light in their eyes. The sadness is not in the children, but in the adults that burdened the youth with their troubles. So I find it difficult sometimes to create images that the client needs to promote their charity work in a positive light.

Learner at the Ethel Mthiyane School for children with special needs. The building in the background was built on funds provided by the Chairman of Tongaat Hulett Sugar, Steven Saunders
Painting the paediatric ward at Catherine Booth Hospital (my assistant, Claire is second from right painting the blue bird)

Other times it’s easier, like when I joined the CRD unit and Simamisa to paint the paediatric ward at Catherine Booth Hospital (servicing a deep rural area), or when I took part in Mandela Day along with the CRDU at a school in Zululand to paint the school buildings. On occasions like these I actually get to put the camera down and take part. During other events, like the KZN Rally to Read, just being there is uplifting. Then there are the sports days in several rural areas where the client has poured literally millions of Rands into sports development within the communities (Tongaat Huletts community upliftment, education and health budget is astounding)

Learners at the opening of the Nkosazana Primary School near Empangeni

Children peering into the officials tent at the Mandela Day celebrations at Ofasimba School in 2013

Nhlanhla Ntuli addressing students at the Nkosibomvu High school careers day in 2014
The bottom line is that working with this particular client means that my job is not just a job. Yes, I happen love what I do in the first place. Its just that every now and again there's the added perk of being involved in something that is not only meaningful, but is actually not entirely involved int he self-absorbed world of commercial photography.

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