MISHRAH SONDAY writes about a group which utilises photography to facilitate healing and rebuild confidence in persons who have suffered loss or trauma.
AS more organisations harness the power of content marketing, it is heart-warming to see one that understands and utilises the power of storytelling in a unique way.
The organisation utilises the freedom of street photography to capture the raw, intimate experiences life gives us in fleeting moments. At the same time, it uses photography as a medium of healing and self-discovery. With almost 36 years combined photography experience under their belts, founders and mentors Quaniet Richards, Nawawie Mathews and Shamiel Albertyn established the #shoot4purpose initiative.
Using their passion, faith and zest for life, the trio not only financed but used their personal skills, time, equipment and expertise to make this project a reality.
Quaniet Richards, head of institutional business at Nedgroup Investments, said, ‘While walking the streets of Cape Town and looking through the viewfinder, the plight of the homeless community and impoverished was amplified. This coincided with a massive spike in recorded cases of gender-based violence during the COVID-19 lockdown.
‘The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that one in three women suffer trauma, related to physical or mental abuse from a partner or non-partner.
‘Our aim was to use photography to empower and facilitate healing in those who have experienced trauma and loss in their lives. We wanted to assist in rebuilding self-esteem and confidence.’
Nawawie Mathews, an operations and client liaison manager at Section 9, added, ‘On a less serious note, our aim was to make photography fun and change the perception that photography appears to be an elitist extra-mural activity or hobby. We would like to make it accessible to everyone, regardless of race, faith or circumstance.’
The first five-week street photography workshop started on September 11, 2021, comprising five female participants who had no experience with cameras or photography. Despite this, the women were extremely passionate, enthusiastic and showed natural talent. The mentors’ method of teaching was completely unconventional. There were no tutorials on the technical aspects of photography; instead it was a quick, five-minute introduction on how to use the camera and access certain functionalities.
The aim was to find beauty within the simple things that life offers, and capture that.
Each week, the cohort walked various areas or interesting settings and grew their love for the art. Technical and editing tips were included in the last session. The camera equipment was sponsored by Fuji Film South Africa.
The cohort ended their journey with a photographic exhibition on October 24, 2021, at the Castle of Good Hope, in Cape Town.
The exhibition was well received and had a guest compliment of over 200 people, including Rashid Lombard, internationally renowned jazz photographer and political photojournalist, Ighsaan Higgins, attorney, gender-based activist and radio media host, as well as Hein Hough, regional head of sales, Fuji Film Western Cape.
Special mention and acknowledgment need to be made to the sponsors – Fuji Film South Africa, The Cape Muslim and Slave Heritage Museum, Dog Ear Editions and Framed Master Gilders and Framers.
‘It was an overwhelmingly positive experience,’ mentioned Shamiel Albertyn. The documentary filmmaker and director of photography said that ‘once you are in tune with your faith, you isolate the rest of the world and focus on giving back – the essence of community, positive energy and empowering people.
‘You reach a point where you put ego aside, you humble yourself with ongoing knowledge and use it as a tool to change the narrative.
‘The world needs healing, kindness and care. It requires ordinary citizens to do the extraordinary. We believed that we can use photography as a tool to document what is happening in our communities and, in this way, create awareness of the social challenges we face in society at large.’
Speaking on behalf of the cohort, Mishrah Sonday said, ‘All of the women mentored by #shoot4purpose come from a place where we needed something to help us take the next step in our journey.
‘Photography has opened our world and helped us find appreciation in the small things in life. It has made us walk slower, look at things differently and find beauty in the ordinary and mundane.
‘This has been a journey of self-discovery and has personally empowered me to take on life and its challenges; to find the simplistic beauty that lives everywhere around us. It has been liberating discovering a version of myself and skill that I am so proud of.’