How Photography and Travel Can Change the World: Photographers Without Borders
Photographers Without Borders is a not-for-profit organization based in Toronto, Canada and a registered charity in the United States with 501(c)(3) status. They consist of over 500 photographers, have worked in over 30 countries and have completed over 100 projects to date. Their images are published in places such as United Nations Handbooks and National Geographic. We recently interviewed their CEO Danielle Da Silva to discuss how photography and travel can come together to make the world a better place.
What inspired you to start Photographers Without Borders?
After a trip to India in 2008 where I worked with an organization that gives free health care and education to the Dalit and indigenous communities and was so impacted by the work that I wanted to do more when I got home. Trying to explain the importance of the work to my friends and family was not easy. I would find myself having to explain the caste system, and why this is such an important endeavour given the social and cultural context. But once I showed people images, I could see the instant click going off in people’s minds as the stories came to life. In the end we raised enough money to build 9 schools. PWB was registered the year after the trip in 2009.
More than anything this taught me that images and video are such an important tool for sharing and exchanging, and connecting to global communities, and that this can have a big impact for grassroots NGOs that otherwise couldn’t afford this type of quality multimedia.
How do visual communications encourage people to become involved in social missions?
Moving people emotionally to some kind of action and remind them of their power through images and video. We aren’t just telling any story, we’re telling stories that have the potential to serve as tangible examples for others around the world, helping these ideas gather support, and playing a part in healing through telling stories. In the process we help ourselves and the world to find a sense of alignment, which I think is very important.
What has been a highlight so far from your work with NGO’s around the world?
My work in Sumatra and my recent work documenting a project in India are clear standouts. In 2015 I documented the work of the Sumatran Orangutan Society and quickly became friends with the Executive Director. Now I’m helping to found the Sumatran Wildlife Sanctuary. More recently in early 2017 I documented the work of Sambhali Trust in India, an organization that works to empower women through various means.
What is your favorite travel movie/book/poem/quote (chose at least one, or however many you’d like)?
“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” – Gloria Steinem
What has been your favorite responsible travel experience?
Nowadays I only have time to travel for work, which means I’m constantly visiting new NGOs and documenting their work. Every one of these experiences has been enriching in some way.
What advice do you have for our readers about how to have a positive impact on the communities they visit?
Be prepared to learn and unlearn. Take ethical photographs, leave nothing but footprints. Take an interest in the local language, customs, dress. The best experiences I’ve ever had are choosing to give back while travelling.
What do you do in your daily life to live more sustainably?
I eat a vegetarian diet, buy carbon offsets and buy less. Starting the Sumatran Wildlife Sanctuary, which seeks to conserve a large chunk of rainforest.
What photography travel gadgets can you not live without?
I am trying to be more minimal with my gear and packing. I have a small bag in which I carry two camera bodies, 3 lenses, a laptop, two backup drives, sound equipment, chargers, batteries, memory cards, lens cleaners, filters, and a rain hood (a glorified plastic bag).
How has the work of Photographers Without Borders aligned with the UN Millennium Development Goals?
We choose to work with grassroots organisations that are targeting issues within the UN MDGs.
How is Photographers Without Borders supporting the UN Year of Sustainable travel?
We offer very unique opportunities to photographers and videographers making an impact, and we offer incredible workshops that will not only improve one’s photography and storytelling, but will change one’s perspective.
How do you hope the PWB partnership with Visit.org will help you personally “see through a new lens”?
I think a partnership between PWB and visit.org will be monumental for both parties. There is strong synergy and it excites me to think of the possibilities.