At the start of February, I will be embarking on a journey to shoot three different personal projects in Sulawesi and Sumatra, all of which will support development and conservation efforts in these locations. Why do I call them personal projects? Because I have not commissioned to shoot these stories - they are of great personal interest and concern to me and are stories that I think should be shared.
In Makassar, Sulawesi, I will be working on two separate projects. The first will be to document the lives of a group of families that live on a 'Trash Mountain' – Makassar's municipal dump. These people make a living by searching through the tonnes of rubbish that is dumped there every day, recycling anything of value. Children and adults work, and even live, in this horrendous environment. The Sacred Childhoods Foundation has been working with these families for some years and has set up a 'Slum School' to give the children and families an opportunity to break out of the cycle of poverty through education. This shoot will also form part of a long-term project I am working on – Fighting the Tide – Waste in Indonesia…
The second story in Makassar will focus on the residents of the Jongaya Leprosy Settlement. Over 2,000 people now live there, of which close to 600 have leprosy. In Indonesia, like many other places in the world, sufferers of this disease are mainly shunned by other people, including their friends and families, and victims of this disease are forced to try and scratch a living as best they can – most often by begging. At the Jongaya settlement the residents have a chance to lead a more normal life. They have set up their own support groups, run micro-finance and savings schemes and their own businesses, and are supported by several different organisations. However, there is still a stigma associated with this disease and so my role will be to produce images that can be used for educational purposes – to show the people of Makassar and beyond that sufferers of leprosy are not 'cursed' or 'evil', but instead are just normal people afflicted by a disease. Read an article about Jongaya here.
The last project will be in Sumatra, where I will be working with the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. The SOCP rescues and rehabilitates illegally held pet orangutans, strives to conserve remaining populations of wild orangutans and their habitat, and promotes conservation and awareness through education. My main role will be to focus on the SOCP quarantine centre where former pets are treated and rehabilitated prior to release, a new release site close to Banda Aceh, and the work being done to protect peat swamp areas from illegal clearance.
Why am I doing this?
The end result for each project will be a collection of images that will be made available to each of the different organisations, as well as photo features that I hope to get published. However, the ultimate purpose of this trip is it to help the people or animals that are central to these stories – the 'Trash Mountain' story will be used to raise awareness and funds to support the 'Slum School', the images from Jongaya will be used for educational purposes to help reduce the stigma of leprosy and the work with the SOCP will help promote orangutan and peat swamp conservation.
Help me to help others
I will not be paid for any of this work, nor will my expenses be covered by the organisations I am working for. Instead I am going to try something new; an experiment. Crowd-funding. What I would like to do is give people the chance to contribute towards the cost of this project, in return for a print of their choice and the chance to be part of the editing process as I select images that will used in the final features. Think of it as pre-ordering a print and by doing so, supporting these different projects through the work I am doing as a photographer.
What will this trip cost?
I am budgeting roughly £1200 or $1950 for the entire shoot, broken down as follows:
How can you contribute, and what do you get in return?
Contributors of £75 / $115 will get the opportunity to help me edit the final selection of images for each feature. Using my online Photoshelter archive, I will upload selections of images and together we will decide which images will go into the finished feature – your thoughts and ideas will help shape the end result. All contributors will also get email updates of the project and receive a credit – and massive thanks – here on my site. Each print will be signed and will come with a hand-written description of the image and project.
All donations can be made safely and securely through PayPal – simply send your donation to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your postal address – I will need it for the postagram.
Contributions will not be used to pay for any salary, just the day-to-day costs and travel expenses.
Can you help in any other way?
If you feel you cannot or don't want to contribution financially, you can still help me by sharing this post with your family, friends, work mates, Facebook contacts and twitter followers. Link to it on your Facebook. Tweet it out. Tell your colleagues at lunch about what I am trying to do and why. I am passionate about telling stories through my photography and by contributing towards this project, you will be helping me to explore some important issues.
To save you time, I have prepared a shortened link to this blog post – simply copy and paste this to your twitter or Facebook page – http://bit.ly/x6nXyV
Please help spread the word!
UPDATE 24/1/12 – As of this morning, I have managed to raise nearly £900 towards my target. A huge thanks to all my contributors so far! I still have a week or more to go, so please share this post wherever you can. Thank you!
UPDATE 25/1/12 – I have received a few very valid comments regarding accountability/transparency. This crowd-funding exercise was mainly aimed at people that knew me, or with whom I have had some contact with in the past. In other words, they trust me to make good use of their contributions. However I should also state that I will be accounting for all my expenses as I travel, and any excess, plus any contributions made over my total once the project has finished, will be passed on to the organisations in question. I think this will be the fairest way to deal with any excess funds, should I be lucky enough to find myself in that situation.