In The Field: Nonprofit Photography

NatureLock farmer David Chege on his farm with his son

If you’ve ever perused FINCA’s website, seen our social media, or received an email from us, you may have wondered to yourself: How does FINCA get all of these stunning photos? I myself had wondered this prior to joining FINCA three years ago. And the answer to that will take you behind the scenes in the field of nonprofit photography.

Behind the Scenes in Uganda and Kenya

Earlier this year, I was assigned to travel to Uganda and Kenya for two weeks. While there, I met with FINCA clients, staff and partners on the ground. The goal of my trip was to document how FINCA is making an impact. To do this, I traveled with a photographer and went into the field each day to see a different FINCA program or partner and meet the men and women most affected by our work. I spoke with these individuals to learn about their stories, and the photographer took pictures documenting their lives.

Behind the scenes at an interview in the field with Eneza.
Behind the scenes at an interview in the field with Eneza Education.

A Day In The Life of Nonprofit Photography

Most days in the field began at 6 am or earlier. With the best natural light in the morning, we often planned to head into the field by 7 am. Typically, at this time we would meet someone from the program or partner organization we were visiting that day who would accompany us throughout the day. We would then drive to either the partner’s location or their clients’ homes. Sometimes this meant driving over an hour to a different part of the city or outside the city completely. Once on-site, our guide for the day would introduce us to the local staff or the clients. At this point, after explaining the purpose of our visit, we would begin the interview process.

Some days we would meet just three or four people. Other days we would meet a dozen or more. The people we met and interviewed included FINCA staff, partner staff, FINCA microfinance clients, partner clients, clients’ families, and sometimes even clients’ customers if they owned a business. The interview process could last anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour depending on the person being interviewed, their story, and how comfortable they were talking with us. Many times, our guide would not only make introductions but also translate for us. However, many people spoke English and were comfortable conversing with us without a translator.

The How and Why of Nonprofit Photography

After conducting the interview, the photographer would begin her work. Nonprofit photography is a bit like photojournalism. The subjects are not models, and many weren’t accustomed to being in front of a camera.

To do her job effectively, the photographer listened in during each interview and often asked questions of her own. She aimed to build a rapport with each person and make them more comfortable. She then photographed each person in a place, with an item or doing something they had expressed pride in. For many people, this was their family. People were proud of their children, spouses, parents, etc. for everything they had achieved. For others, it was their business and all they’d accomplished or overcome. For one girl, it was her goat. For another man, it was his delivery vehicle. It didn’t necessarily matter what it was, but it was clear that when people were talking about or with whatever it was that fulfilled them, they were the most comfortable and we would get the best photos.

Nonprofit photography captures Jibu driver, Ramathan's, pride in his delivery vehicle.
Jibu driver, Ramathan Katongole, poses with his delivery vehicle.

Regardless of whether we spent fifteen minutes or two hours with a person, we focused on gathering information and photographs that conveyed what each individual had accomplished and took pride in. Stories of empowerment and upliftment are extremely important at FINCA. We as an organization aim to provide people with access to the resources they need to lift themselves out of poverty. We want the stories and photographs of the people we serve to convey their hard work, determination, and everything they’ve accomplished. Our goal is to share stories that uplift and inspire our audiences.

After a Day in The Field

Some days we were in the field for 12 hours straight and didn’t get back to our hotel until 7pm. After being on our feet and constantly on-the-go all day, the photographer and I would usually eat a large dinner and retire to our rooms early. She would back up her photos and I would backup my audio recordings so I could transcribe them later. After that, I would go to sleep knowing I’d wake up and start the whole day over again. Another day learning even more about the extent of FINCA’s impact through the eyes of the individuals we serve and capturing their unique stories through nonprofit photography.