Non-profit Communications Awards – Outreach International

I’ve recently returned from an assignment in Guatemala for Outreach International, I’ll post more on this at a later date, but I wanted to share some news which I received yesterday. Outreach International has a small communications and marketing team which works tirelessly to produce materials to inform its donors of the work they are involved in around the world. Back in my corporate days I worked alongside businesses who had marketing budgets dwarfing that of Outreach International, yet the quality of publications from this relatively small non-profit organisation easily matches and often exceeds the big guys. Yesterday, they received no less than 5 awards at the Philly Awards for their excellence in non-profit communication.  Two awards were given for their gift catalogue as best fundraising and best marketing campaigns.  A further 1st place award was given to the My Story campaign for best informational material.  They received a 2nd place award for the annual report and finally they were awarded Best of Show to top it all off.  There were over 185 entries to the competition, some very large charities submitted their work so these awards are certainly something to be proud of.

I’m so pleased for the team at Outreach International as I know how hard they work to increase donor giving. It’s also nice for me as a photographer to see my images being used prominently in these publications but ultimately the magazines, articles, reports and photographs are there to highlight the fantastic work which is being done in the field. The publications in themselves mean very little to the thousands of people Outreach International are helping day-in, day-out around the world, but without these marketing efforts the funds cannot be generated to provide the amazing, life-changing work in some of the world’s poorest communities.

I offer my personal congratulations to all at Outreach International for their efforts and I look forward to working with them in the future.

 

 

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A Tribute to Humanitarian Workers

I’ve often said that although I take photographs for humanitarian organisations, that in itself doesn’t make me a humanitarian. For me, the true humanitarians are those individuals who work tirelessly to improve the lives of people who struggle everyday; many never receive the recognition for the work they do. I’ve had the privilege of meeting some incredible individuals as I’ve travelled for my work, many of them I now call friends. The movie and gaming industries churn out lots of fictional characters who are deemed to be super-heroes but through my assignments I have seen real life heroes who are having an amazing impact on the lives of families and communities where they work. The purpose of this post is simply to offer my gratitude and respect to the people and organisations who work to change lives for the better, without them this world would be a whole lot worse than it is.  However, these people are often only able to do what they do because of donations made by you and me so I’d urge you to continue your support to whatever organisation you choose. I’ve chosen a handful of photos taken over this last year of some of the humanitarian workers I’ve had the privilege of working beside, to these people, and to the thousands of others I offer my heart-felt thanks.

Christmas is but a few days away and I have to admit that it’s one of my favourite times of year, a time of being with family and friends and a time of giving. It won’t be long before I head out to Haiti again and I’m already starting to get my head in gear for that trip, but as I do I find myself thinking about those people in Haiti and many other countries around the world who don’t have the means to have such lavish celebrations as I’m able to enjoy. Having said that, I remember my time in the Philippines at the end of 2009 where many of the community members had their simple Christmas decorations proudly on display and were looking forward to the festivities. I remember listening to the brass band of General Tinio playing carols which seemed quite surreal to me as it was incredibly hot and I’ve only ever experienced Christmas here in the UK where it’s cold. What I came to realise after that trip was that Christmas can still be enjoyed and celebrated even though a person may live in poverty. I hope that all who choose to celebrate this festival over the coming days will have their spirit lifted.

 

Photography by Wayne Rowe / Visioning Images

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One Comment

Photo by Wayne Rowe / Visioning Images – Copyright outreach-international.org

A few weeks ago I met with an aid organisation to discuss the possibility of working with them on some future projects. During the discussion I was told that my images portrayed too much hope, lots of other aspects of my work were discussed but for some reason that one comment seemed to hit me between the eyes and linger in my mind for several days, even weeks after. Why did that one comment have such an impact? I suppose it’s partly because I’ve set my stall out with my humanitarian work to capture and express the hope which I find in situations where there seems to be very little. I grew up seeing images on the television of African children with bloated stomachs and flies gravitating around their saddened faces and I think I became anaesthetised to the situations these images were portraying. So when I started my humanitarian photographic work I made a conscious decision to try and show the resolve and determination of those people who are striving to make life better for themselves.   Therefore, the comment I received hit that straight on….my images portray too much hope.

It was only a few days ago that another photographer, one that I have an incredible amount of respect and admiration for, also received a comment through his blog which seemed to hit a nerve.  David DuChemin is not only a very talented photographer, he also produces high quality blog posts which serve the photographic community on many related issues. On this occasion, David wrote a post during a difficult few days of shooting where he basically felt a drought within his creative reservoir and openly wrote about it on his blog. He will often receive a large number of comments on his posts but one individual left a comment which crtiticised him over his “exhausting angst”. Even though all the other 70+ comments he received were very supportive, that one negative remark seemed to strike a nerve.

The upshot is that if you do anything long enough within the public domain, at some point you’re going to receive some form of criticism.

The psychology of criticism is complex and I’m certainly not qualified to expound on that but I often spend time analysing myself and my thought processes enough to make some simple observations. Firstly, I really don’t think that anyone actually likes criticism, even though I’ve heard many people say that they welcome it. Secondly, the important factor is how I deal with criticism and my ability to use it constructively to potentially inform me of improvements which can be made in the future. Since my days in the corporate world I have acquired broad shoulders and learnt how to manage criticism (although it doesn’t always prevent the odd comment from slipping through my net).  Here’s a few pointers I have adopted over the years which have helped to serve me well in handling criticism.

Consider the source – there’s constructive criticism and there’s downright bad criticism. You have to consider that some people may simply just have it in for you, maybe they woke up on the wrong side of the bed or had an argument that morning with their spouse, who knows, and it doesn’t matter what you do or say they’ll say something that hurts. It’s not nice but it’s life I’m afraid and all you can do is ignore their comments, their ego is low and it needs elevating somehow. However, there are people out there who know a lot about your area of work and you’d do well to take any advice they have to offer very seriously even if it has been said in an unkind way.

Are there any truths to their observations? – It’s very difficult to be objective when our pride has taken a beating but it is certainly worth considering if there is truth in what is being said.  If so, these truths may serve you well in the future as you look to improve on your craft and ask how can this help me be better than I was before?

Be objective – I’ve already mentioned above how difficult it sometimes is to be objective in these situations and our natural reaction is to take the comments personally. But taking out the personal bias can help you see the point they are making.

How can it improve my work? – Art forms are always going to be subjective, some people will like what you do and others won’t, but it shouldn’t stop you from trying to improve on what you’ve done before, even if it’s only you who recognises that improvement. So does the critical comment offer any suggestions as to how improvements can be made? After evaluating the comment you may find that new doors are opened before you as you improve upon your work.

Use it as a form of motivation – On a couple of occasions at school I was told that I’d thrown my life away by some of my actions and these comments could quite easily have crippled me but instead I used them as a form of motivation. I was going to prove them wrong, it took a lot of determination and hard work but they were definitely proved to be incorrect in their observation due to a motivational drive to succeed. Criticism can be a strong motivational power which can really help you.

Find the good – it’s unusual for everything within the criticism to be negative, there’s often some good within there but we tend to be clouded by the negative aspects to such an extent that we brush past the positive elements.

You may have noticed that the image above from my recent assignment in Africa doesn’t particularly exude a sense of hope, so have I turned my back on my original focus of hopeful images? Absolutely not. However, following the critical comment I received a few weeks ago I realised that I needed to be open to capture other images which may prove to be beneficial to my client in the future. Will they use this image and others of a similar nature? I don’t know but they will certainly have a wider portfolio to choose from. In Africa, I occasionally found myself looking for different types of images and I think this is an improvement on before.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I like criticism but I certainly welcome comments which may help me in the future. Feel free to leave a comment if you have found ways of handling criticism, or indeed let me know if you disagree with what I’ve said…..but please be gentle!

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