A few years ago, photographer Jamara Knight and her partner Shawn Casey spent three months living and volunteering in a Tanzanian orphanage. Though her primary job was to teach English, Jamara also went to Tanzania prepared to work on a photography project with the orphans, both shooting photos herself and having the kids shoot their own photos. She’d lugged along a suitcase full of 35mm film cameras donated to her by community members in her then-home Durham, North Carolina.
The photo project started small. Jamara taught the children about angles, light, and composition. She brought in example photographs so they could get an idea of the sorts of images they liked. Eventually the 12-16 year olds got cameras in hand and were set free to document their lives. The idea behind the project—one pioneered by documentary photographer Wendy Ewald—is that putting cameras in the hands of young people and teaching them the basics of creating images can serve as a catalyst for self-expression and self-understanding.
When Jamara got back to the U.S., she put together a show with a mix of her photographs and those of the kids she worked with. The work was shown in a few galleries and used in elementary schools as a way to introduce students to a new culture. I happen to know all this because I tried to write an article on Jamara and her work in 2009. I met her at her first show in Durham, worked on the piece, and pitched it around to several magazines. Unfortunately it never got picked up (such is the reality of freelancing sometimes). I thought that was probably the end of the story as far as Jamara and I went, but she recently contacted me to let me know she’s a finalist for a National Geographic photography contest and needs as many votes as she can muster. She’s currently sitting in second by about 150 votes, so she’s got a real chance at the grand prize.
Jamara is good people, so I’m soliciting you the reader–even, hell especially, if you just happened to stumble across this blog looking for beet pesto or a D.I.Y. headset press–to go help her out. As you might guess by the title, voting ends March 10 so don’t put this off!
- Go to http://www.nationalgeographic.com/chasesapphire/ (yes it’s sponsored by a shitty bank, but it’s still National Geo at least!)
- Click on “Vote Now”
- You have to register to vote, but it’s quick. The number of required fields that you have to fill out to register is absurdly intrusive, but savvy internet user that you are, I probably don’t need to remind you to be smart about what you share in the required fields.
- When you’re done registering click the “vote” button bellow Jamara’s photo which is titled “Dust Dance” (and is not the photo above, just to be clear).
You’ll see your vote counted right away and you can feel good about helping a good person earn an amazing trip to Peru through their great photo work.