By Nick McCallum
A graduate of Columbia College in Chicago, Kelly Wenzel earned a degree in photography with a concentration in photojournalism. She recently signed on with PWB to document the efforts of Pakistan's Thaakat Foundation, in a tiny village known as Kachra Kundi (literally: "garbage dump"). The Thaakat Foundation provides free schooling to 500 children, funding student meals, books, school supplies and staff salaries. The upcoming project takes place from December 4 - December 14, 2015.
Nick McCallum: Hi, Kelly, thanks for taking the time to speak with us! So first off, what got you started in photography, and what sort of photography are you most interested in?
Kelly Wenzel: I first started photographing concerts my freshman year in high school. I was fascinated at how I could capture a split second in time, and that one moment could go on to encompass the whole show. It was then I learned about the importance of light, timing, and motion in photography. When I went off to college and sat down in Steve Liss’ photojournalism class, I realized that I could use photography ... as a tool to give a voice to people with important stories to tell, and to bridge a gap between people. I am most interested in photography that is able to get people engaged with what is going on in the rest of the world and that brings about conscious and effective change for the better.
What do you hope to achieve by documenting the people, places, and/or things that you photograph?
The only outcome I hope my photographs achieve is change. I will be the person behind the camera, but it is the people and places I encounter that will be the voice, and I only hope to do them and their stories justice. If I am able to get people to stop and think about the subject matter of my photographs, I consider that a success. Everything starts with awareness and education.
How did you first hear about the chance to work with PWB?
I first heard about the chance to work with PWB through one of my professors at Columbia, who thought that it would be a good fit for me. After looking into what opportunities PWB offered and the projects they were working on, I was enamored with everything PWB was accomplishing through photography and working with NGOs.
Were you familiar with the Thaakat Foundation prior to joining up with PWB?
Before joining up with PWB I was not familiar with the Thaakat Foundation, but after learning more about the organization and seeing the difference they are making I could not be more proud to be working with such a selfless foundation. The fact that the individuals living in Kachra Kundi had zero access to education prior to the Thaakat Foundation going in and now over 500 children are attending school tells me how important the work they are doing is.
What are you most excited for travelling to document this organization?
Getting to meet the people impacted by the work the Thaakat Foundation is doing, hearing their stories, and learning about their lives is what I am most looking forward to. I want to create photographs that shed light on people who have seemingly been living in the dark, who others have so often overlooked. I want my images to create change and bring awareness to the people living in Kachra Kunchi, emphasizing the work the Thaakat Foundation is providing.
What past photo have you taken are you most proud of? Does it tell a story, or is there a story behind it?
A photograph that I am most proud of is one of two teenagers at Matevesi Secondary School in Arusha, Tanzania. When I arrived at the school these teenagers were so eager to interact and learn. They spend 9 hours a day, from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm learning everything from English to Chemistry. The students at this school come from low-income families, they walk to school everyday, and are determined to learn to better themselves. Seeing the way these teens embrace learning and support each other makes this photo incredibly meaningful to me.
What else would you like to tell our readers who are meeting you for the first time?
One thing I would like readers to know about me is that having this opportunity to work with PWB and the Thaakat Foundation means the world to me. It is easy to talk about the change you want to see, but to be involved in the process and be able to use photography as a tool to bring about awareness is immeasurable. Being able to work with the Thaakat Foundation on a cause that I feel is important to bring to the forefront of people’s mind is just another reason why documenting this project is so paramount. Change only comes when you alter the way people perceive the world.
Kelly and her work with the Thaakat Foundation will be featured in the 5th issue of PWB's highly successful quarterly magazine, which will be released February 2016. Start your collection now by visiting our store today! Our first 4 instalments are out of this world, and would make great gift ideas for friends and family this holiday season!
If you'd like to see more of Kelly's work, you can visit her website here.