By Christine Hogg
Photographers Without Borders journalist Christine Hogg spoke with New York-based photographer and documentary artist Claudia Quigua about her upcoming trip to Cambodia, on behalf of Grace House and Photographers Without Borders.
Tell me more about the project you will be partaking in?
As volunteer photographer, I’ll be documenting the inspiring stories and encouraging work behind Grace House Community Center. This is an organization that’s supporting rural families in Cambodia by offering opportunities to learn vocational, craft and language skills, and also encourage inclusion of children with disabilities in Siem Reap Province by enabling them to receive specialized education and a safe, caring environment. I strongly believe in the power of education and that’s why Grace House caught my attention for their the main purpose of empowering these families to become self-sufficient.
What was the selection process like?
I came across to Photographers Without Borders over a year ago when I was looking for organizations that are working towards positive and social change through the power of images. I saw the many interesting opportunities PWB offers to volunteer all over the world with all kind of NGOs and I didn’t hesitate to apply. Just a few months ago, I received an email notifying me that I was selected for an interview to know more about my experience and
personality. It went great and I even had the chance to choose where I wanted to volunteer. The process is designed to match the best photographer/videographer with the appropriate project for the organizations in need.
How did the idea for this project develop?
The idea for this project was inspired by one of the most challenging and enjoyable projects I’ve ever done which was producing and directing a 24 continuous hours film in Cali, Colombia for the Global Lives Project in 2013. GLP is a video library of life experiences, designed to cultivate empathy across cultures. After this experience, I realized that the kind of work that fulfils me the most is the one that connects my passion for traveling, photography and my joy of working with people to express the stories which need to be told, shared and heard.
What story are you aiming to tell through your project?
The story I aim to tell is the one that generates cross-cultural understanding and thought-provoking imagery, to help give a voice to people who may not have one. I want to highlight through my work the stories that motivate us to do the changes that not only we want to see, but also those we want to be a part of in the world.
What kinds of footage/imagery do you hope to document from Grace House?
For this project, my main tool will be photography instead of video. As a visual artist, I define which medium will work best for me depending on the time, budget and crew and I think photography will be a more subtle and less intimidating tool to connect with this time.
How do you plan on using new media technologies to spearhead change or social action?
New media technologies are a magnificent way to spread the word these days, and visual content with a direct call to action have become more relevant in online social media platforms. New media is mostly driven with visual communication and I really believe that helps to connect people with noble causes. The biggest challenge is to make it viral to attract as many people as possible and a way to achieve it is to reach out specialized media outlets that might be interested to promote the work of Grace House and PWB represented in my images.
Is there a particular challenge you anticipate upon arriving in Cambodia?
The challenges that I anticipate upon arriving in Cambodia are quite similar to my past experience while working in a country in process of development. In terms of safety, I think there are always risks that nobody is exempt but it can be reduced and prevented by taking the right measures. In terms of language barriers, I’m trying to learn the basic sentences that I think could be useful for me at the time to connect with the locals but there’s always universal ways to communicate, such as through music, smiles and good gestures that can be helpful to break the ice.
As a visual artist, what are you hoping to communicate most to your audience?
What I’m hoping to communicate most to the audience is empathy. When you put yourself in someone else's shoes, there’s not judging at all. What really happens is a bigger understanding that make us compassionate and when our emotions are awake, we’re more likely to take action.
To donate to Claudia's project, click here