Freelance Photographer Prepares For Experience Of A Lifetime In Uganda

By: Christine Hogg

Photographers Without Borders Journalist Christine Hogg spoke with freelance photographer Sarah Tobi, better known as just Tobi, about her upcoming trip to Uganda to work with Village Health Project. Village Health Project was formed by a group of students in 2006 after a University of Wisconsin-Madison field study trip to Uganda. Upon returning, the students felt compelled to make a difference in the lives of Ugandans. Organizational projects include the construction of rain water collection tanks, BioSand water filters and maka pads (sanitary pads), along with assisting in the sales of jewelry made by young mothers and construction of school buildings and gardens.

    Christine Hogg: Why did you sign up for the project in Uganda with Village Health Project? What inspired you?

    Tobi: I really like that this was a program started by students.  It is so beautiful to see the change they have made for this community and I am excited to learn more about them while helping them expand with my photography. 

    A woman from the Tripura tribe in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, using natural materials to dye the hand spun cotton. // PHOTO BY: TOBI ANN

    A woman from the Tripura tribe in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, using natural materials to dye the hand spun cotton. // PHOTO BY: TOBI ANN

    As a freelance photojournalist, what has been your most inspiring trip to date? Have you been to other parts of Africa before?

    I frequently shoot for a small company called the Tripty Project and my most inspiring trip to date was two years ago while I was shooting for them in Bangladesh. They took me to photograph a small textile factory in Dhaka where they were working with the factory workers. It was a rehab facility for women who were affected by the Rana Plaza collapse. Many of them had been injured in the disaster and some still lived with their injuries. Because of that (and naturally the shock they received from the tragedy), it was hard for them to get new jobs and provide for their children. This factory provided work, training and a safe, caring facility to work in. Seeing them work with smiles on their faces while making positive changes in their life, all in spite of the hardships their culture offers them, really inspired me to push myself to my limits in an effort to do something positive in the world. I have not been to Africa yet but look forward to the opportunity! 

    Do you actively participate in projects like this, or do you travel on more of a freelance basis? 

    I am a full-time freelancer in different areas of the photography industry and have travelled extensively to volunteer or explore the world.  

    Three men working in the boat yard in Old Dhaka. They spend the day hammering the sides of the ship looking for soft rusted metal.//PHOTO BY: TOBI ANN

    Three men working in the boat yard in Old Dhaka. They spend the day hammering the sides of the ship looking for soft rusted metal.//PHOTO BY: TOBI ANN

    What do you love about freelance journalism/photography?    

     A worker in the boat yard in Old Dhaka showing off his betel nut dyed tongue. similar to chewing tabacco, the betel nut is a common social practice in dhaka. // photo by tobi ann.

     A worker in the boat yard in Old Dhaka showing off his betel nut dyed tongue. similar to chewing tabacco, the betel nut is a common social practice in dhaka. // photo by tobi ann.

    I love to meet new people and hear and share their stories. I also like to travel and experience new things. So If I can do that while using my photography to help someone who is trying to make a difference in the world, I am very satisfied. 

    Is there a particular story you are hoping to capture in your images for this trip?

    I am really interested in their Biodigester systems! I have heard about using natural waste to create energy but have never seen it put to use. I am excited to see how it is working. 

    Your images of people are very captivating. When you photograph people, what qualities do you aim to display back to your audience?

    Thank you, I am glad to hear that! I have always had a passion for portrait photography; I love taking a personality and really drawing it out with the subject’s pose or surroundings. I guess the quality expressed depends on who they are and why I am taking their picture, but all in all I want to show honesty.

     A woman from the Tanchangya tribe in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh spins cotton that will later be used by the Tripura for weavings. // PHOTO By TOBI ANN.

     A woman from the Tanchangya tribe in the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh spins cotton that will later be used by the Tripura for weavings. // PHOTO By TOBI ANN.

    Do you anticipate any challenges on this trip?

    Every project has such radically different challenges and it’s hard to anticipate them in advance! I just like to keep an open state of mind so I can adapt to different contexts and cultures.  

    What are you most excited for once arriving in Uganda?

    Meeting the people I am working with and seeing their village life.

    To support Tobi's trip with Village Health, click here

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