By: Angela Rajic
Photographers Without Borders speaks to Angela Conners about her history as a photographer and her upcoming trip to India to photograph the South Vihar Welfare Society. The organization is dedicated to helping local communities thrive through promoting leadership, rehabilitation, equality, justice and many other core values. The South Vihar Institute seeks to empower individual and communities alike by fostering self-reliance, aid and the preservation of local traditions, among other initiatives.
Angela Conners is set to photograph the organization in action, and shares some of her past experiences and her hopes for the upcoming trip.
How did you first get into photography?
In my freshman year of high school, I met an instructor, Debbie Chessor, whom I later learned would beautifully and drastically change my life. Debbie Chessor taught me not only the art of photography but the passion, heart, and power of photography. She was my mentor, my inspiration and the person who focused me on my mission during those strained teenage years. Ms. Chessor exposed me to shooting not only in the studio, but led me to find ways to express the needs of the community with my camera. From Photo Editor of the yearbook to President of the Photo Club, I was quickly known as the girl with the camera. I have expressed to Ms. Chessor how grateful I am for her teachings and her guidance, but my words are insubstantial to the gifts she gave me. She never gave up, and I will never give up on proving her right as I continue my dream of being a photojournalist.
How did you get involved in social issues?
To be a Photojournalist I believe I have to wear many hats and carry many titles. I have always been interested in politics, history, travel, societal issues and social reformation. I believe that one voice can cause a tidal wave of change in this world. I want to be that one voice and take that one image that changes the minds of a complacent society. I continue to keep an open mind and heart as I submit my work to the world.
What are the social issues closest to your heart?
Equality for women and youth, religious violence, poverty and terrorism - to name a few… SVWST has a strategy to work with the most vulnerable and aid in development of all ages. The organization deals with all the social issues I have listed and more. I am eager to take an active role in this process.
How have you used Photography to help promote these issues in the past?
I have worked for multiple magazines and newspapers. Sometimes my work is very documentary and straightforward to support the article or feature story, but at other times my work is documenting urban rallies, social injustice, violence and it is usually very timely. The work I produce is able to communicate the truth to any audience.
What are some memorable photography experiences of your past?
I have been able to photograph a variety of people from President Barack Obama to Stephen Spielberg, from Jimmy Fallon to Sarah Jessica Parker, but my most memorable experience was when I photographed the children and youth in Cusco, Peru. To photograph such a beautiful culture and capture their innocence was inspiring and refreshing.
Why did you decide to apply to PWB?
I studied Photojournalism at Columbia. It is my true passion. I will submerge myself in this mission and transform my work for the greater good. The focus of SVWS addresses the needs of an impoverished segment of the world that needs a voice. I want my lens to be their voice to the world.
What Interests you about the South Vihar Welfare Society?
The fact that their mission is so near and dear to my heart and the issues that they combat are so necessary in this part of the world: Awareness to combat human trafficking, migration and domestic workers issues. Women, child & youth Issues and livelihood promotion supports the mission to leave these people with skills and confidence that they might not have had before.
What do you believe is the importance of organizations like SVWS that focus on community sustainability and other local-level social issues?
The importance of strategy in this organization means that each individual person will leave with a skill set and a path. I want to assist the people to become independent and to know in their hearts that they are indeed valuable, lovable and capable. They are wonderful people who can make it despite their past and their current beliefs. They are strong. If my photos can capture this message, then I will say, I accomplished my goal.
What are you looking forward to most on your trip?
During this trip I will meet new people, experience a beautiful, foreign land and emerge myself in a completely new culture, but mostly I want to create images that bring change - that bring light and hope to this organization’s staff and all the people currently involved in the process. I hope my images move people to give and support South Vihar Welfare Society’s mission.