Jeff Mikkelson is an award-winning beauty, fashion and fine art photographer based in New York City, with editorial and advertising clients worldwide. He was born and raised in the heartland of the United States and traveled much of the world before settling in New York. He came to photography by a road of many twists and turns. On the way, he earned two degrees in philosophy, learned two skilled trades and plied himself to a variety of strange occupations, including one glorious summer as an octopus fisherman in Greece. He is a journeyman Ironworker, a published philosopher and a reasonably good Scrabble player. In his free time he does kung fu and political activism, though usually not at the same time.
What makes you passionate about helping KARUDECA TANZANIA (https://karudeca.jimdo.com)?
First I want to say what an honor it is to be invited to document Karudeca's amazing work. I’m deeply thankful for the opportunity to participate in such a worthwhile project, and I look forward to working with PWB and Karudeca to produce a visual narrative that does the organization justice. What I find immediately impressive about Karudeca is the holistic approach it takes to development and sustainability. Its broad profile, encompassing environmental and agricultural conservation, education and economic empowerment, seems both ambitious and eminently practical, since these things are intimately related. As a lifelong environmentalist, a former teacher and a current small business owner, these themes resonate with me personally. It’s also important to me that Karudeca originated locally and is run by Tanzanians. No one knows better what a community needs and how to address those needs than those who come from there. As a guest and outsider, I hope to bring a fresh eye to how Karudeca presents itself to the world, but my goal will be to capture the insight, passion and dedication implicit in its mission—to see first, and shoot second.
How do you believe your photography can make a difference for them?
This project presents a unique opportunity for me to use the experience and expertise that I've developed over the course of my career as a professional photographer in a new way, and for a different purpose. In my editorial and advertising work I've developed a keen appreciation for how powerful images can be, not just in producing emotion, but in creating context and understanding—a narrative lens through which to view world. I hope to apply these skills to one of the most basic needs of any organization: capturing what it does in an appealing but accurate way that not only illuminates its purpose and process, but also presents its best face to the world. With an organization like Karudeca, its own story is its best marketing tool. I hope to tell that story to the world in a way that highlights the nobility of its mission and attracts the kind of attention and investment it deserves.
What message would you like to send to your supporters?
In my life and career I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy the love and support of too many people to count—family, friends, teachers, colleagues, clients and fellow travelers on the road. This project is an amazing opportunity for me to give back by donating my time, skills, equipment and experience as a professional photographer to a worthy cause. Karudeca does vital work for children and communities in Tanzania by fostering education, environmental and agricultural conservation, and economic empowerment. I look forward to telling Karudeca's story in a way that does justice to its mission and provides it with the visual tools it needs to present itself to the world, thereby continuing and expanding the incredible work it does. I hope you’ll join me on this journey by donating to the project. Anything you can manage, including your moral support, would be immensely appreciated—by me, but more importantly by the many individuals who are touched by the noble service that Karudeca and Photographers Without Borders perform.