World Vision Photographer Lucy Aulich greets children in Malawi
In my last two years working as a photographer for World Vision, the small screen on the back of the camera has been a blessing.
Interviewing families about their daily struggle to provide food for their children is a difficult part of my work. It must seem strange to them that a bunch of us ‘Mzungus’ would spend a day listening to their stories about the drought, or the missing roof on their house, or their daughter being bullied because her mother can’t afford a school uniform.
After hearing about their plight I want to show the family their dignity. I want to see the mother smile, her daughter feel at ease and to show the strength that enables them to keep on ploughing the fields and fetching the water day after day. The tool I have to do this is the small screen on the back of my camera. I can take portraits, beautiful photos that allow them to show how they live and what they lack but also how proud they are. I can show them another version of themselves just by looking in the back of a camera.
Showing people their image can also create a shared moment. In Rwanda, Obed and his brother Ishimael, tolerated me for a few hours and then posed with balloons in front of their face claiming ‘they were photographers’.
Cyprien and his family kept thanking me using the ‘thumbs up’ to show how grateful they were to see evidence of their success, the bags of wheat, goats and photos of their crops. Having turned his life around with World Vision’s help, his family could look forward to a better future and education.
For James in Malawi, a photograph meant celebrity status and proof that he had made something of himself. His aim had been to marry a girl with dreadlocks and to be photographed at his wedding. After taking his portrait for the 40 Hour Famine Campaign I returned a few months later with the Youth Ambassadors. I gave him the photo and watched as the recognition of who it was flickered across his face.
The small screen on the back of the camera hides my emotion, but allows me to build trust. I can make kids laugh and marvel at their own image and to try to break down that barrier between me and them.
Lucy Aulich is a photographer for World Vision Australia.