Photos for Forgotten People in Tanzania

Gilles Nicolet

Award-winning photographer Gilles Nicolet has been working almost exclusively in Africa for the past 35 years, spending a great deal of time in Somalia, Tanzania and West Africa. Completely self-taught, his work has graced the pages of major magazines around the world, including Smithsonian, National Geographic, GEO and Paris-Match. GivePhotos, with the help of Fujifilm provided him with an Instax wide camera and film to share his photography. Gilles chose to  travel to the Neema Crafts Centre in Iringa, Tanzania which was founded in 2003 by the Diocese of Ruaha to provide training and job opportunities for people with disabilities. Disabled people are often stigmatized and overlooked in Tanzanian society, and Gilles felt it important to give back to this community. You can learn more about Neema Crafts by visiting their website. You can follow Gilles on Instagram @gillesnicolet or learn more about his incredible photography here.


Joseph went to a school for the deaf. He started making paper from elephant dung in a workshop at Neema Crafts in Tanzania. As one of its oldest members, he now teaches other differently abled people to do the same. Neema Crafts has helped him acquire and build a disability friendly home. His special sign name was once a gesture which meant “hunchback”. His new sign-name translates as “strength”.  (Photo and text by Gilles Nicolet)

You are a professional photographer, was your experience of giving photos different from your experience as a professional photographer? What motivated you to do it?

As a professional photojournalist, I was always running from moment to moment, so that the perfect combination of light, event and essence wouldn’t escape me. To use an Instant Camera is a different photographic experience. I was not taking pictures of events, rather of people. It allowed me to talk to the subjects, ask them where they wanted to be photographed, why and gave me a little insight into who they were.

My motivation was the slower pace of the GivePhotos project, having the chance to chat with my subjects and reflect on choices – place, subject, person.

gilles_shukuru and godfrey

Shukuru (32) and Godfrey (30) work as waiters at Neema crafts. They are thick friends who are both mute and deaf. They each  met their wives at Neema. They have been to special schools and have participated in several crafts manufacturing sessions before serving customers at the Neema Crafts coffee shop. They decided to put the Instax photo on the kitchen wall where they work. (Photo and text by Gilles Nicolet)

Can you share some memorable stories with us of your experience giving photos?

A group of school girls were walking by when I was photographing someone in Southern Tanzania. They were amazed at how “instantly”these pictures were produced. It gave rise to giggles and whispers. I approached them and asked if they would like a group photo —- an opportunity they quickly embraced. I’m not sure who will keep the picture but they now have a memory to cherish from the day when they saw this weird machine produce instant photos!


Lillian and her friends look at the photo. (Photo by Gilles Nicolet)


What photography equipment do you usually use?

In the days of film, I used a Nikon F5 with a combination of lenses. It was easily one of the best cameras ever made. Today, my photography is less cumbersome and I use a Sony A7Rii with a 35mm and a 85mm. It has an amazing captor, making a world of a difference in the digital renditions. I shoot only black and white now and the Sony allows me to get pretty close to film.

gilles_1_mariam mgimwa

Mariam Mgimwa is a shopkeeper and cashier at Neema Crafts, in the town of Iringa in Southern Tanzania. She used to work at a stationery store where her salary depended on the state of business, which meant she always lived in uncertainty. Now, at Neema Crafts, not only has she found a deserving salary, but a new and inspiring work ethic is helping Mariam discover new skills and talents. (Photo and text by Gilles Nicolet)

Do you have any suggestions for people who would like to give photos?

Know the stories, talk to your subject, let them tell you where they want to be photographed. If the moment touches them, not only will they keep the picture; they will have a memory, a story to behold for along time.


Sererti Sinyagwa is 30 years old. She was born in a Maasai family and lost her legs in a fire at the tender age of two weeks. Her parents never told her what really happened that day. She received a wheelchair at the age of 9, from the Salvation Army. She completed her education and is today an accountant for Neema Crafts, an organisation making laudable efforts and changes to assist people with disabilities in Southern Tanzania. (Photo and text by Gilles Nicolet)

Sharing Memories in Sri Lanka and Mexico

gabrielaGabriela Haurie and Marcial Rodriguez

Gabriela and Marcial are passionate world travelers. Based in Barcelona, they take two or three trips a year. It was on a trip to Sri Lanka where they first started giving photos. For their recent trip to Mexico’s Yucatán region GivePhotos donated film to give away to the locals who experience very high rates of poverty. You can see their beautiful photographs on Instagram @siemprehaciaeloeste and read about their adventures on their travel blog Siempre Hacia El Oeste 


When did you start giving photos? 

We started giving photos on our trip to Sri Lanka on August 2016.


What motivated you to do it?

We have been photographing people on all our trips. Unfortunately, we have left many places with the bad feeling of not having access to a printer to make a copy of the files that were kept in our cameras and share those pictures with the people we met.

We tried to send the pictures once we were back in Spain but sometimes the addresses we had were difficult to recognize for the postal service and sometimes people did not have a proper address. We have been uploading most of the photos on our blog and we try to share it with the people we meet, but some people do not have access to an internet connection.

That is why we started to share the pictures taken with the Fujifilm Instax.


What equipment do you use and why? 

We use the Fujifilm Instax 90 for giving the photos and a Fuji XPro1 for the rest. We chose the XPro1 because it’s kind of a perfect camera for travelling. It’s small, light, it has a nice collection of prime lenses and it goes pretty unnoticed compared with other bigger systems.


Can you share one memorable story with us about your experience sharing photos? 

It is not easy to choose only one, but I think the moments with kids are the funniest. Last summer we have been in Sri Lanka where we had a beautiful experience with some kids and their mothers. We arrived to a church on a Sunday at the end of the sermon. All the community was there. We took out our Fujifilm Instax camera and started taking pictures for the kids. They were crazy about it. They kept coming and coming several times to ask for a new picture for his brother, sister, friend… They were really excited. It was a very rewarding moment. And then, all their mothers got closer to us and asked if we could took a photo with their babies next to the church or the virgin. Finally they invited us to have lunch with them.


Do you have any suggestions for people who would like to give photos?

Do not leave your Instax camera or printer in your room just because you think you’re not going to meet anyone to give a photo to that day. As it happens with photography, you simply cannot foresee when you’ll get a good chance to take a great picture. Opportunities are all out there!

On our last trip to Mexico we met in Mérida two old men that were working on a sewing workshop. They were around 80-90 years old and had a lot of clothes to repair and sew. Marcial asked if we could take a photo of them and then we started to talk for like an hour or so. That day I left the Instax camera in the room because I thought we’re not going to meet anyone in Merida’s city center to give away photos. I regretted. It would have been an excellent moment to give the photo to these men and I could not do it.


So, do not plan much. Take your camera always with you. It can happen any time!


 All photos by Gabriela Huarie and Marcial Rodriguez.

Traveling to Tanzania to Give Photos!

 Yuliya Yuliya Boda

Yuliya is a Belarusian amateur photographer currently living and studying Multimedia in Prague, Czech Republic. She has been traveling and taking photographs since she was just 14 years old. She recently traveled her 36th country: Tanzania! She loved it so much she’s now made traveling to Africa her number one priority. GivePhotos sent her Instax film for her trip and she wrote, “Thank you for such a great opportunity, I’ve never been so close to local people during my trips and it was amazing to see a country from a different perspective. One of the best experiences in my life… I feel very inspired.” You can see more of her inspiring images on her Facebook page, TWINE photography


“My very first Tanzanian model and the owner of the most beautiful smile”                               (Stone Town, Zanzibar)

When did you start giving photos? 

 I love taking photos of people and usually ask for e-mail addresses in order to send the photographs. I think the first time I did this was around 7-8 years ago. But these photos have been always digital. I believe digital images don’t evoke the emotions I saw when I was giving instant photos right after taking them. Many people from developing countries have no idea what instant photography is, and the process of «transfering» their image to a white film seems truly magical! Moreover, not everyone has Internet access, so giving digital photos becomes almost impossible. I’m glad that the GivePhotos project exists and makes these people’s days brighter!


“Their father asked me to come later and make more photos. I have more kids and I want more memories like this one” (Nungwi, Zanzibar)

What motivated you to do it?

Emotions of these people who got their photos…. This is what motivated me the most. I knew I would feel happy to give the photos away but didn’t expect that my own emotions would be so strong as well! Sometimes I couldn’t hold my tears of happiness when a person was smiling and crying at the same time. This feeling is really hard to describe! I was also motivated to learn more about the culture of these people and the way they live. I’ve never been so close to locals during my trips to developing countries. I had dozens of conversations with them and we shared a lot of great moments together.


(Stone Town, Zanzibar)

What equipment do you use and why? 

The GivePhotos project provided me with Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 camera + I used my Canon 60D together with Canon 20 mm f/2.8 lens. I like fixed lenses the most because they are really perfect for making portraits. I also think that a lens with short focal length is great if you ask permission to make a photo; there is no need to «hide» from a person you photograph and he/she doesn’t feel bad about being photographed.


“I consider this photo my personal victory in making a grumpy person smile!” – Yuliya Boda (Stone Town, Zanzibar, Tanzania)

Can you share one memorable story with us about your experience sharing photos? 

It’s not easy to choose just one story, but in Stonetown (Zanzibar Island) there was one man who told me ‘I don’t want to be in a photo alone. Please sit down with me’. So I did. He is the only person who had his instant photo with me, a stranger, on it! He was smiling so much when our image finally appeared and showed the film to all his friends on the street.


(Emairete Village, Tanzania)

Do you have any suggestions for people who would like to give photos?

If you like this idea, just do it! Smile more and learn some phrases in the local language, it helps a lot to make people trust a stranger. Sometimes I heard «no» just because people thought that I would photograph them and disappear. So I believe what made them give me one more chance was that I was doing my best in showing them that I was interested in their personalities and stories much more than in making a photo itself. Spend more time with people, be a good listener! And believe me, it will be one of the most unforgettable experiences of your life.


Her name is Norkerebot. She is 15 years old and married. Maasai women have no right to choose a husband. Their father decides everything. Yuliya writes, “I found out that girls are always more desired children in Maasai families, simply because parents can “sell” them to another family and get more cows in exchange for them. Moreover, a married girl is not allowed to see her mother after the marriage.” Yuliya says, “Norekerebot was very shy and it took some time for me to get her permission to make a photo. But she was very happy to get it afterwards.” (Tanzania)


 All photos by Yuliya Boda.

Giving photos in Freetown, Sierra Leone

 ludo Ludovico Alcorta

Ludovico is a PhD researcher in Political Science and an amateur photographer. Originally from Peru, he is currently living in Holland. His first introduction to photography was at the age of 8 when he was given a camera. He loved taking landscape shots, until he took a world trip with his wife and became interested in photographing people. Ludo became part of the GivePhotos project when he traveled to Sierra Leone for a conference. His beautiful photography can be seen @journeywithoutend


Kadiatu Sesay, age 61, had the most beautiful designs in her shop, and wanted to sell me half of them! After negotiating for souvenirs, I asked her for a portrait and she happily obliged. She became transfixed as she watched the print develop in her hands.

When did you start giving photos? 

I first started giving photos during my wedding in 2016, when a friend lent me his Fuji Instax camera so that we would have some nice impromptu photos with the guests. When I saw how much they enjoyed it, I started thinking about doing it for other occasions as well. Then I read the BBC article on the Give Photos project, and I thought their idea of sharing photos with people was a brilliant way to connect with them.


What motivated you to do it?

There are two reasons. First of all, I am a political scientist and do research on how certain conditions can create grievances in people that may lead them to perpetrate group violence. In my experience, one of the prevalent drivers of conflict is a fear of strangers, particularly when it refers to people of another identity. The more that people engage with each other, the more they are exposed to other ideas and cultures, and the less likely they are to develop this fear. I don’t proclaim it will resolve any conflicts, but engaging in meaningful conversations with strangers can potentially counterbalance this development. Sharing photos allows you to strike up a conversation and enter in dialogue where you otherwise might not have, and the bonding moment is permanently encapsulated in the photograph.


Abu Bakar Ivitson, age 57, is a builder who carries heavy raw materials such as wood and metals in and out of the market each day. He earns about $5-$6 a day, although earnings depend entirely on sales, so there are days when he does not receive any income.

Second of all, as engaging as it is to take photos of people, the experience is not the same for the other person involved. Often they catch but a fleeting glimpse of themselves on the back of the screen and their experience ends there, whereas we get to look at it back home and share it with others. The experience changes entirely when you offer them their photo. They get to keep a memory of themselves and the moment you shared together. By giving back, the exchange becomes more balanced, and it makes photography that much more fulfilling.


Life is not easy here in Sierra Leone, especially when living with disabilities. But some people are full of life and happiness, and this kid was one of them. As I was taking photos in the village of Fadugu, this boy came up to me and held my hand whilst we walked along the street. It was the most heartwarming experience of my trip there. I gave him the last polaroid in the camera, which he and the other kids really seemed to enjoy!


What equipment do you use and why? 

The Give Photos project was generous enough to sponsor a Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 camera for my visit to Sierra Leone, along with 100+ prints. I would carry this together with a Canon 100D and several lenses (18-35mm f1.8, 50mm f1.8) to take people’s portraits. After some time experimenting with workflows, I developed a system that worked best for me. I would strike up a conversation with a person, asking to take their photo. First I would use the Canon to take an initial portrait, then take a snap with the Fuji camera. We would chat further whilst the print developed, and I would use the Canon again to take any reaction photos.


These girls were living just outside the former presidential palace in Freetown (Kabasa Lodge), where three coups had been staged in the 1990s in order to overturn the regimes at the time. Realizing the location was not the most secure, they had moved the palace elsewhere, and the building that remained is now a squatter’s paradise. Their father was slightly hesitant about a photo but the girls really wanted one, and they were fascinated with their image as it appeared in front of their eyes.

Can you share one memorable story with us about your experience sharing photos? 

Often when I would take portraits of children, they would run over to their friends and family to show them the print. Five minutes later they would return with a crowd of people, all hoping to get a photo of themselves as well. I often had to organize villagers into queues and recruit colleagues to take down names and stories in order to document it all properly. After a few days, I was known in the town as ‘the Snapman’. It was often absolute chaos, but a lot of fun!


Fatoumata Elizabeth Kabia, age 16, worked as a textile carrier. She was very shy at first but when seeing the photos of the other ladies, warmed up to the idea of a portrait as well. She then darted off, but not before I captured this last photo.

Do you have any suggestions for people who would like to give photos?

Asking people if they would like ‘a snap’ is a good icebreaker for a conversation. By sharing photos, photographers who might be initially shy or introverted learn to take the initiative and engage with people. I have never done it as much as when I shared photos in Sierra Leone, and it felt incredibly liberating. My one suggestion would be to find a balance between sharing photos and talking to people, since it is difficult to combine them properly.


This village was well represented by women. When we asked why this was, it turned out to be a Muslim village — every man has around four wives, so by default the ratio would lean towards women. This is a conservative society where the gender gap is still quite significant. However, the women had strength in numbers, and would often support each other’s views in order to get things done. Whenever a point was made about men needing to live up to their family’s expectations, the women would clap and holler together. It made for a lively family talk!


 All photos and captions by Ludovico Alcorta.

GivePhotos in Ethiopia

 martha Martha Tedesse

Martha is a self-taught street, travel and humanitarian photographer based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She has a Master’s degree in developmental studies and currently works for an international NGO. Her photographic work began in earnest in 2013. With film and and an Instax camera provided by GivePhotos, Martha traveled to the Afar region of Ethiopia to share her photography. You can see her beautiful images on Instagram @marthinolly


“How do I see it? Ohhh, this is good! Thank you … thank you … thank you”

When did you start giving photos? 

I started giving photos in October 2016. I have always been showing pictures flipping my camera towards the people I photographed, but it never seemed right. I saw them smiling at their image and wondered how they would feel to actually own it. Many people in the rural regions of Ethiopia don’t have their own pictures. You often meet people who have never had their photo taken. I always plan on printing and sending them photos but I mostly fail. I would find their address but then would feel too lazy to make prints and send them back. I have thought of using instant cameras but the expensive film discouraged me. Also in Ethiopia we don’t have access to online stores which makes it difficult. Joining GivePhotos made me excited to be able to engage in conversations easily with my instant camera. People trusted me more with their portraits and stories because they were happy to have their own picture.


Abebech was married at 18 and has 7 kids. She lives at Dorze Lodge which is about 300 miles south of Addis Ababa.

What motivated you to do it?

I am more motivated now that I’ve done it and I’m  thinking further on how I can get more film because it has been such a wonderful experience. People open up so much right after their photo is taken. As a photographer you can build trust and genuine friendship. The more I give photos the more excited I am to see smiling faces and the more I give photos the more stories I can tell. My goal is to tell stories of the people in my country, to share their wisdom, laughter and life experiences. Giving photos has made it creative, and a more natural way to document a moment. The smiles and gratitude in children’s and elderly people’s eyes after receiving their photo is very motivational, it keeps me going when I think of all those moments.


Ketula Gnakales from the Hamar region quickly put his photo in his pocket and said, “I will show my wife” Martha says she is grateful for being the first one to give him a portrait.

What equipment do you use and why? 

I use a Canon D700 with 24mm f2.8, 50mm f1.4 and 55-250mm f4.0 lenses, a Fujifilm Instax mini camera and I also use my Samsung galaxy S5 Neo. I love my Canon 700D and 24mm lens is my favorite. People aren’t scared to have a camera in their face because it is very small and I can easily run around with it. People are usually scared of zoom lenses and I have heard some guy joking “Big lenses look like they read your secrets from your soul. I hate it.” Big lenses can make people uncomfortable. I love my Samsung because it is handy, I can be sneaky with it pretending I am taking a selfie when I’m doing street photography. I am in love with my Instax because it is kind to its subjects. My Instax brings out people’s character — you see nervousness and a huge smile all at once. People are nervous to take the film from the camera and then you see them smiling looking at the picture.


Hassen Seid is a 1st grade student Martha made eye contact with through her car window. She says, “After sharing a few smiles, I was able to photograph him. After he got his print he ran off to show his Dad.”

Can you share one memorable story with us about your experience sharing photos? 

It is hard to share only one. I have different beautiful memories and you don’t want to miss any of it, trust me. I have met an old lady who blessed me multiple times while staring at her picture with teary eyes and patting her chest (a symbol of love or “mine” depending on the context). I have met an 80 year old man who begs on the street and he gave me the most genuine smile with “I am old I don’t have teeth.” Children mostly run back to their parents holding the tip of the print so their picture doesn’t “vanish” if they touch it. I have met a mother of three who never had her children’s portrait and I still smile from the thought of her gratitude. I can also tell you about a Hammar man, from the Southern region in Ethiopia who didn’t even give me a chance to look at his portrait twice because he didn’t trust me with his print. He put it in his pocket and said, “I will show this to my wife.” I often wonder what she said about it.


“I love how children run over to their families to show their picture” – Martha Tedesse

Do you have any suggestions for people who would like to give photos?

You are missing out big time! Taking memories and being happy becomes mutual — you give photos and you receive love and gratitude. If you are a story-telling photographer, it is one way of building trust with your subject. If you are someone who loves seeing others happy, an instant camera is for you. If we all could share smiles and happiness, what a beautiful world it would be. For a more exciting moment, don’t tell them you are giving them their photo, don’t explain what an instant camera is. My only hope is that it will get cheaper. One dollar might sound cheap for one film but if we are talking about a travel photographer who takes a minimum of 400 pictures, $400 is quite expensive. My readers, if you want to see more of these stories, you should kindly support groups who are working on donating cameras and films, kindly contribute to these great causes!


Dureti Jebesa, on the road to Hawassa past Ziway.


Sharing Photos Around the Globe

 opsmile2014-11-of-63 Justin Weiler

Justin has given away hundreds of photos around the world. Born in Portland, Oregon, he has a degree in Documentary Filmmaking and Journalism. With 15 years of experience, he has shot and produced a library of short films for a range of different clients in the corporate, commercial, charity and luxury travel world. His striking images have garnered him over 43,000 followers on Instagram. Follow him @justinweiler

When did you start giving photos? 

I’ve been giving photos away for years and years. It started with rolls of film, then polaroids and then I occasionally returned to destinations with small printers. When I started doing it in my professional career it was years of taking photos and flipping the camera around to show people, but not giving them away. I felt like it was an unfair cultural exchange.


I always felt guilty because I was the one who would leave with all these great images and stories and the person I was photographing was left with a lovely smile and maybe a story, but nothing to prove the day or the experience. I decided to change that. When these digital polaroids came out, I realized that they were huge conversation starters and that was the big motivation for me. These instant photos could create a friendship in a split moment.


What motivated you to do it?

Photography for me, is less about photography and more about conversations. It is a way to start a dialogue with somebody who wants to know what you are doing or photographing. It is a really easy way to start communicating with people. Your language doesn’t matter, where you’re from doesn’t matter, it is just about visual storytelling. Both parties can enjoy the experience and go away with a smile.


I always felt guilty as I was taking all these photos and I got to walk away with them. The individual I was photographing walked away with a story but no proof that it had actually happened. Once the Polaroid digital camera Z 2300 entered, it was game over. I was giving those Polaroid prints out left, right and center.


What equipment do you use and why? 

I carry in my bag two 5D Mark III’s and one 5D Mark IV, a GoPro, a Polaroid camera and obviously my iPhone. So I usually have about 5 to 6 cameras with me at all times.  And I use that equipment because I think it’s the best compact option to tell the most stories.


I used to carry large format cameras and then they became really problematic and when the 5D came out it was a game changer because as a photographer/filmmaker I was able to create beautiful images, both stills and video, and I could share them quickly, upload them quickly, and it was a really simple process for me. I think that’s a little bit overkill for most people and my spine will probably hate me. It does now and it will probably hate me in 20 years. But I feel like that is the most compact that I can be for what I want to be able to create.  


Can you share one memorable story with us about your experience sharing photos? 

I’ve got thousands. Every time I look at one of these photos it brings back all sorts of memories. It just opens the floodgates from moments where I’m sitting on the street in Tibet and these guys have walked hundreds of miles. They’ve been walking for 2 feet and then laying flat and then walking for another two feet and laying flat and they get to the finish line and here’s me handing them a photograph of themselves. The pure joy on their face just to have a photo is what I take for granted because I’m just so used to having my photograph taken and seeing photos of myself.


But it’s a real treat to be able to give that to somebody else. I work with a lot of organizations and charities, like Operation Smile and you have moms seeing their kids in photographs for the first time.  You take a photograph and it’s something they put in a precious little box in a special place.


Do you have any suggestions for people who would like to give photos?

Yes, do it! Go buy a Polaroid, go buy a Fuji, go buy whatever you want that you can give photos away with because it’s one of the easiest ways to start a conversation and it’s one of the most beautiful experiences to be able to give a photo away. As a photographer I have the  luxury of being able to photograph hundreds of thousands of people all throughout the year but nothing compares to being able to hand somebody a photograph that they get to take back to their family and friends and share the experience that we just had — a fleeting moment that can last a lifetime. And that’s not something that I take lightly because it’s so special.  I see people commenting on Instagram I see people commenting on Facebook and they’re like what’s that. And I say, ‘Do It! It’s great!’ Copy it, use it, share it. I love to see the photos so send them over to me.