Author: give photos project

Giving Photos to Refugees

giovannaDelSartoGiovanna del Sarto

Giovanna is a London-based documentary photographer who completed her MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at London College of Communication, University of the Arts in 2008. She’s worked for numerous publications as a freelance photographer including The Guardian, Huffington Post and National Geographic. Her current project is called A Polaroid For A Refugee (ApfaR) where she gives instant film portraits to refugees documenting their points of transition. ApfaR has been exhibited in the UK, Berlin, France and Switzerland where she won the Lugano Photo Festival Women. Giovanna is on Instagram @apolaroidforarefugee and you can support her work by visiting The Photographer’s Gallery.

Can you tell us about how you started APFAR? What was it about refugees that interested you?

A Polaroid for a Refugee (APfaR) was born from my curiosity to understand. Nothing more and nothing less. The refugee crisis was a topic treated by all the media, with differing opinions. I still remember when the UK newspaper Daily Mail, in the summer of 2015, published an article with photos that portrayed families and individuals in public gardens and along the edges of the streets with their tents, on Kos Island, Greece. They were depicted eating, drinking or simply sleeping. They were doing everything we usually do. The only difference was that they did it on the streets and in public parks. The photos were accompanied by an article whose central news was about British tourists, who after having paid for their summer vacation were surrounded by people with, perhaps, bad intentions. The exodus from Syria, and consequently from other countries, caused instability in Europe. There have always been migratory flows, just think of Lampedusa. But for the first time, we were facing mass migratory flows. What could I do? I could have carried on documenting myself from home or I could have been an active part of clarifying what was really going on. The political and social situation had convinced me to go. What convinced me then to volunteer and use instant film?

In the 1990s, the Balkan war was knocking on the doors of Italy. I was 20 years old and I was neither active politically nor socially. I lived that war as something that did not belong to me. I did nothing and I never forgot it. So, when this new crisis knocked on doors, I decided to participate. My aim was also to volunteer with small organizations, to be able to understand and be close to the people involved.

On all of these occasions, I had my Polaroid Land Camera with me – and it was during my first trip that the A Polaroid for a Refugee project was born. It is a project based on the concept of giving – giving something back to the refugees, a moment of their life and journey captured forever. In fact, everyone I photographed has a Polaroid picture now.

Outskirts of Vienna, Austria, 2017 – Fahina left Afghanistan with her siblings when it became extremely dangerous for them to stay. Fahina’s family was a prominent Afghan family. Her father was a politician before the Taliban period. He always believed in a woman’s right to education, work and equality, beliefs which sadly cost him his life. He was murdered because he supported his daughters’ careers as well as their undercover activities to educate women in their rural, Taliban-ruled community.

Do the people you give photos to already have family photos? What kind of possessions are they traveling with when they are forced to flee their homes?

They might have photos on their phones. Possession-wise I noticed that some of the people had some bags with them or nothing at all. It all depends on how they managed to travel. For example, people who I witnessed coming on a dingy from Turkey had a small plastic bag with their main possessions; others who managed to legally pass through the Hungarian border had all their possessions with them but very often they would have all their belongings confiscated by the Hungarian authorities before entering the country.

Piraeus Port, Greece, 2016 – I met Mahbub (age 24), from Afghanistan, by the Piraeus Port in Greece in April 2016. I took his image and we exchanged FB accounts. After a few months, Mahbub wrote that he and his brother Mortaza reached Switzerland. 
 After our encounter in Greece, Mahbub and his brother boarded a flight to Vienna with Malaysian passports. Once in Austria they took a train to Switzerland where they destroyed the passports.

Are there language barriers when you’re meeting people who are refugees?

Yes, of course. During my trips, I managed to develop different ways to communicate.

Being Italian, gesticulating is my second nature and it helps a lot. Once on Lesbos Island an Afghan grandma and I, despite not sharing a language, managed to have a full conversation about her daughter being in the local hospital after delivering a baby by cesarean to her disappointment.

Other times, I ask some refugee people who can speak English to be my assistant for a day. That is really nice because you share part of your work with someone who is usually the subject of it.

Belgrade, Serbia, 2017 – Two young men washing their belongings behind the Belgrade Central station.

Which countries have you traveled to giving away photos and have you found any commonalities between refugees from different countries?

So far, I concentrated on the Balkan route countries: Serbia (Belgrade and Presevo); Greece (Athens, Idomeni, Chios and Lesvos Islands) and Northern Europe: Germany, Switzerland, Austria and France.

Refugees from different countries have the same goal: finding a place to start a new life. Too often, we forget about their real motivation in coming to Europe. We only see individuals who are settling down and we do not even bother to get to know their stories.

Idomeni Camp, Idomeni, Greece, 2016 – Two refugee girls turning their backs to the camera so they cannot be identified. I noticed these two girls coming out from a tent early morning. After a lot of gestures and mimes, I managed to take their photo.
Idomeni Camp is a vast green field full of tents comparable to a music gathering. The major difference was the people who were there: they were not music fans but people who were waiting for their chance to move on, to reach their families who might be already in Germany or in some other European countries.

What has been some of your most memorable experiences sharing your photographs?

To be thanked by the people I portrayed and to be friends with the ones I went back to see in Europe. I love the fact that their lives are entwining with mine and viceversa.

Germany, 2017 – Dunija and her brother Faisel. Dunija and her family left Afghanistan when her father was caught in the crosshairs of the Taliban. He had been asked three times to appear for a meeting at a location well known as a ‘place of no return’. When the situation became too unbearable, Dunija’s family and relatives (18 people including her oldest sister Aria, who had been obliged to marry a Taliban member and consequently had to leave her daughter behind) took a plane to Turkey. I first met Dunija and her family in 2017 in Preševo Camp, where I was invited to break the fast with them during Ramadan. After many months stuck in the camp, they decided to be smuggled out of the country. They were strategically split up to increase their chances of reaching a European country. After a few months of traveling, including traumatic journeys in packed vans, Dunija and her brother, Faisal, reached Frankfurt, Germany, where one of their uncles lived. The rest of their family (parents and younger siblings) is still in Belgrade.
The second time we met was in Frankfurt in December 2017. It was the same day that Dunija and Faisal were accepted at the Caritas Centre for unaccompanied children. Dunija is the only girl in the hostel. Faisal and Dunija’s journey was a learning curve that forced them to grow up faster.

How has this project impacted your own life?

It is a project that gently gets under your skin. It provokes a lot self-assessment.

I constantly question myself on the validity of photography as a political, social tool and the thin line between exploitation and the aiding of the subject.

I do not think it is an easy topic to deal with if you get emotionally attached to people and situations.

Buochs, Switzerland, 2017 – Mahbub, age 25, poses in the foreground of Lake Lucerne with the Alps in the background. A few weeks after I met Mahbub (from Ghazni Province in Afghanistan) in Greece, he and his brother Morteza boarded a flight to Vienna using Malaysian passports. Once they reached Switzerland they destroyed the passports. At first, they lived in Zurich but in September 2016 they were relocated to Buochs, a small citadel about an hour from Lucerne. According to Mahbub, there are about 100 refugees who have been relocated to Buochs. Locals are not accustomed to refugees yet. In fact, the presence of refugees is relatively a new reality here. This would explain why the two brothers are finding it very difficult to integrate into their new community. According to Blick News Politik, the Swiss Federation, a non-EU country but a member of Schengen, is welcoming its fair share of refugees. Almost 40,000 asylum seekers applied for refugee status in 2015 alone.

Did you have any preconceived notions about refugees that may have changed in the course of doing this project?

Of course, I had and I am sure I still have. That’s the beauty of being a social photographer: being prepared to dismantle your beliefs and embrace new ones.

Since I started the second part of the project, visiting the people in their new adoptive country, I had to reset my belief that once they arrived at their destination everything would slow down and a new life would begin.

There is sometimes a misconception that, once people reach their ‘destination’, everything will be magically healed. I met people along the way who didn’t have any money, food or means to carry on their journeys, yet somehow they managed to ‘make it’. At what cost, though? Some of the people I have revisited are struggling to come to terms with the memories and legacy of their journeys, and their new lives and circumstances.

Witnessing both situations has led me to realize how far away I am from truly understanding the experiences that these people have gone through.

Presevo Camp, Presevo, Serbia, 2017 – A young girl getting bored while waiting for her mum and sister to finish at the makeshift beauty salon inside Presevo Camp.

If people wanted to donate to APFAR how can they do so?

As APfaR is entirely self-financed, a little help would be highly appreciated 🙂

There are different ways to support the project and its charitable aspect.

As part of APfaR, I create limited edition hand embroidered postcards whose profits go to a charity I volunteered with. You can buy them from The Photographer’s Gallery bookstore or directly from me.


You can support the self-publication of my APfaR book. It will be a unique piece which, hopefully, will reflect the family album feeling that this beautiful project has and my wish to create an intimate and approachable document which would go beyond any stereotypes related to any refugee crisis.

If you are interested in sponsoring any aspect of ApfaR pls, e-mail me at

Serbia, 2017 – Amir discovered feminism while traveling to Europe. She wants to give a message to all the women: ‘Freedom belongs to a free mind’.
Since this picture, Amir and her family reached Germany.

Making Deep Connections in New Delhi

nandini-e1529358453897.jpgNandini Mazumder

Nandini Mazumder’s interest in GivePhotos was motivated by her social justice work. She has a Masters in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. Nandini lives in Delhi and works for a feminist human rights organization called CREA. You can find her on Instagram at @nandini_1720 

What motivated you to do the GivePhotos project?

I read about GivePhotos and found the initiative unique. I wanted to be part of it because GivePhotos seemed to strike that perfect balance between photography and humanity, between the photographer and the photographed. I felt the initiative appreciated and acknowledged that giving away a photo wasn’t like building a hospital or a school but it was still significant. People living in poverty lack the privilege of photography that we take for granted. When some lives get documented very well, and others remain undocumented, we can raise important questions of who can create and own memories. Do the poor have the right to their memories through photographs of an important day? Do they have the right to leave behind their stories, their legacy, however briefly? I think they do, and the GivePhotos initiative recognizes these rights and tries to fulfill them in its own way. By combining bygone technology with the warmth of human connection, the project revives the practice of listening and sharing stories that would otherwise go unheard. I wanted to be part of this amazing initiative.


“We met three children walking around in Sundar Nursery in search of water. They were children of the migrant workers in the complex. As they were returning from filling their bottles, I asked to take their photos and they happily posed for me. The photo here is of me and the three children. They were elated to see their photos and hold them in their hands and what followed afterwards was a whole lot of fun! They showed the photos to their mothers and then I had a whole bunch of mothers requesting photographs with their children!” – Nandini Mazumder

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

Each time I photographed someone, I listened to their story and I learned something new about life. The first person I interacted with for GivePhotos was Phoolwati from Rajasthan who comes to Delhi occasionally. This was her fifth or sixth visit to the city. She belongs to the Bauria community which is a nomadic community ranked low in the South Asian social-stratification system called caste. She had two sons, daughter-in-laws and grandchildren back home. She did not have a phone.

Phoolwati had come to Delhi to earn some money because there was not enough rainfall in her village. In an agrarian country, such as India, seasonal migration in search of a livelihood and income is rather common. Millions of women like Phoolwati fight everyday, against all odds, overcoming the challenges of patriarchy, community and poverty, and make it to another day. They are the true face of courage. 

Another memory that will stand out is the hot summer afternoon in Sundar Nursery complex in Nizamuddin. The complex had many workers and many of them were women. They toiled away under the hot May sun as their children roamed about. I clicked some of the children and gave them their photographs and one of them was showing it off to his mother. The mother loved the photograph and decided to take a break from her hectic schedule to get herself photographed with her children; several mothers followed suit, and I must have clicked and given away some 10 or 15 photographs that day. The next day was Mother’s Day and the whole interaction stood out because even though these working mothers don’t earn enough to live in comfort or send their children to school, their love and pride for their children was no less valuable. They will not be featured in any Mother’s Day ads but I will always remember their joy when they saw the photographs. 


“The blazing May afternoon in Delhi, India is not to be taken lightly and even the most daring try to avoid the scorching mid-afternoon sun as much as possible. Yet we ventured out to Sunder Nursery and found ourselves among a handful of people in the beautiful yet barren complex. Apart from the workers who were doing renovations, there were only two other groups of visitors around. One was a family and the other was a group of teenage girls. The group of young girls looked interesting to me and I asked them if I could photograph them, to which they readily agreed! I found out they had just completed their class 12 exams and were waiting for the results. They had come out in that scorching heat to celebrate one of the girls’ birthdays. It made me feel happy to see them celebrating, enjoying their freedom  because many girls in India still struggle for such opportunities. Many girls are not allowed to roam around without purpose or without a guardian (who is often a male family member). These are the chains that Indian society puts on girls. Clicking their photos and sharing copies with them felt good because even though phones are common in India, according to reports most Indian women and girls either don’t own phones or have to navigate through restrictions to access one. The photos that I gave them will ultimately help them remember this hot day in May, when they were young, free and happy!” – Nandini Mazumder


How did people react? Did the experience change your outlook on people in any way?

People were very accommodating, interested and enthusiastic. Once I explained to them why I was taking the pictures and that I would give them a copy, they usually agreed. There was a real visible difference in them when I gave them the photo —– they lit up with happiness and willingly opened up with their stories. They talked to me quite frankly and I too tried to be as sensitive as possible. I asked them if they had any other immediate needs and tried to break the ice by helping. One time I bought some corn for a lady, another time I bought rice. However, in the last outing for Give Photos where I mostly photographed laborer mothers and their children, nobody asked for anything and they were truly happy to be photographed. That was really one of the nicest experiences I had. Another interesting experience was that because India is a very conservative society, I mostly focused on women and children, but in my last outing, many men and boys, mostly guards and laborers came to me requesting photographs.


“Many of the workers I met at Sundar Nursery in Delhi were women who had migrated in search of a livelihood, leaving behind homes in other states, traveling long distances. While walking around I noticed one of the children who I had photographed earlier, was showing-off the photo to his mother who was busy working on a landscape project. I stopped to talk to the mother who despite being busy, made time to smile back and talk to me. I found out that we both belonged to the Eastern Indian state of West Bengal, and so started speaking to each other in Bangla. But apart from having both migrated to this place our realities could not have been more different.  After seeing the photos of their children, many of the mothers asked to be photographed with their children. I clicked their photos and gave each mother her own copy, and requested my husband Austin to click this photo with three of the mothers, their children and me.” – Nandini Mazumder

What photography equipment do you usually use?

I have use mixed methods and sometimes taken the photographs myself and at other times requested my husband, Austin to take the photos. We used a DSLR – NIKON D3200 with a NIKOR 16-85mm lens.


Sundar Nursery Complex, New Delhi, India. (Photo by Austin David Mobley)

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

The GivePhotos initiative is a great way to break the ice with people who you would otherwise not interact with, to listen and share stories and document what goes unseen and unheard. I would suggest everyone who wants to be part of this initiative be mindful of the power dynamics and hierarchies that exist between the photographer and the photographed and approach it with utmost sensitivity. One must be honest with the person they want to photograph and explain to them how the photographs will be used. Be prepared to go beyond photographing people and connect and help them in whatever small ways possible. Cherish the experience and be happy because you are spreading some joy and even if it seems small, it is significant!


“The guards at Sundar Nursery got curious and came to look at what we were up to. It was closing time and we thought they must be getting ready to ask us to leave. We were happily clicking photos and giving them away to the migrant-laborer mothers and their children. When the guards came over and found out that we were only giving away instant photos to people who otherwise have no photo-documentation of their lives, they too asked for photos! I was running out of film so I clicked one and gave them a copy to share. They were evidently very happy as they did not ask us to leave and we stayed a good 30 minutes extra after closing time!” – Nandini Mazumder

Would you do it again?

I think once you become a part of the GivePhotos project you can never stop being a part of it. It is a deeply enriching experience to give away instant photos and see the joy on people’s faces when they see themselves in those photos and listen to their stories.  I will definitely do it again and continue to do it as long as possible!

Learning about Local Life in India

Greg Boles headshot Greg Boles

Greg’s love of photography began in high school when he took a B&W film photography class as an elective. Seeing the image magically appear before his eyes in a dark room got him hooked. He’s been taking thousands of pictures annually ever since. He recently rekindled his love for street photography and foreign travel with a 17 day trip through India. He now plans on taking a street photography vacation every two years and is thankful that digital photography allows him to delete all the bad photos taken along the way! You can follow Greg on Instagram @street_images

What motivated you to do the GivePhotos project?

I qualified for a company paid sabbatical to travel anywhere in the world for a few weeks. The only requirement was that I had to do something for myself and others. I chose GivePhotos because it was a great way to combine my love of street photography with giving back to those who lack photographic memories of their loved ones. I wanted to interact with real people, from all walks of life, and GivePhotos was the perfect way to share something of value with others. It gave me the chance to get know over 50 families in India across 7 cities on a personal level.


“One of the biggest slums in India is located in the capital of India in Delhi. The entrance to the slum is strewn with trash. These boys were rummaging through garbage to locate a large piece of wood they could use as fuel to cook their family’s dinner. The children were playful, happy and eager to have their picture taken.”              – Greg Boles

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

I have four standout experiences:

New Mom – I gave photos to a woman who gave birth in a tent village the day prior, on a sand floor, no doctor, no drugs, no midwife. I found her the next morning, dressed in a beautiful purple dress and just having completed nursing her one day old baby boy. She was so happy I could document the birth.

IndiaStories (82 of 114)

Crumbling Walls –  I met an elderly couple who lived in what looked like a bombed out, single room home, but really was just crumbling bricks and a partial wall. They had a single cot as their only material possession, which doubled as a bed and place to sit. Despite their lack of comforts, they seemed happy to have each other and their local community which brought a richness to life that seems lacking in the US.


Anniversary Couple – I also met a couple who asked me to document their 30th wedding anniversary. They asked me to photograph them in front of a Hindu “temple” which was really a makeshift shrine where they worshipped with their neighbors.


Family of Five – I met a family of five that lived in a cement 9’x6′ room, no windows, no electricity, no running water, no furniture, no bed, no toilet, no place to cook. They had the clothes on their back. Had you not seen them in their home, you would have never believed they were so poor. They invited me in to take a photo in their home with their three young children. I learned that if all you have are clothes, you take care of them and use your dress as a way to convey pride, self respect and follow traditions.

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How did people react? Did the experience change your outlook on people in any way?

When you give the gift of an instant photo, it creates a human bond between you and those you meet that is instantly warm and friendly. The resulting pictures are priceless and often candid. In India I learned a common refrain, “Guests are like a god,” and so they treat strangers with the same kindness they would extend to a friend or family member. I was often invited to have tea and partake in the little food they had, which was remarkable. I learned that those with less (food, material possession, money etc.) often are the ones willing to help others and share what little they have. It was powerful to experience this first hand. While I did the GivePhotos project mostly among the poor, I did also give photos to a few others I met along the way and the connection I had with them as a result was special.

India is rapidly industrializing so now is a great time to go as you can see see how agrarian and poor people lived 300+ years ago right next to a modern, educated, mobile phone carrying business person. Cows, goats, camels alongside motorcycles, tuk-tuk taxis and trucks co-mingling in the streets of India was not uncommon at all. India is a colorful melting pot of people, colors and regional and ancient cultures.


“In India, the women dress so beautifully that you often cannot tell who is middle class and who is poor. This family was having a picnic in the park. The family had little to eat so I bought them some potatoes from a nearby street vendor and gave them a photo too.”             – Greg Boles

What photography equipment do you usually use?

I used an Olympus OM-D EM10 Mark II mirrorless digital camera with 2 kit lenses, 14-42 mm and 40-150 mm for zoom. I found I used the regular 14-42 mm lens the most as I was usually in close contact doing street photography. I travelled alone, and simply kept my spare batteries (on most days I used 3-4), lenses, snacks, facial towel, chargers for phone & camera etc. in a light photography backpack as I walked the streets about 8-10 hours a day and rarely returned to my hotel during the day.


“The grounds of Homayun’s Tomb are a tranquil and peaceful respite from the busy, honking streets of Delhi, India. It was on these grounds that I found an older woman tending a small patch of shrubs that were her day’s work. She did not smile for the photo as she had few teeth. Despite her shy nature, she took great pride in her job and was grateful for the photo which she put in her small purse.” – Greg Boles

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

1) Just do it. It is the most unique & incredible experience. I prioritized my day based on where locals would congregate. Don’t under-estimate tourist locations as locals are often there as tourists themselves or selling their wares. I found the #1 most common tourists in India were other Indians, so I had plenty of people-photography opportunities in open markets, parks, monuments, forts as well as in slums areas.

2) Do not worry about approaching people. A warm smile is all that is needed to be disarming. A sample instant photo can convey your intent. In the slums and villages in India that were self-contained or a short 10 minute walk from the outskirts of town, I hired a local tour guide interested in adventure (the cost was $15-$25 for half a day). This allowed me to be even more accepted into the community. The local guide’s approval of me added a comfort level which allowed me to take photographs inside people’s homes.

3) Expect to have overwhelming demand once word gets out you are giving away photos. I found myself often attracting 5-10 kids, teenagers and adults flanking me wherever I walked, wanting me to make a family portrait for them. I never felt unsafe, just very popular! I typically gave away 30 photos in each village I visited over several hours. Bring more film and spare batteries just in case.

4) Take a photo with the Fujifilm Instax camera. Then while it is developing, take your digital photos. Get candids of the people watching the photo appear before their eyes, laughing and showing it to others. Finally, get a digital photo of you and your family holding their instant photo (guide/translator can take the digital photo). For photos and people I thought were particularly special, I would take a digital close up photo of the instant photo which helped capture the memory I gave to them so we could both enjoy it for years to come!


“The grounds of Homayun’s tomb are vast and require daily upkeep, most by poor grounds workers like this gentleman. He was removing the tiniest leaves and sticks from a small water irrigation path beneath him in 100 degree heat and harsh direct sun. He took several poses and was happy to have a photo as a keepsake.”                          – Greg Boles

Would you do it again?

Yes! Enthusiastically. I hope to make GivePhotos and street photography vacations a bi-annual experience. It brings me closer to local culture and people. It’s among the most rewarding and memorable ways to do foreign travel.



Greg Boles with boys from Shadipur Slum, Delhi, India


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.