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.


Giving Photos and Houses in Vietnam



Brian Wolowicz

Although Brian’s passion for photography started at a young age, it wasn’t until college that his hobby took a more serious turn. He loved his college photo class elective so much he ended up pursuing a minor in photography and  eventually went on to earn a BFA in Visual Communications. Brian now works as a Creative Director designing apps for Fortune 500 companies and continues to pursue photography projects on the side. Growing up, his parents instilled in him the value of giving to charity and he now dedicates his free time to photographing for Habitat for Humanity. GivePhotos gave Brian instant film to take with him on his recent trip to Vietnam with Habitat for Humanity and we talked to him about his experiences. You can see Brian’s photos on Instagram @hellobdub or on his Flickr page.

When did you start giving photos? 

I started giving away photos in June 2013 by volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. It’s not too difficult to get people to come out and swing a hammer, but it is very difficult for most charities to get high quality images. After a call to the local affiliate about what I could offer, I began photographing all the houses being built, the volunteers, sponsors groups, homeowners, families, dedications, and gave away all the photos for free to Habitat, the families, and volunteers. I started experimenting with giving small instant prints away to kids during dedications last year and they loved them! Seeing the little prints come to life in front of their eyes was like magic. Kids nowadays are used to seeing the images on the back of a camera or cell phone, but most have never seen an instant print. 30313789891_4bfb17c151_k

In October 2016, I had the opportunity to go to Vietnam with Habitat for Humanity and spend a week building homes for those in need. It was one of the most challenging, exciting, fun, heartwarming, and rewarding things I have ever done. I am already planning to do more international trips with them!


Habitat for Humanity built these homes in the Phu Tho region of Vietnam which is about 50 miles outside Hanoi.

What motivated you to do it?

Growing up, my family was often involved with charities and giving back. My brothers and I were in Boy Scouts, active in church functions, and volunteered for different things around town. Fast forward a few years after graduating college and living in the “real” adult world and my weekdays became filled with long hours working, and weekends once spent giving back, were replaced with either more work or catching up after a long week. My time was packed but I had a yearning to get back to that place of giving again, I just didn’t know how.

Soon thereafter, I went through some very difficult and trying times. I didn’t know if I could make it out of the depression I felt myself sinking into, but I knew I had to get out of the house. I had to get back to doing things for others again, to finding a new purpose in life, and getting back to being me.

I started volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. At first I didn’t want to be a distraction on the job site, so I became a fly on the wall. “Keep working, I’m not here,” I would tell everyone. I simply wanted to take my photos and leave. But as I continued to show up each weekend, the house leaders would remember me, say hi, and we’d chat for a bit. Soon, that expanded to the volunteers, the homeowners, and the kids in the neighborhood.

Before I knew it, I was excited to wake up early on a weekend to go to a job site. That soon led me to create a public Flickr account and to give the photos away to everyone. I found out that for many of the families, the photos I took of them in front of their new house were the first photos they had ever gotten of the family all together. Knowing how much the families cherish my photos has kept me going over the years.


What equipment do you use and why? 

House leaders like to joke that I have a bigger tool belt than they do! My main gear are Nikon D700 and D750 cameras, with 24-70 f2.8 and 70-200 f2.8 lenses. I have to be very careful about where I am on the job site, so the zoom lenses are very important to getting my shots. I am constantly covered in dirt, saw dust, mud, climbing up and down ladders, banging into studs or heavy metal things, which means the gear has to be pro level and weather sealed to last. I have a Lowepro deluxe technical belt with several different pouches for swapping lenses, carrying my cell phone, notebook, wallet, keys, odds and ends, and a water bottle. I usually park my truck and walk between job sites, so I need everything with me rather than trying to use a camera bag that might walk off when I am not looking.

When I travel, I use a Fuji XT-1 with the 18–55 f2,8-4 and 10-24 f4 lenses, and the Fuji Instax printer. I still need to get a telephoto for that set up.

Since I also build on some of the job sites, I have my own hard hat that I reverse to be able to use with my camera. I also have a mix of other safety gear like glasses and gloves, strong work boots and mud boots, and a big stack of business cards with the URL to my flickr account.



Bong and his wife are local farmers in Phu Tho building a new road around their field. After tending their crops in the morning, they use old farming tools to prepare a base for the concrete.


Bong’s wife didn’t want to be in the photo with him but after a little teasing gave in.

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

When we showed up for the first build day in Vietnam, the neighborhood kids didn’t know what to make of us. They’d run and hide every time we’d come walking down the path to the job site. Most of the people that lived in that community had never ventured very far, let alone outside of the country. They have no TV and they are lucky to have old cell phones without internet. They had simply never seen people so physically big!

Over the next few days, we’d catch them watching us as we built and would say hi and wave. They’d giggle and dart away, but soon they came out to meet us. We must not be that bad, we’re building their neighbor a new house! When I took their photo for the first time, they didn’t know what to make of it. Some laughed and ran, others were fascinated by it. Then I made a small Fuji instant print and their eyes went wide and their smiles reached from ear to ear as they saw the picture develop. After that, the walls came tumbling down. We’d play games together on our breaks, they’d teach us Vietnamese phrases and we’d teach them English ones, and they’d show us parts of their village. They even wanted to take OUR photo and even more photos together with us! It was a good thing we were pretty quick builders since our breaks seemed to get longer and longer each time! And it all started from a smile and wave, and a simple little instant print.


Brian said, “These adorable kids had never seen a printed picture of themselves before, so I gave them this one! I had to sneak this pic because every time they’d see the camera they’d laugh and dart away behind a tree.”

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

Always bring more film than you think you’ll need, especially for groups of kids! Everyone will want their own print, so you’ll quickly go through a lot. Kids are usually more willing to get their photo taken than adults, but always ask permission from their parents first! Usually once one person gets their photo made and others see it, you won’t have any problems. In fact, the kids may run home to get their siblings and other family members to have even more photos made together.

Sometimes when you need to move along, or get back to building in my case, you need to just finish out the pack of film and tell them you’ve run out so you have to stop for the day.  You’ll get “awwwww!” and puppy dog eyes from the kids, but if you are staying in the area, tell them you can come back again tomorrow with more film. But, if you do that, don’t let them see you pull another pack from your bag around the corner to photograph someone else!


‘Obrigado’ off the Coast of Central Africa

Artur Cabral 

Although Artur has a degree in artur-cabral-1 architecture, he left that world to pursue his true passion: photography. He has been a professional photographer for the past 6 years with his work appearing in high-end magazines and publications around the world. In 2014 Artur traveled to the island nation of  São Tomé and Príncipe, a former Portuguese colony, located off the coast of Central Africa. With the help of a company sponsorship, he started a project to give photos mainly to Island elders called ‘Obrigado’ (‘Thank You’ in Portuguese). Artur’s striking large format prints made quite an impression in a country where 66% of the people live below the poverty line.

Follow Artur on Instagram @arturcabral and find more of his stunning work at


When did you start giving photos?

Every time I go back to a place where I’ve been before, I try to print some of the photos I took to give back to people. It started a few years ago in Mozambique, but it’s been mainly in the last two years on my trips to São Tomé and Príncipe (Islands in the Gulf of Guinea, off the coast of Central Africa) where I went several times for work.


By the end of 2014 I started project OBRIGADO (Thank You) in Príncipe Island with a sponsorship from HBD (a South African company which is in the tourism business but with great concern and cooperation with local communities). With the help of an anthropologist, I met with many different communities and talked to “young people from the past” as we fondly called them. Those moments of lively conversation were key to getting people to smile. Sometimes, their smiles were hidden by the fatigue of a difficult life. But it was nothing that a good and cherished conversation couldn’t overcome. I returned in February 2015 to continue the project, with an exhibition in the main square of St. Antonio, the capitol of the island country. Large format prints were placed so everyone could see and read about these amazing elderly people who helped make Príncipe. There were about 90 people portrayed and honored in this project.


Obrigado Exhibit in St. Antonio (capitol of Sao Tome and Principe)

Meanwhile, parallel to the exhibition, we offered the people a printed photo so they could keep it like a souvenir or pass it on to the next generation.


What motivated you to do it?

A print is something so simple and basic for all of us that sometimes we don’t realize what it can do for someone that never had one. The joy that a simple portrait brings to people when you give it is amazing, and that simple act can make a big impact in somebody else’s life.


What equipment do you use and why?

I normally travel with my Canon 5D Mark III, a 24-70 f2.8 II and the 70-200 f2.8 IS. Recently I bought a mirrorless Sony a7 rII, to try something different with a smaller camera I can be less intrusive and cause less discomfort to the people I photograph.


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

In Príncipe it was fantastic to see people’s reactions to the Obrigado Exhibit — they wanted to see the photos up close, read the stories, recognize the faces. Children and adults, everyone wanted to come, some to find themselves, others to see their friends, others just with natural curiosity to learn something new. There were some school children who came as part of a field trip and wrote essays about the exhibit and, more importantly, about the people in the photos!


But if I had to pick the most profound moment that I had giving photos, I have to choose one in Mozambique where a boy didn’t recognize himself in the picture and told me in all innocence, “That boy has a toy like mine”.

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

Just do it! It doesn’t matter if you are giving back a small polaroid instant picture or a big print, just do it! The joy that it brings to the person receiving it is priceless!


Father/Daughter photos in Bangladesh and India!

Kaavya Rajesh and Rajesh Ramakrishnan

Rajesh and his daughter Kaavya were inspired to give away photos after reading about GivePhotos online. Knowing that girls are often undervalued in the Indian sub-continent, they decided to focus onkaavya-and-rajesh_cropped fathers and daughters and create a campaign called ‘My Daughter Is Precious’. They not only give away instant prints to families in low income areas, they also talk to them about the importance of girls’ education. Kaavya, who is only in 10th grade, answered our questions below about the project. You can follow Rajesh on Instagram @rajesh_photo and learn more about Kaavya’s project on her Facebook page.



When did you start giving away photos?

We started this project in March of 2016 and gave out instant photos to  fathers and their daughters in lower socioeconomic areas. We have so far done this in Dhaka, Kolkata, Chennai and Delhi.


What motivated you to do it?

I was inspired by a documentary called ‘Girl Rising’ where I learned that 65 million girls don’t attend school across the world! This really upset me and motivated me to do something about it. I spoke to my parents and we came up with this idea.

The inspiration for the instant pictures came from an article my mother found about GivePhotos online in DAILYGOOD. It was about a lady who gave instant prints to children in underprivileged areas in India as many cannot afford one.

My father and I combined our passion for photography with our belief that fathers can play a big role in their daughters’ lives and came up with this project.


What equipment do you use and why?

We usually use a Cannon 5D Mark III to take the digital photo and we use a Fujifilm Instax camera to print the instant pictures we give to the families. 

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

Every time we give the families the pictures, the joy on their faces is heartwarming. The people volunteer to show us around so that we can take more photographs and spread the positivity and the message.

A particularly memorable person we met was Machekantan who is a fisherman who lives in Oorurkuppam, the fisherman’s colony in Chennai. He is a friendly and forward looking man, bringing up four girls. His daughter Gayathri, his granddaughter Abhinaya and his nieces; Nandini and Renukadevi. Their parents, his brother and sister-in-law, passed away and Machekantan has been looking after them since then. His wife works as a maid. Abhinaya studies in class four and Renukadevi is in class ten, they hope to continue studying until they complete college and get good jobs. Nandini finished Class 10 two years ago, but decided to stop studying. She now regrets it immensely. She hopes to complete her education some day. Gayathri is in her second year of college, she’s a business student studying BBA at the Janaki MGR college. She fears that she won’t be able to complete the course because it’s very expensive.

“The fees are very high and my parents are working very hard to pay them, but if they can’t I’ll have to drop out,” she said sadly. They have taken loans from the local moneylender at high rates of interest to fund her education. If Gayathri completes her graduation, she will be first one to have a degree in her family.


Machekantan and his family, 2016


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

I think it is a great gift to give because a photo can capture a moment, a relationship, and preserve it forever and enable them to cherish it. We should all do this for people who dont have the resources to own a photo.


Read more about Kaavya’s campaign

A father and daughter are raising money for a cause, one picture at a time

Making Connections in Benin!

Photographer Kevin Perry (@ventureforthphoto) gave this man an instant photograph when he was traveling through Taneka, Benin in 2015. He said that while many tourists would take photos of him no one had ever given him a print. Yesterday, when we posted this photo on our Instagram, a woman in France who had traveled to Benin back in 2008 recognized him. She was doing a volunteer exchange and the photo she took with him ended up in a newspaper. She always regretted not giving him a print of the photo. Seeing this picture pop up on her Instagram feed of this same man smiling and looking at the print Kevin gave him filled her with so much joy.


Here is the photo that Caroline took with this same man back in 2008.


Caroline writes,

I went to Benin in 2008 to be part of a volunteer exchange between my city Evreux in France and Djougou in Benin. We were a group of young people participating to a project of reforestation with some youth from Benin. During that trip we went to Taneka to visit the village. And I had the pleasure to seat next to this great man. Someone from the group took a picture of us and it was used in a newspaper article about our journey.

Today when I saw your picture of him with his great smile, I was so happy and feel so thankful to sort of have some news from him through your picture. Mine is on the desk of my dad since 8 years now so I never forget that special moment of my life and it was a real pleasure to see him this morning completely randomly through Instagram. I thought how many chances were that on your picture it could have one of the person I met during my travels. Love those coincidences!

You can follow Caroline on Instagram or check out her website