Training Uganda’s Girls in Photography with Fujifilm X Series

· 10.September.2019

Photography to me is what living a life of passion is all about.  I have always been enamored by photography – both good and bad (very subjective to the viewer’s eye) as we can keep learning and perfecting our craft.  I don’t mean compete I mean learn, get inspired and get creative.I was first inspired by my dad’s passion for photography – he gifted me a Kodak Instamatic camera when I was about 10 years old and then when I started getting more into it, he gave me his Minolta 35mm camera and I shot every roll of film I could until the motor wore out.

It was this passion for photography, although I never took it up professionally, that inspired my endeavours to train girls in photography and in another country no less. The first and most important thing on my mind, was what camera was I going to use to document my work. Well Fuji of course, but from many choices on the market, I finally settled on the Fujifilm X-T2 for my first trip and before embarking on my second, I upgraded to the Fujifilm X-T3. Now as I prepare for my third training, I have added the X-H1. I carry only two lenses: the 18-55mm and the 55-200mm.

Over the years, I have been through all the different camera manufacturers and owned and worked with most of the brands but it was not until I started using Fuji, that I came into my own and really reignited my passion for photography. Until Fuji, the camera never felt right to me – now the camera is a natural extension of me and those of you who work with Fuji know what I mean. Not only does the camera fit in my hands properly but the dials and the design are easily adaptable to any shooting situation and nothing is more important than when I am in the middle of safari and I have to get that once-in-a-moment shot and Fuji delivers for me every time.

I travel as light as possible. When documenting the training I use the 18-55 and love that the X-T3 offers great video so I can capture testimonials as well as great photos and videos of the girls learning. When on safari, I of course use the longest lens I have in my arsenal, which is the 55-200mm. I am hoping to upgrade to the 100-400mm, so that I can get even closer to the animals and birds on safari but so far I have been super happy with the results I am getting.

Let me back up for a few minutes. I am a Canadian citizen having landed in Canada as an immigrant in 1972, after my family and I were exiled by then President and Dictator Idi Amin. I grew up in small town of Burlington and ended up going into fashion design instead of photography. It was my fashion background that got me into the Canadian Film & Television Industry. I worked in the fashion department as a design assistant and then moved into producing short films, music videos at Much Music and documentaries. It was through the work in documentary filmmaking, that took me to Uganda in 2007 to write, shoot and produce a documentary about my families’ journey from Uganda to Canada.

It was at that point in 2007 I saw the plight of girls and I knew I had to do something to change it for the better, but at the time I just did not know what it would be – it was definitely not going to be just giving money, as unfortunately in many cases the money never reaches the people who need it most. As is the case in under-developed countries, girls are married off early, mostly uneducated, relegated to taking care of the household or the younger siblings and I saw this everywhere I looked in Uganda. Currently the unemployment rate stands at a staggering 65% and girls unfortunately are hugely affected with this statistic.

We had nothing when we came to Canada and like many immigrants, life was very difficult but my parents taught my sister and me to always give back and through that we would receive so much more in return. This lesson has guided my life and it is how I came to start Triple F Photo Tours and the subsequent not-for-profit, Cameras for Girls Uganda.

I first came up with the idea of training young girls in Uganda in the art of photography in the late 2017. I wanted to pass on my passion for photography to these girls to help them find work, earn an income and change their lives along the way. I contacted many schools in Uganda but kept hitting roadblocks; for instance, either the girls were unable to attend school on a consistent basis as they were wanted at home to do chores or their parents could not afford the tuition every month or the school would have no electricity.

Finally, my friend Venex who is a journalist in Uganda, suggested that I train young ladies who were endeavouring to become journalists. Unbeknownst to me you might be hired as a journalist but if you don’t own a camera and/or know how to use it, you will not be published or paid. In North America you are given the tools for your job, but in Uganda you must have your own tools, which is why there is such a staggering amount of unemployed.

I immediately got to work putting the plan together. Thus, I started Triple F Photo Tours to help fund the goal of training local girls. “Where Fun, F(ph)otography and F(ph)ilanthropy Meet.”  The goal of Triple F Photo tours is to take amateur and intermediate photographers from the developed part of the world to Uganda on a photo-tour to show them the beauty of Uganda while assisting them to improve their photography in the field on many excursions such as Safari, Gorilla and Chimp trekking, waterfalls and more. Aside from the beauty that Uganda has to offer it is the people that will capture your heart.  Through each traveler’s fees a portion goes directly to helping me purchase cameras and pay for the year-long training.

The broader goal of the company is to have these same photographers bridge the cultural gap by interacting in the training of 15-18 local girls in the art of photography. Hence the purpose of Cameras for Girls Uganda. The program lasts a year and takes more than the funds from the trip bookings to make it happen.

The training is immersive with both local and international partners. After our 3-day training is complete, the girls get a free camera, online training through KelbyOne; they learn editing through a partner on the ground in Uganda and then I run the other portion through Whatsapp as that is the most affordable and accessible portal for all the girls. They sign contracts, have monthly assignments and bi-weekly photo reviews. I have just completed the second training this past June and the photos that these girls are producing is nothing short of amazing. I have trained a total of 32 girls since inception and 4 girls now have full-time jobs (in the journalism field) and two have started their own blogs.

The cameras the girls receive come from donations – I strive to have the girls learn from the same camera, but with limited funds, it is not always that easy. I therefore put together a manual for easy manipulation and learning, depending on which camera each girl receives. Hopefully as my program grows, so will interest and possible sponsorships but until then, I will do what I can with what I have.

In closing, if you are interested in coming along on the adventure and changing a girls life by helping to train her in photography, while improving yours with in-field excursions such as gorillas & chimp trekking, safaris, community engagement, waterfalls and more, than please check out the information on the website at www.triplefphototours.ca.

If you are interested in donating funds to help with the purchase of cameras please go to www.gofundme.com/f/cameras-for-girls-uganda-3.

If you are interested in donating new or used cameras (point & shoot, film, DSLS) – everything helps, please reach out to me at booking@triplefphototours.ca.

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