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Photojournalists: Use Photojournalism to Help Charities Tell Their Story

by Deborah Mitchell
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Photojournalists can provide photo documentation that many charitable organizations desperately need (yet often cannot afford) to monitor and verify their work, apply for grants, raise funds, increase public awareness, and create educational materials.

Photojournalism has long been a powerful segment of the media, but perhaps even more so in recent times. During and after the tsunami in Asia, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the United States, photo journalists snapped pictures that not only informed the public and brought the gravity of the events to people's attention, they also served to loosen purse strings and prompted individuals to donate to specific charities so they could in turn help the victims. Thus while the Chinese proverb, "one picture is worth ten thousand words" certainly holds true in today's world, a more fitting saying here may be, "one picture is worth thousands of dollars."

A collateral effect of the public's generous response to catastrophic events often is that donations typically decline for organizations not involved in relief efforts. Even when there are no major disasters to focus the public's attention, charitable organizations typically find it is a constant struggle to get the financial and other support they need to remain viable and able to accomplish their mission.

As a photojournalist you can help reduce the burden of that struggle by taking photographs for organizations which in turn can use them in ways that further their goals. Your photo journalism skills may be needed, for example, to provide photographs for a wildlife reserve to help them produce new educational materials, to contribute to an environmental photo archive, or to support the educational mission of the National Wildlife Federation, which is to protect wildlife for our children’s future. Or you could take photographs that monitor progress of relief efforts, photographs that can be used both internally and to raise public awareness and prompt people to take action. You could also snap pictures that will be used to create an educational exhibit or that provide material for a database which the charity can draw from as needed, or perhaps even contribute to a nature documentary

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As a volunteer photojournalist, it's best to make arrangements with one or more charities before you leave on your vacation so you will have an idea of the types of photographs they may need, where their projects or events are taking place, and if the charity provides any type of accommodations or supplies.

  • Be a photojournalist in Cusco, Peru, where you can help native journalists who produce a magazine. Your skills in photography, research, and writing will be appreciated.  
  • Work with a professional photojournalist in Kathmandu, Chitwan, and Pokhara, Nepal. This volunteer opportunity will take you to different parts of Nepal, where you will have a chance to record diverse cultures, community, and various kinds of programs.
  • The US Fish and Wildlife Service needs volunteer photojournalists to help them monitor and record natural and cultural treasures across the United States.
  • Various US government organizations announce their need for volunteer photojournalists through America’s Natural and Cultural Resources Volunteer portal. Opportunities are always changing, so you may want to check in occasionally.
  • Women in Progress need volunteers to photograph women and their products in Ghana. You will be helping women in need establish their own micro businesses and become self-sufficient. Your commitment can range from two weeks to 4 months.

As a photojournalist, you can bring a charity's story to life without words, and life to the words the charity brings to the photos.

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