I want to make a photo book of family
portraits of and for a community in rural Malawi, Africa. I've been
to the village of Zolokere in Malawi three times - first in 04' then
again in 07' and finally 09'. I was working on a feature documentary during those visits that is now complete. The film is called Bush
League and it's something I'm really proud of but it's not very
shareable with the people in the community there since it's a digital
product. Zolokere is a very remote village in the NW of the country
and there's no electricity of running water – video is hard to
share there. A photo on the other hand is immediate, meaningful and
long lasting. Most importantly, there is a strong demand in the
community for family portraits.
For this project I want to stay in the village for three weeks and invite any of the families in the area to come and get photographed. I'll be
shooting for free of course but I will ask for one thing from the
families - I'll ask them to write a letter to their future
descendents that I'll lay into the book opposite the portrait.
Malawians write beautiful letters and I think it will give the book a
narrative voice that is uniquely theirs. While I hope people in my
community here in the States are also interested in the images I
suspect that a few letters from Malawi will be revelatory and may
become their main interest to which I say – great.
I own all the gear needed for the project including cameras (Mamiya 6 and Canon 7D) and post production tools. No funds will go toward gear. I do though need help with travel costs. I'll use my frequent flier miles to reach Malawi but I need an assist to get all the way to the village and stay. Above all, I need help with the printing and shipping costs to send one (physically) small photo book back to each family that participates. It's critical that they be printed on very high quality paper and with excellent ink if they're going to last. That really is the point – to make something that will last.
It's also important that the images be beautiful but to be honest – that's the easy part. Malawi and Malawians are shockingly photogenic. I should also mention that this isn't a charity project. While I do want to provide a service to the community in Zolokere I also just want to take great photos and there's nowhere that I can do that better than in Zolokere. I see giving the photos back as more of a trade than a gift of any sort – the least I can do. Plus, making photo books is fun and it will of course be available to anyone else who wants it – priced as modestly as possible.
A few words about myself:
I studied film at SDSU and CalArts and
was a Fulbright Fellow and Peace Corps volunteer in Lithuania. I'm
currently an adjunct community college professor teaching film and
photography in San Diego, CA. Most of my creative work has been
motion picture and my films have screened at MoMA, Los Angeles Film
Fest, Vancouver Int Film Fest, The Viennale, The Shadow Fest, Calgary
Int., the Pompidou Modern Art Museum in Paris, New Jersey Film Fest and lot's of other
great places. My most recent films were Bush League, which I
mentioned and a short human rights film that I shot while living in Baghdad.
I'm proud to say that film – INDENTURED - was part of a recent
initiative to draft an Executive Order curbing human rights abuses on
US military bases abroad.
You can see almost all of my work and
watch my films for free at www.cysfilm.com
It goes without saying that any support
for this project is deeply appreciated.
Risks and challenges
I'm always nervous about equipment breaking so I plan to take two cameras - one which needs no batteries or recharging that shoots film and a Canon DSLR in case my film gets cooked in an airport.
Beyond that, I think the biggest challenge is designing a book that's attractive but still very easy to ship. Getting things to this area of Malawi isn't simple so I'll have to do some planning while in Malawi to sort those logistics.
Malawian domestic politics - Malawi is a peaceful country that's gone through major changes in the last few years. Extremely high fuel prices, civil unrest and other internal events could affect my plans. That said, where there's a will there's a way.
The Bush League DVD: an entertaining, educational and immersive pic about life in the village of Zolokere. Intimate dramas unfold in the lives of four villagers who are all members of the local soccer team. Premiered at Vancouver Int Film Fest, Winner Best Feature Doc New Jersey Int Film Fest. You can see the DVD here: www.cysfilm.com
The Bush League DVD and T-shirt! An entertaining, educational and immersive film about life in the village of Zolokere with a very high quality American Apparel T (with subtle graphics anyone can feel good in).
Five signed copies of the book with a publishers credit and (2) 12x12 fine art prints either from this project or any other photo I've ever made. The Bush League DVD and the T-shirt. And if you're within one days drive (250 miles) of San Diego I'll deliver it all in person!