A day in the life of a humanitarian photographer
My alarm sounds, but I’ve already been awake for a while — unable to sleep through the night due to the flurry of thoughts, concerns and excitement running through my mind. I have a big day ahead of me and I don’t want to oversleep or be late.
The sun rose early, encouraging me to start my day in spite of my puffy, tired eyes. Nightmares caused by my anti-malaria medicine the past couple of days have left their mark on my face. A quick look in the mirror confirms my expectation: the deep, dark circles underneath my eyes betray my rough nights.
After a fast shower with cold water and a generous application of sunscreen and mosquito repellant (I always come prepared), I’m ready to go. I’m craving a cup of coffee, but I know that there will be no access to a bathroom for many hours, so I avoid all fluids.
I double check my camera equipment: battery full, SD card inserted, lenses covered. My phone is fully charged, because I’ll need it to save the consent forms from those who are interviewed or photographed. I feel a slight pang of frustration as I realize that there is no internet or phone signal where I’m working, and wonder if I’m missing any important e-mails.
It takes several more hours of driving on bumpy, muddy, winding roads to reach our destination in rural Burundi. The scenery along the way is awe-inspiring and I ask my driver to pull over a few times so I can try to capture the beauty of this country with my camera. Try as I might, it never does it justice.
We finally reach the project site and as soon as I step out of the vehicle, I’m surrounded by children who find the color of my skin to be both unusual and hilarious. They reach for my hair, my skin, and yell out “Bonjour!” “Hello!” “How are you?” and when I reply, dissolve into a fit of laughter. My heart expands just a little.
I’m given a tour of the activity they’re working on thanks to the support of my organization: some are making soap, others are cutting hair or harvesting beans with the skills they developed after receiving vocational training and a start-up kit — I can finally see first-hand the results of the projects we designed months, even years earlier.