Thanks to Picture Change, hundreds of individuals in third-world countries now have a priceless and hard-to-come-by keepsake: a printed portrait. Leaving them with more than printed photos, however, Picture Change also furnishes communities with trained photographers who can continue to visually record daily life and special events there.
The Nashville-based organization operates using a model unlike any other. Founder Kate Gazaway, a former freelance humanitarian photographer, brings donated cameras to communities with limited resources. She spends eight weeks there teaching basic photography classes, and also hosting community-wide gallery celebrations where guests can enjoy treats and music as they view the work.
Gazaway incorporates a giveback day into the lessons, during which students take portraits of families or kids at a local children’s home. The goal of this day is to empower the students to realize they have something to offer others.
To date, Gazaway has conducted classes with people in three communities in Nicaragua, with formerly trafficked women in India, with refugees in Nashville and with Roma refugees in Montenegro. Gazaway will head to Uganda in August to teach photography to at-risk youth in collaboration with Sole Hope.
Living proof that her work is making a difference, a handful of students are now earning income as photographers as a result of what they learned through Picture Change. For example, Rosa, a former student in Nicaragua, contributes photos to Picture Change’s Instagram account (@picturechange), teaches photography classes to others in her community and earns money as a professional photographer. Former student Albijon, a Kosovo refugee who lives in Montenegro, had the opportunity to travel to Brussels to share some of his class’s photos with members of the European Union.