Prior to my Tanzania trip in March 2017 with African Initiatives (see previous article here for more), I emailed Andrew Cattanach, Editor of The Journal magazine for The Royal Photographic Society (RPS), to discuss a possible feature in their magazine.
That same day, Andrew phoned me back and after a 10-15 minute discussion, he agreed to set aside 4 pages in the May 2017 issue. The proposed article would cover the my motivation and background story, followed by a diary of my experiences in Tanzania interspersed with images and captions telling the story of one to two Maasai women.
Yesterday, a copy of The Journal dropped through my letterbox with my article in print. It’s always a great moment to see your work published, but this trip in particular is one I’m particularly proud to have joined, especially as the majority of the money was raised through crowd funding and the generous support of my friends and family. Below is a press cutting of the article. Should you not be able to read the text, I’ve added the full wording underneath along with larger images above. For any photographers out there, a photo of my kit bag can also be seen in the gallery.
Philip Field ARPS reveals how making contacts, crowdfunding and Fellowship ambitions helped him realise a trip of a lifetime with charity African Initiatives
When Philip Field ARPS was asked by Bristol based charity African Initiatives to produce a flyer for a fundraising event he was tempted to turn it down. He was especially busy, and an additional, unpaid, commission did not appeal.
At the time, he had no idea that the charity’s offer would mark the start of a fruitful relationship that would eventually lead to rural Tanzania, where he would traverse the Serengeti plains and photograph women whose lives had been transformed by African Initiatives’ educational programme.
After doing some research, Field had decided to help make the flyer. He had found that the charity helps girls to go to school in a part of the world where they too often don’t get the chance, and promotes financial independence among women. ‘Scanning their website I saw that a large proportion of their work included partnering with African organisations led by Maasai pastoralist women,’ says Field. ‘It sounded fascinating, and three unforgettable months working in South Africa in 2012 had left me enchanted by the great continent.’
He said he would make the flyer on the proviso that he could also photograph the event it would advertise, where he introduced himself to African Initiatives’ chief executive José Sluijs-Doyle and offered his photographic expertise, should an opportunity ever arise.
In January, Sluijs-Doyle got in touch. This year is African Initiatives’ 20th anniversary and the NGO planned to send its communications officer Ellie Richold to Tanzania to interview Maasai women about how the charity’s endeavours had helped change their lives. Sluijs-Doyle suggested Field join the trip to take photographs that would document the success stories.
But there was a catch. African Initiatives is a small charity, and takes great pride in the fact that it sends 94p from every £1 raised direct to overseas projects. So there wasn’t much cash floating around to invest in sending a snapper halfway around the world. Field would have to pay his own way.
‘As an expectant father and business owner I had other priorities,’ says Field. ‘But since becoming a Society Associate in 2015 I’d been searching for a narrative to justify a worthy Fellowship portfolio. This felt like a great opportunity and I believe wholeheartedly in the work African Initiatives does. So with my wife’s backing I turned to crowdfunding.’
Time was tight: he had four weeks to raise £1,200. But within seven days of launching his StartSomeGood crowdfunding page Field had raised 50 per cent of the money needed, and booked his flight. He knew it was a risk and often thought he might come to regret taking on a project that ended up costing him money.
‘I often asked myself if it was a good decision to take on the burden of raising the capital, promoting the trip and ensuring I didn’t end up out of pocket,’ says Field. ‘On top of that, I had already agreed to work 10 days, free of charge, plus editing time.’
But Field’s worries dissipated after they touched down in Tanzania and he was on his way to the first shoot in Loliondo, travelling 450km through Ngorongoro Conservation Area and across the Serengeti plains, where he would see some of the world’s most iconic landscapes, as well as zebra, wildebeest and Thomson’s gazelles.
After a day in Mondorosi, photographing goat herder Kimere, Field and Richold travelled a further 650km. They would visit other projects supported by African Initiatives, documenting teachers and pupils at primary and secondary schools in Ololosokwan and Emanyata. They would also explore land-rights issues in Engare Sero, collate images relating to the effects of climate change on Maasai life, and hold a workshop on creative writing and photography.
‘It was the trip of a lifetime,’ says Field. ‘Whether or not the images form a successful Fellowship portfolio, the kindness and spirit of the women we met made the whole experience worthwhile.’