Beyond training: Fostering independence among our photographers

Beyond training: Fostering independence among our photographers
November 26, 2023 Lydia Wanjiku

In the midst of the 2020 COVID-19 downtime, we seized the opportunity to reflect and reevaluate our training approach and the impact it had on the women we work with. Previously, our training was an 8-hour program spread across a week, but as demand increased for our photographers’ services, we noticed a gap as our photographers were not fully equipped to take on assignments independently.

Lensational’s programs in Ghana and Hong Kong took the lead in introducing advanced training programs initiatives, providing in-depth skill development beyond the basics. The impact was profound, as evidenced by success stories like Misper Apawu becoming a mentor in Ghana and Leeh Ann producing the first-ever photo essay in Lensational in Hong Kong.¬† Driven by these lessons, we made a strategic decision to shift our focus from reaching many women over a short time to working intensively with a select few, although the ultimate goal remained unclear.

As Lensational adapted its programs, the ultimate goal gradually crystallized. Through years of working with women from diverse backgrounds, we recognized the invaluable insights their stories offered. The challenge, however, was how to make these insights valuable beyond our organization.

The goal became clear: to enable our photographers to share these invaluable insights widely while supporting them to evolve as independent professionals.

To tangibly support this vision, we began thinking of how to expand our offering beyond advanced training programs like the ongoing New Perspectives advanced training program. From this the idea of an award program was born. This program would allow our photographers to pitch new project ideas and receive support in fine-tuning them, (receiving mentorship in the process) and financial support to develop these ideas.

Before the official announcement of our vision, something incredible began to happen. Our partners and friends proactively approached us to engage our photographers on commissioned assignments, all of this happening before we had even unveiled our vision.

To tangibly support this vision, we began thinking of how to expand our offering beyond advanced training programs like the ongoing New Perspectives advanced training program. From this the idea of an award program was born. This program will allow our photographers to pitch new project ideas and receive support in fine-tuning them, (receiving mentorship in the process) and financial support to develop these ideas.

Before the official announcement of our vision, something incredible began to happen. Our partners and friends proactively approached us to engage our photographers on commissioned assignments, all of this happening before we had even unveiled our vision.

Presently we are happy to share the early success of this vision and complimentary support from our partners evident in the recent achievements of Lensational’s photographers in Kenya.¬†

In June of this year, photographers Catherine Pilale, Claire Metito, Esther Tinayo, Irene Naneu, and Charity Kishoiyan from the Envisioning Resilience initiative in Kenya received their first commissioned assignment. Tasked with documenting the Kenyan Government’s actions under the NAP process, they were accompanied by a mentor, Brian Siambi, an accomplished photographer and previous trainer. This was made possible¬†

More recently, the Global Strategic Communication Network (GSCC) commissioned three Kenyan photographers, Irene Naneu, Claire Metito, and Catherine Pilale, to produce a photo series on Care Work and Climate Change in their communities. This series, soon to be published, aims to support evidence provided in the Women Earth and Climate Action Network (WECAN) International report on prioritizing care work for a just transition ahead of COP28.

Thanks to a generous donation in kind from Michael, a friend and business owner, Lensational supported Esther Tinayo in producing a groundbreaking photo series on Enkipaata, an age-set ceremony documented for the first time in history by an indigenous woman from the community.

While these examples are from our program in Kenya, we eagerly anticipate similar momentum in our programs in Jamaica, Ghana, and Hong Kong.