It's Time to Define Your Photographic Identity


I recently wrote a blog on being paid what your worth and I got some interesting feedback from other photographers.  There was one comment I couldn’t get out of my mind. You shouldn’t spend your energy trying to prove your worth as a creative. You should show why you are different.

Initially, I struggled with this feedback. My inner ego shouted, “I bring value and should receive the pay I deserve.” But the idea continued to pester me. What is it what sets me apart? Do I even know? I came back to this question many times over the next few weeks. It was time for me to understand my identity as a photographer.

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Cultural Awareness

I want to do more on a photo shoot than just show up with my camera. I want to try to understand my subject. I want to have a relationship with them. But I have limited time on most of my photo shoots, so the work on the relationship comes before I’ve ever met them.

I spent time in each country I live in learning the local language and reading about the history of the place that I will be working. I am always amazed that a simple greeting and introduction in Kinyarwanda opens doors for my work in Rwanda. This small effort on my part changes the dynamic of the photographs that I create.

 

Technical Understanding

I am a voracious learner. I came into the industry as a creative, not a technician. But I have spent the last thirteen years sucking up knowledge via degrees, books, workshops, and online classes. I. I do not limit myself to studying only photography but also business and innovation. I believe that my passion for learning has been the best asset in my pursuit of greatness in my craft. I find knowledge in both my successes and failures as both teach me to be a better photographer. This pursuit of technical understanding forces me always to strive to be better than I was yesterday.

 

Personal Passion

I began to dream of being a professional photographer in my early college days, and I haven’t been able to shake it. I cannot imagine a future without my camera. That is what gets me through the tough stuff. When I doubt myself,  I look back at my first portfolio of work and I see the journey. Progress is simply putting one foot in front of the other. I understand that I cannot do without photography. It is as much a part of my identity as breathing.

I Can't Work for $100 Per Day and You Shouldn't Either

I was just approached to do some photography consulting with an organization doing amazing things in Rwanda. I would’ve loved to work with them but they offered a day rate far below what any photographer should accept. This makes me wonder who is taking these gigs, thus perpetuating the myth the photographers can sustainably work for next to nothing? And do they know that they shouldn’t?

This organization offered to pay me $100 per day with the average day being 8-10 hours. Essentially they wanted me to work for about $10 dollars an hour.  I can’t do that. And neither should you. Here’s why:

Let’s just say hypothetically that I found an organization that would hire me for 300 days out the year for $100 per day. I’d make $30,000. Doesn’t sound too bad, right?

©CanStockPhoto

©CanStockPhoto

That is until you learn that I do a cost of doing business calculation every year. This year I projected that I will have at least $26,000 in expenses. In addition, I’d like to make a salary and save for retirement.  Refer to bullet one: the day rate of $100 leaves me with about $4,000 to live on for the year.

In addition, I own approximately $20,000 in gear and every piece of gear I own has a life expectancy. This means that as long as I am a photographer I will be purchasing or repairing gear.  This year I’ve spent about $5,500 in gear and repairs. One major unexpected expense was spending $4,000 on a new camera when both of my bodies went down at the same time. Guess where my $4,000 salary just went?

Besides my yearly expenses, I have to take into account that my bachelors and masters degree cost me approximately $85,000. I have spent years learning my craft and paid thousands of dollars in student loans.

Your organization is doing amazing things and I wish I could help. But I am running a business. I can’t work for $100 per day. If I accepted your rate then I wouldn’t make enough money to eat, pay rent, or save for retirement. No matter how great your organization is the answer is still no. 

Joining the Ranks of Ni Nyampinga & Inspiring Girls Everywhere

There are over a million girls in Rwanda and Girl Hub is creating incredible content to educate them through the Ni Nyampinga  magazine and weekly radio show. 90,000 magazines are distributed each quarter. It is the highest circulated magazine in the country and radio reaches every region in Rwanda. . Ni Nyampinga is made by Rwandan girl for Rwandan girls. It inspires girls to succeed and I got to be a part of it.

Photographers are rarely offered a job that encompasses exactly the kind of work they want to do. Working with Girl Hub combines my passion for photography, development, education, and empowering young women.  

I joined this spectacular team for Issue 10. This issue celebrates the role of women to reunite the country during the twenty years post genocide, showcases how women remain  pillars in their communities, and highlights the opportunity that is waiting for Rwandan girls.

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved. The journalists of Ni Nyaminga greeting the world and inspiring the girls of Rwanda.

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved. The journalists of Ni Nyaminga greeting the world and inspiring the girls of Rwanda.

I helped train young Rwandan reporters who have a passion for photography and storytelling. Together we traveled all over the country sharing the stories of women doing amazing things.  We met women feeding the sick in hospitals. Nurses, teachers, and politicians who were adolescents at the time of the genocide who went on do amazing work for their communities.  Mothers who came together to build a better school and brighter future for their children.  Girls who build homes for vulnerable people. 

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved.  The sick and elderly in Rwandan hospitals are dependent on others to bring them food. This women's group cooks together each week and each member cares for one or two people.

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved.  The sick and elderly in Rwandan hospitals are dependent on others to bring them food. This women's group cooks together each week and each member cares for one or two people.

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved.  A politician, a nurse, and a school administrator share their stories of being adolescents during the genocide.

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved.  A politician, a nurse, and a school administrator share their stories of being adolescents during the genocide.

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved. Floride Basabose celebrates a correct answer with her students.  Her school was built by a group of mothers who were determined that the children get a better education.

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved. Floride Basabose celebrates a correct answer with her students.  Her school was built by a group of mothers who were determined that the children get a better education.

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved. Cecile Mukarugaza poses in front of the house that was built for her by an association of students who help vulnerable people.

©2014 Ni Nyaminga/Girl Hub. All Rights Reserved. Cecile Mukarugaza poses in front of the house that was built for her by an association of students who help vulnerable people.

A Nyampinga Girl is….

Unwali Uharanira Kujya Mbere.

A Girl Who Ascends Mountains.

The future of Rwanda is bright and Ni Nyampinga is a movement that is leaving change and prosperity in its wake.

What About Men's Empowerment?

I recently photographed a series of nonprofits in Rwanda with Bread for the World Institute for their 2015 World Hunger Report. The organization I was most impressed with is Men Care. They educate men on parenting and participating in family care, while working to break social taboos.

Men Care often works with young men who are expecting their first child. These men told us that before they started the program that they did not know that their wives need more rest while pregnant or that their babies would benefit from early contact with their fathers. As Men Care participates put their new knowledge in action, they ran into confusion from their families and partners as what they were doing is counter to their traditional roles in Rwandan society.

©2014 Crystaline Randazzo Photography, LLC. All Rights Reserved. 

Edouard, who works for Men Care, shared a story demonstrating the cultural attitude toward men and their families. When he took his son to the medical clinic to get immunizations, he overheard some women talking about him and how sad it was that his wife was dead. Edouard told them that his wife wasn’t dead but was working. They couldn’t imagine why he—as the man of the family—would bring his child in for care when his wife was alive and well.

I was grateful to visit a session that Men Care held for young men and have the opportunity to visit the home of one of their members, Theogene. After speaking to him and his family, I realized that we should be looking at empowerment as universal instead of thinking of it strictly in terms of gender. 

©2014 Crystaline Randazzo Photography, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

As someone who often works on projects that address women’s empowerment, I was surprised by how little I had thought about empowering men. I know that cultural traditions often affect the roles that women have in society, but I never thought about how those constraints also have an effect on men. I love documenting stories that challenge my perception and expose me to grassroots solutions changing communities and social norms one person at a time.

©2014 Crystaline Randazzo Photography, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

If you want to learn more about Men Care in Rwanda, check out this video by Nathan Golon.

Experience Rwanda with Nyamirambo Women’s Center

Tourism in Rwanda often centers on gorillas, volcanoes, and Nyungwe Forest. But I want to promote an amazing community-based tourism project that showcases urban life and promotes cultural understanding in Kigali. Are you planning a vacation to Rwanda? Add Nyamirambo Women’s Center to your itinerary!

What Can You Do There?

  • Take tours of the women's homes, local food, and daily urban life.
  •  Attend a traditional Rwandan basket weaving class. It’s harder then it looks!
  •  Buy beautiful African handicrafts from the Umutima sewing project.
  • Visit the Isomero Library, which provides computer, Kinyarwanda, and English classes for the Nyamirambo neighborhood.

©2014 Crystaline Randazzo Photography, LLC. All Rights Reserved

©2014 Crystaline Randazzo Photography, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

©2014 Crystaline Randazzo Photography, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

©2014 Crystaline Randazzo Photography, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

©2014 Crystaline Randazzo Photography, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

NWC is one of my pro bono photography projects for 2014. The organization meets all my rules for working for free. Their programs are changing the lives of over ninety five women in their community by providing them with skills and education. Evidence shows that when women are empowered, they actively improve not only their life but their communities’ prosperity. 

How are women changing the world in your community?