A Group of Young Afghan Women Reach New Heights Trekking in Nepal

One of my last photo shoots in Nepal was with Sierra Magazine. I met and photographed Shogufa, Neki, and Mariam, three girls from Afghanistan, before and after their trek. The girls joined Ascend, a nonprofit that trains Afghan girls to climb mountains, and traveled to Nepal to climb to their personal highest ever point 17,770 ft on Gokyo Ri. Spending the day with these girls gave me the most basic understanding of my own privilege and the immense freedom I have enjoyed as an American woman. As always my camera offered me an entry point by learning about a world totally different then my own. Be sure to read the full story of Shogufa, Neki, and Mariam’s journey below as told by the talented Wendy Becktold. You can read the online version of this story at Sierra Magazine.

Please note: Not all the photographs in this article are mine. Many belong to the Wendy Becktold who traveled with the girls for the entirety of their journey.

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How Education Changed My Life: Deepa’s Story

By Deepa Khatri, as told to Crystaline Randazzo

The BlinkNow Foundation provides schooling and a home for orphaned, impoverished, and at-risk children in Nepal. Founded by Maggie Doyne, the organization also provides community services to reduce poverty, empower women, improve health, and encourage sustainability and social justice. This post was originally posted on Medium.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

remember my first day at Kopila Valley School. I was in seventh grade and I did not speak English. I attended two schools before coming to Kopila, but I had never touched a computer or read a book before. In those schools someone would take attendance, the teachers would write on the board, but they never even talked to us.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

It is totally different at the Kopila Valley School. It’s more like a home than a school. We have teachers, aunties, and uncles who are all looking out for us. They give me snacks. They talk to me about how things are going at home. Everybody cares about me.

Going to school here changed my life. I learned many things and met so many people. I learned how to speak English and how to use a computer. I learned how to learn. I learned everything here.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

My life was really hard before I came to Kopila. When I was younger, my dad left our family. He was an alcoholic and abused my mom, my brother, and me. My mom was seriously injured and had a hard time taking care of us. My father remarried but continued to make our lives difficult. It seemed like he wanted us to be unhappy.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

My favorite part about going to Kopila is that everyone shows me love here. I never expected that other people would stand up for me. This has given me a dream to share all of the love in the world that my father could not. I want to care for my mother, my brother, and other women and children who are going through hard times.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

After I finished my studies in twelfth grade, I interned in the Accounting Department at Kopila Valley School. After my internship, I applied for a job with the accounting team and was hired. Now, I get to work at Kopila every day!

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

I’m a girl whose life is affected by domestic violence. I’m so glad that I am at Kopila. I have learned how to help other women and children. In Nepal, there are lots of children who grow up just like me. I know how hard it is. I know what it’s like to be hurt and have to show a smile in front of other people. Before I came to Kopila there were many times where I thought it would be better to die than keep living. I want to show others who might feel like that way that we all have problems, but we should work hard, and good things will come to us.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

©2017 Crystaline Randazzo. All Rights Reserved.

I would like to say thank you to the people who have helped me. I received everything I needed from Kopila. I do not have the right words to thank you, but I will say a blessing that you will receive happiness. I will never waste what you’ve given me. And I will do my best to make you proud.

Kopila Valley School provides a quality education and nurturing environment to at-risk children in Surkhet, Nepal. The BlinkNow Foundation is helping to educate students like Deepa and provide them with the tools they need to complete their education. Support girls like Deepa at www.BlinkNow.org/donate.

The Basic Components of a Photo Story

(Note: This post originally ran on NGO Storytelling, where I’m a co-editor.)

Why is it that every nonprofit has an archive of images but few have images they feel that they can use? It’s like having a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. I think most nonprofits feel this way is because they have lots of images but very few complete photo stories.

Indelible, craveable, relatable images have become a high currency in the world of content marketing. Did you know the brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text? Powerful visuals are scientifically proven evoke emotion, which spurs on action. And what every nonprofit really needs is relatable photo stories to back up the important work they are doing. This post is your golden ticket to creating professional photo stories.

If you've ever seen the work of Eugene SmithDorothea Lange, or Sabastiao Salgado, you've probably wondered how they were able to create such amazing stories. Raw talent aside, let me tell you a dirty, little photographer secret: there is a formula for everything! Every master photographer and editor has used a variation of the components below to create compelling, photo stories.


Opener- This is the strongest image in your edit, the one that will intrigue your audience and get them to click on your link!

Wide Shot - This shot is a wide shot that shows the overall scene that you are shooting. It gives your viewers a feel for the environment where the story takes place.

Medium Shot-This photo draws your audience in closer to the action and makes them curious about what they see.

Portrait- One of my photography professors used to say that in order to have a great portrait you needed hair, eyeballs,  and teeth. Portraits connect you to an individual; they personalize abstract ideas or actions happening among large groups.


Detail- a tight detail that represents a part of the story presents an opportunity to add detail to the story that might otherwise be missed.

The Pivotal Moment/Action Shot- Your viewers want to feel like they are standing in your shoes. Choose image that makes them feel like they are. It should be engaging and dynamic!

Closer-I like to call this the riding off into the sunset shot. It should add some finality to the images that you’ve shown before.

I generally use 8-10 photos for each of my stories. I’ll add a few shots to the images above to fill in the gaps of my story or share images of intriguing moments. The sample photos above are from a photo story that I recently did on my website. You can read the full blog post if you want to see a photo story in action. We'd love for you to put together a photo story from your images and share it in the comments below!

My Top 5 Storytelling Resources

I can’t believe that I am eight months into the year of story! It’s been amazing journey and I can feel my approach to storytelling changing in small but profound ways. Sometimes changing your approach is uncomfortable. It makes you ask questions that you’d never considered and challenges you to do things differently.

I’ve read dozens of books, spent countless hours in online courses, and done some serious digging into the storytelling community. So I wanted to share some of my favorite discoveries from this journey. I hope that they will help you in your storytelling journey.

Power Your Podcast Storytelling by Alex Blumberg on Creative Live

I don’t have a podcast, but this is the best course I have ever purchased on Creativelive. Alex is the master of the interview and gives very specific instruction on how to create and direct a good interview. Then he helps you craft powerful stories. Prepare to have your sock blown of! He has single handedly changed that way that I interview for multimedia pieces.


The Storytelling Nonprofit: A Practical Guide to Telling Stories That Raise Money and Awareness by Vanessa Chase Lockshin

I have followed Vanessa’s blog for the last year and took an online course she offered. I got to meet her at the Nonprofit Storytelling Conference in 2015 so I expect this post makes me an official fan girl. Her book primarily focuses on writing good stories for fundraising and donor retention. But fear not, visual storytellers, there’s plenty of solid information that we can apply to the stories we create. I often refer back to her story structure formula: Connection, Character, Conflict, Resolution, and Call 2 Action. This is invaluable when I am editing a story together.


Humanitarian Filmmaker Kate Lord on Involving Beneficiaries in the Filmmaking Process

Shameless self-promotion alert! I did an amazing interview with Kate Lord for NGOStorytelling that was a major light bulb moment in my storytelling journey. In the interview, Kate talks about her process of inclusive editing. She works with beneficiaries throughout the editing process to make sure they are comfortable with the way the story is being told. I realized that most of the stories that I created had zero input from the beneficiaries after the shoot. I can’t wait to start collaborating with beneficiaries to tell the stories that they want to share.  This just goes to show that no matter how long you’ve been telling stories you always have something more to learn.


The Living Brave Semester by Brené Brown

This probably won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me well, but when I learned that Brené Brown was going to be offering an online course, I couldn’t sign up fast enough. This course is based on her books Rising Strong & Daring Greatly and it might seem like a strange choice in the line up storytelling resources. But I believe that in order to engage in honest storytelling, you need to be in touch with your own story. Brené started me on a journey of self discovery that has allowed me to be a more vulnerable person who holds sacred space for the people who wish to share their story with me. And she’s going to start the second round of this course in January 2017!


Ira Glass On Storytelling

My favorite discovery on this journey is a four part video series by Ira Glass. You’ll probably remember that I wrote a post on the first video of his series. But he has three more that are absolutely inspirational. Every aspiring artists should watch these and be inspired by his words.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is a gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quite. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume o work that you will close the gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve every met. It’s going to take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You just gotta fight your way through it.”

This series gave me such hope about what is possible with my work if I just keep producing. So if your discouraged or unsure if you should move forward. Watch it and be inspired!