LOOK3 2011: Med Co BD Hosts Conversation On Global Health Photo Opportunities

Medical equipment company BD hosted a conversation at LOOK3 this morning about the the opportunities that exist in the global health industry for photographers who wish to make a difference in that field.

At the breakfast conversation led by MaryAnne Golon, which took place adjacent to a gallery where BD was exhibiting prints from its first Hope For a Healthy World photo competition, photographers in the audience were urged to consider specializing in global health issues and were given several practical tips on how to create projects that would appeal to a global health industry that is thirsty for images to use in their advertising, advocacy and communications efforts.

Golon, who consults with BD on their visual communications, pointed out that there is room for a subset of photographers focused on global health to grow, develop and find funding for work, an assertion echoed by BD representatives who attended the talk. “It’s not about selling their sickness,” Golon said. “It’s about raising awareness [for the health issues people face].”

Coalition-building—finding multiple supporters among NGOs, healthcare companies and other interested parties, from equipment and travel sponsors to individual donors who are passionate about a particular issue—is a major part of what photographers need to do to fund and distribute their work, said Miki Johnson, who works on communications for the photography crowd-funding site Emphas.is.

Mischa Friedman, a photographer who teaches a class on collaborating with NGOs at the International Center of Photography, encouraged photographers “to ask NGOs what their issues are this year” as a way to find relevant stories to tell. He also said photographers should find focused, manageable stories to tell, rather than trying for broad or general topics.

Carlos Cazalis, who received an award for Best Global Health image in the BD competition for an image of a Hatian Cholera patient, told the audience that getting model releases and the names and ages of subjects they photograph were essential to selling images to NGOs and healthcare companies.

Later Cazalis urged photographers to realize the added value they can offer NGOs and healthcare companies by providing them information from the field. Photographers often get close to and spend time with their subjects, and what they learn can be a great source of information for potential clients and partners.

Golon pointed out that though a photographer might be able to write eloquently about a project for which they are seeking funding, they need to be able to show images to a potential supporter or sponsor. A photographer may want to photograph a health issue in Senegal, but they can likely find local people in the US affected by a health problem and photograph them as a way to begin exploring an issue and creating photographs that can be used to apply for further funding. A case in point, she said, is photographer Justin Maxon’s work documenting a community outside Philadelphia that suffers from high cancer rates and no access to healthcare.

Friedman later pointed out that photographers’ “task is to go beyond clichés” to engage viewers, something harsh images from foreign locales sometimes don’t allow, because they can be difficult for a general audience to relate to or look at.

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