Recently I had the chance to catch up with another amazing co-worker of mine. What can I say, I work at a place with a lot of amazingly talented people!
Ande Truman will be leaving for Africa along with the non-profit organization Fashion & Compassion on October 3rd. She will be working with a group of artisans who create beautiful handmade items. Their options are limited, but through their craft they are able to make a better life for themselves and their children.
I will be catching up with Ande after her trip to see how it went, but for this interview I wanted to find out when she first became interested in photojournalism. Through this interview you will learn about her amazing heart for the African people.
1| When did you first get started in photojournalism? I started in photojournalism before I even knew how to spell it. I got a camera for my birthday when I was about 7 and have been obsessed with photography since then. When my father passed away at age 9, I used his old Minolta film camera around the house and around town. At 16 I went on my first mission trip to the Dominican Republic. I took many photos during my travels there, but felt disappointed when I saw that the photos from my disposable cameras didn’t truly capture my surroundings. At 17, I bought my first film camera and visited Africa for 2 weeks at 18. I was absolutely hooked.
2| You’ve traveled a great deal, is that when developed your love for photograph and other countries so different from your own? As someone who grew up being quiet and reserved, articulating my thoughts with my words wasn’t my strong suit. Photography gave me a way to say a thousand words in an instant. Photos became my voice when I didn’t have one. I wasn’t able to explain what I had experienced—the depth of the sorrow and the breadth of the joy—but showing someone a series of photos captured exactly what I saw. And every time I take photos, my only question is: How can I capture this to share with others or remember for myself? Traveling was my first exposure to this experience.
3| You visited Africa before, what is it about the African culture people that has impacted you the most? It is something I have tried to explain since my first trip to Africa over 13 years ago and the best way I can describe it is: Perspective. Although there are difficulties in African travel and African people, there is a charm about the continent that is undeniable. If you ever wondered how it’s possible to be joyful during the most heartbreaking circumstances one can imagine, go to Africa. They have shown me what it’s like to dig deep and find joy in the darkness.
Another way it has impacted, and I dare say ruined me, is because of the unbelievable poverty I have witnessed. Children that are starving to death, mothers dying of AIDS, people begging me to take their child or run over them on the highway, these are all images and experiences that have haunted me and will continue to haunt me until I’m with the Lord. It is so important to me to raise awareness for this kind of poverty to bring Western people a perspective they didn’t have before.
4| How hard is it to adapt to a culture so vastly different from your own? The more you travel, the faster you can acclimate to a culture. Some cultures are harder than others, and I would say that African culture is one of the hardest. One very difficult aspect to African travel is to realize that the rules are never in stone. The rules depend on the mood and circumstances of the person in charge of whatever it is that you’re doing. It’s also difficult to get used to being very careful about diseases around you, whether through the water, fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, or even touching people who have illnesses that can be transmitted easily. At the end of the day, though, you realize that African people are generally very sweet, very excited about meeting and touching you, and they are humans created by a God who loves them.
5| How do you prepare for your trips overseas? Equipment, essential things to have on hand etc? I am very particular about everything regarding travel. I write every single detail anyone would ever need to know about my trip and hand out copies to my supervisor, a few good friends, and my parents. Being a young, white female traveling in dodgy parts of the world, it’s good to know that people know where you are, or where you should be. I also pack very light and am finally down to just 1 backpack which carries my camera gear and a few items of clothing. My important pieces of equipment while traveling are: a comfortable, sturdy pair of shoes that you can depend on 100%, a comfortable pair of pants, a rain coat which doubles as your warmth, my Canon 5D MK II camera and a few lenses, electronic charging equipment, and just a few more essentials. I have found that the lighter my bag, the more enjoyable the travel.
6| Do you normally travel alone, or do you prefer to meet up with someone in country? Are there any tips you have for those who want to make their first trip overseas? I have done many types of traveling before and they all have their benefits. If I’m going across the world to see a place, I don’t want to be 100% alone, especially if it’s a third world country. I prefer that for company’s sake and also for safety’s sake. But I have been to a few countries in between traveling from one place to another where I was alone in a foreign city for a day or two. It was some of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had because of the absolute freedom, but it was also in Europe where I didn’t stick out like a sore, white thumb like in Africa! Do all you can to find someone you know oversees. If you’re still in high school or college, absolutely work at a summer camp in between semesters. That’s how I’ve meet dozens of people all over the world that I still visit 12 years later! If you don’t have that luxury, consider going with a travel group! There are plenty of them out there. Or, find a friend or two that is willing to go on an unforgettable adventure.
7| Is photojournalism something you see yourself doing full-time someday? I would love for this to be my full-time job someday, especially if I could tie it to a Christian organization. Ultimately, the Gospel is the center of my life and if photojournalism could be the bridge to using my photography to help spread the Gospel for Christ, I’m there!
8| Is there a country you haven’t been to yet that you’d really like to visit? Yes, all the ones I haven’t visited yet! I would very much like to travel to India, the Mongolia area, Chile, and Iceland to start with.
9| Out of all the photographs you’ve taken during your travels, what is the one that holds the most meaning for you? I would say that one of the most meaningful photos I’ve taken was the image used for the cover of my photography book. I was on a quick 10-day mission trip from Benin to South Africa to Swaziland in 2004. A small group of us went to a few remote villages because the missionaries I was with bought the villages a giant tractor so they could till their land and grow food. The chiefs came to the Lord and they then reached out to surrounding villages to offer their tractor and share the Gospel with them, resulting in other chiefs and villages becoming Christians.
When we arrived, the whole village gathered and welcomed us with dancing, songs, and food. Most of the kids had never seen a white person before and definitely never a camera. They were confused until we pointed our camcorder viewing panel around so they could see themselves. They erupted in laughter and enthusiasm and it was truly one of the most memorable, amazing experiences of my life! This picture captured the moment they saw a reflection of themselves, maybe for the first time!
If you’d like to donate to Ande’s trip or learn more about the Ancholi people, you can visit her site here. She hopes to raise enough funds to bring the tools needed to bring fresh water and vitamins to the Ancholi people, whose lives have been devastated by the LRA.