Photographers Without Borders: Encouraging Shooters to “See Through a New Lens”

by Libby Peterson

© Kristi Odom

Maruka, a 19-year-old spider monkey, was the first to be taken in at La Senda Verde, the animal refuge photographers visited in Bolivia.

May 07, 2014

Toronto-based non-profit organization Photographers Without Borders (PWB) sends shooters all over the world to document and share the stories of other charitable organizations. Photographers Tracey Buyce and Kristi Odom returned from PWB’s most recent trip to Bolivia about a month ago where they had a two-week stay at La Senda Verde, a wildlife refuge for animals rescued from the black market, trafficking and abusive owners.

The statistics behind La Senda’s efforts are staggering: ten mothers are killed for every monkey stolen from the wild to be trafficked, some of which are sold for as little as $10, and less than one percent of the animals at La Senda would survive in the wild. PWB can give organizations like La Senda invaluable help, says Buyce. “Photography is a luxury that not-for-profits simply cannot afford. Photos are uniquely impactful, as they move people in ways words cannot.”

Buyce was moved by the monkeys’ friendly and curious personalities, despite the cruelty they endured. On her second day, she remembers a spider monkey that gave her a big hug, took her by the hand and invited her to sit down. Having seen the photographers clean their lenses, another monkey wiped a watermelon on Buyce’s filter in the attempt to help her out.

Both shooters were floored by the stories they heard at La Senda and left with a rejuvenated purpose. “[Photography] can tell an animal’s story when they can’t speak themselves and it can show you what is happening in the most remote areas of the world,” says Odom. “The ability to cause a visual impact is huge, and we have that tool right in our hand.”

In an industry chock full of competition, it can be easy to forget the tremendous amount of good that photos can do for others. “Many of us get caught up in making enough money to live that we forget about why we got into the trade in the first place,” says PWB executive director Danielle Da Silva. “I feel as though our photographers are left inspired, and so they are able to evoke inspiration in the viewer as well.”

All trips are self-funded, and fundraising opportunities are available through PWB. The next trips this year will be going to Guatemala in June, the Peruvian Amazon in August and to the Central Himalayas in the Fall.

See this story in the digital edition.

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