People in Polaroids
Updated: Aug 13, 2020
Our very own Rebecca Pearce spent three months volunteering in Tanzania with charity organisation Raleigh International. While she was there, she used her love for photography to capture moments in her host home and her project, leaving them behind as keepsakes for the community that hosted her. Here she shares how she did it.
For as long as I can remember I have wanted to travel and contribute to the world in a positive way, either by helping others or working on environmental projects. I found myself wondering how I could combine this with photography.
I packed my bag with 50 Polaroid shots
I have always had an interest in snapshots – photographs that don’t necessarily follow the rules of composition and reflect unplanned events. Throughout university I looked into family albums and snapshots and it gave me an idea for a project I wanted to try out.
Before leaving for Tanzania on a Raleigh International placement helping educate communities on the importance of safe water and sanitation, I packed my camera with enough film for 50 shots.
I didn’t want to simply take shots of people and leave them with nothing to show for it.
Instead, I thought that by taking Polaroids and sharing these with the community that I lived with, it would have more of a personal approach and they would be able to have their own family album by the time I left.
Tanzania is an incredibly beautiful country with equally beautiful people. I planned to capture the culture, our project’s progression and the people that soon became my friends.
But a big challenge was integrating my photography with the community in a positive way.
When we first arrived, the community were unsure of us. We needed to build relationships and I didn’t feel comfortable taking photos of people without a level of trust. After all, I was living in a family home and I didn’t speak Swahili, as much as I tried. Luckily I always had my Tanzanian kaka (brother) Mauka, by my side.
Mauka is a great friend and was my rock during my time there. He was patient with trying to teach me the language and always translated when our family was around. Over the three months I was able to ease into taking photographs, and my struggle with the language was reason for laughter with my family.
Soon they grew used to how my camera was always by my side and asked me to take photos of them so frequently, it became natural.