I have always been passionate about community journalism and documenting a community through photography. I grew up in poverty, so I have also done a handful of projects on poverty in cities and rural areas. This last year is when I started to really find passion with working with women and children and how poverty affects the lifestyle of a child.
Working for newspapers I have always felt like I was using my skills of photography to give back, but after traveling to Haiti this last October, I realized what it truly meant to photograph for the greater good. During my travels, it wasn’t about telling a story or deadlines, it was about the children I was there for. It was about photographing them for them, about photographing the story they wanted to tell and about expressing their cultures through that.
When I was in Haiti, it was so go go go that I didn’t have a moment to really feel and see the impact I was having. Even though I was photographing the impact the other missionaries were having on the kids, it’s hard to show that with photography until after. I brought my photos back to my local church and at the time there were still about ten un-sponsored children in the 40-children orphanage. After my church showed a video I made and I had a table filled with pictures I took, we were able to get the remaining children sponsored that day. That was the first time I fully felt the impact my photos and video had.
One of the things I have struggled with most is knowing when helping is actually helping and not hurting a community in the long run. I think sometimes assisting other cultures can cross a line that could potentially harm their cultural identity. As a photographer, I try to cover the communities in the most respectable way that shows their identity through my images.
We are at such a unique time in history, where places thousands of miles away can feel like they are closer than our neighbors. It is imperative to harness that power and make sure we are using these technologies and social media platforms to tell stories and share culture from around the world.
Start using your skills around you. For me, it was photographing my family, my community and the things I understood. Develop your skills with things you understand, and then you use your skills to do the same for other communities. When you can use your skills for good in your life, it is much easier to use it for good in others’ lives.
Voice of Compassion of the Children of Haiti (VCCH) is a non-profit organization that was originally founded in 1994 to address the deplorable conditions of families and children living in Haiti. In 2010, an earthquake devastated Haiti, which resulted in many deaths, loss of homes and crippling infrastructure. Some children lost one or both parents and some parents could not longer care for their children. Voice opened the orphanage to provide a safe and nurturing home for these children.
Daytona is a freelancer in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a goal to help develop a better future for children and women around the world through telling their stories. She grew up in West Michigan and received her Bachelor of Science degree in photojournalism from Central Michigan University. For the last two years, she has been working as a staff photojournalist for the Watertown Daily Times in Northern New York. Prior to that, she interned at the Grand Rapids Press, the Richmond Time Dispatch, the Kalamazoo Gazette and Central Michigan University Communications.