“What type of photography do you do?” This seems to be the first question most people ask when they discover you are somewhat competent with the camera. I still don’t have a clear answer to this question. However, during a trip to Guatemala two years ago I quickly realized that travel/mission-oriented photography captivated me the most. It was the first time since I started doing photography that I was able to get out of the bubble that is America. Being in such humble, yet beautiful, conditions really showed me the power that this medium possessed.
Last year I had the chance to visit Haiti about 5 months after the quake. I went there to do make some images for Mission of Hope Haiti. MOH Haiti is an amazing organization that does so much that it’s difficult to know where to begin. For starters, on their grounds alone they have an orphanage, a school, a church, and a prosthetics lab. So many lives have been impacted and even saved by them. The mission is also so well run that they were more equipped than almost anyone else in the nation for the earthquake. In fact, they served more meals to people in the first week than the UN. It’s pretty unreal. To hear the doctors speak about the quake was chilling. They said the first victim arrived within 10 minutes, and that began a 36 hour marathon of emergency surgeries.
Also, the fact that they had a prosthetic lab was an absolute God send, in every sense of the word. They have a doctor who specializes in prosthetics come almost weekly to serve the people who need artificial limbs. I was allowed to ride along to drop some of the patients off at their homes on one occasion. Here are some images from that:
The entrance to one of the tent communities that housed a few of the patients
A sister comes home after getting fitted for a prosthetic
A man getting fitted back at the mission
The thing that struck me about the people was their real joy, despite their loss. They were so eager to love and to be hospital. It started to drizzle while I was there and I heard a woman calling to me in Creole. I went over to her and she took my camera and put it in a plastic bag to protect it. This is the heart of the people.
On another day we were taking a walk through a neighboring village. Because my guide had a good relationship with them, several of the people allowed me to make portraits of them.
A worker who is helping to rebuild
One day we took the orphans from the mission to the beach. Here is a little girl experiencing the shore, maybe for the first time
Something about Haiti that I did not anticipate was the beauty…oh the beauty. We often hear of the poverty or the despair, and while that is a reality for many people there, there is an incredible amount of beauty as well.
The view from Mission of Hope Haiti
Some kids were chasing our bus as we were heading back to the mission…
In January of this year a dream of mine came to fruition. I had the chance to go to Africa. My grandparents were missionaries in Africa for many years, so this has always been a desire of mine. The chance came through a serendipitous conversation with my sister-in-law’s aunt, Gwen. After visiting an orphanage in Swaziland called the New Hope Centre, she felt led to write a book recounting the stories of the kids entitled 24 Extraordinary Children. She told me that the only thing they did not have is good portraits of the children in the book. A divine appointment, you might say.
I am not able to publish any of the images of the children but this is a shot of a storm cell that developed before my eyes. To put it in perspective, this is a 5 shot pano taken from on top of a mountain, and that is the entire city of Manzini in the lower right corner.
Since I was already going to Africa, I added a ten day stop in Kenya to do some images for a small organization called EPCL. For three of those days I had the huge honor of staying with some of the Maasai people. This was, by far, the most impactful time for me as a photographer. To actually be in the bush and experience such a different way of life was simply surreal. These wonderful people also allowed me to make some portraits of them. Here are a few of those:
An instance where, as much as I might not like to admit it, the subject knows better than the photographer. I was wanting her to look at me, but the fact that she was looking down really makes this image for me.
A traditional Maasai welcome dance
I was staying at one particular boma (village) that is friendly with EPCL. There is a pastor there who walks 6 hours to church every week, because his church is miles away. I did part of the walk with him one of the days. As we were walking he said (through the translator), “want to see where the giraffes are?” I’m sure you can predict my response. What was a slight detour for them was an absolutely unbelievable moment for me. This is what I saw:
This is a portrait of a man from that boma who was keeping watch for us as we were coming
As far as lighting goes, I simply used an old school vivitar 285HV with no modifiers. I would often have one of the other gentleman hold it for me. It was an interesting feat trying to explain how to position the light and not being able to communicate in their language. Honestly though, I think the language barrier made for better images. Seeing their face after showing them their image on the camera is not something I shall soon forget. It was just incredible. They were so loving and kind and, though they lived ‘humbly’ by our standards, they exuded such a real joy. It makes one wonder if we haven’t missed the point in some ways. Here are a few more of those portraits:
The next (and final) leg of my African journey led to a safari at the Maasai Mara Game Reserve. EPCL is friends with an amazing man named Nelson Reiyia. Nelson owns a a safari camp called Oldarpoi Mara. He is a Maasai, and his camp is the only run by an actual Maasai. He uses the profits from his camp to help girls escape the terrible practice of FGM (female genital mutilation). Though it is technically illegal, Nelson explained that it still happens to 90% of Maasai girls. He hopes to help eradicate this barbaric practice through education, and by providing a safe house for girls. You can visit his site at OldarpoiMaraCamp.com. These are a few of the images from the safari that Nelson guided us on.
Some elephants graze as a storm gathers
Watching cheetah walk is an awe-inspiring experience
Three lion cubs walk ahead of their mother
I learned that hippo are the deadliest animal on land. While I was taking this image Nelson warned me about the crocodiles. I looked down and sure enough, a dark shadow under the water was heading in my direction.
Two cheetah seek some refuge from the sun
This last portrait is not the most stunning one that I have done, but it may be the most significant because of what it represents. Fighting against FGM is incredibly unpopular. It is a practice that is incredibly ingrained in the culture of some of the Maasai, and Nelson has even had death threats because of the work he is doing. However, the tide is beginning to turn slowly. He has an elderly Maasai tend to the building that will house some of the girls that are rescued. This marks a significant shift, because it is the elderly folks who are most against the change. The fact that this man would help facilitate his work speaks volume. This is that man:
So what type of photography do I do? I guess I’m still trying to figure out “what that looks like”. My desire is to hopefully bring a little piece of the kingdom of heaven to Earth through it, and to use it to show people the good work that is being done throughout the world. I pray the Lord provides many more opportunities and I will gladly follow.
Thank you so much to Scott and everyone else at Kelby Media Group for allowing me to share some of my work.
As a side note: I currently have an exhibition up at Salem College in Winston-Salem, NC called Light in the Shadowlands. It will be up through mid-December, and I will be attending a reception for it on November 18th from 6pm-8pm. I would love to see you there if you are in the area. A portion of the proceeds from any sales will go to help publish the 24 Extraordinary Children book.
You can see more work from Brooks at BrooksPotteiger.com and order prints at BrooksPhoto.smugmug.com.
Brooks, awesome blog! Most of us in the “bubble” of safety don’t get to see what the 3rd world is like. Your shots are great and tell a greater story.
That’s an awesome post. Brilliant pictures, truly. Brilliant.
Hi Brooks, these are some amazing pictures, you captured the beauty and the unfortunate reality of this country, as a person who’s never been to this country, by looking at these pictures I have a real sense of what this country might be like if I were to visit – thank you.
Brooks, keep up with the beautiful work you do. They are great pictures on wonderful journeys capped by your inspirational body of work.
Brooks, I love your passion that comes through this post. I’m a missionary kid that grew up in Africa and you are exactly right when you said that even though the people may not have much, they are joyful and happy with what they do have. Third world countries may be poor, but they really do have their priorities straight. I am very thankful for photographers like yourself who combine their passion with helping others. It helps me re-align my priorities and makes me want to make a real difference in someone else’s life.
Thank you for your work (it’s quite beautifully captured), and thank you for sharing. Ken Toney said it perfectly: “Your shots are great and tell a greater story”.
Thank you so much Kathy for the kind words. I really do appreciate them greatly and am glad you enjoyed the post.
Brooks, your photos are wonderful. It doesn’t matter what type of photography you are doing. As long as you are doing it for Christ. He is sure to bless all your endeavors.
Great story and wonderful images.
Thanks for sharing Brooks. Your images are an inspiration.
absolutely awesome post….
Brooks, you just get better and better. Some day you can publish those photos of New Hope Centre. We are moving forward with the 24 Extraordinary Children book project.
But where did the bread come from?
Great post, inspiring story, amazing photos (especially with the stories behind them).
I didn’t have time to read this blog post this morning. I’m so glad that I made time to read it today. I have been blessed for sure.
Brooks, the pictures are great! The stories behind them are inspiring. Keep up the good work!
All I can say is “Blessed” and you my friend
are a Blessing!
Absolutely amazing post and images!
I appreciate “seeing” my Christian brothers and sisters through your photos and hearing of their struggles to overcome tradition. What strength of character you have captured! What beauty of the soul you have witnessed first hand. God has given you this gift. Keep using it for Him. Thanks for sharing. Your work has truly blessed me tonight.
These images bring the people and scenes in them to life andÂ are a blessing to experience!! Bless you Brooks. We will be praying the Lord sends you to many more places were His truth and love, through the hands ofÂ people,Â need to be seen and experienced.there is a God who loves us,thanks for shouwing us that Brooks.!!