5 Reasons You Should Join a Photography Volunteer Project in South Africa

Using photography to make a difference

Are you looking to embark on the trip of a lifetime and contribute to a worthwhile cause along the way? Do you love photography as much as we do? Here are five reasons you should join a photography volunteer project in South Africa.

– text by Alice Goodridge

1. You can contribute to wildlife conservation projects

Photography is an important tool in wildlife conservation efforts. A photograph can share the reality of a situation in a very direct way and invoke an emotional response in the viewer in a way that isn’t so easily achieved by intangible facts and figures. It is this that makes photography so invaluable to organisations who are trying to inspire empathy in their audience (who hopefully, in turn, will choose to take action and donate).

Photograph of a Leopard in a Tree alongside a photograph of a Kingfisher set against the backdrop of an Elephant

Photographs by Samuel Cox who leads our Wildlife Photography and Conservation Volunteer Project

With this in mind, our Wildlife Photography and Conservation Volunteer Project provides optimum opportunities for you to snap incredible photographs of South African wildlife. You are then given the opportunity to donate these images to a photographic database where conservation charities can download the photos to use in their fundraising efforts. Other companies can also download the photos but they will pay a fee that goes directly into wildlife research projects. So, either way, the photographs taken on this photography volunteer project will be contributing to wildlife conservation. We have also partnered with local wildlife trusts and foundations to offer you the chance to get involved in some hands-on conservation volunteering such as clearing invasive alien plants and collecting data.

To learn more about the role of photography in wildlife conservation, you can read our blog on The Power and Limitations of Conservation Photography.

2. You can contribute to social impact programs

Photography volunteer projects in South Africa can offer you the opportunity to contribute to social impact programs in a valuable and unique way.

For example, if you join our Photography Volunteer Program in Cape Town, you will spend three days in Khayelitsha, the largest township in the city. Here, you will be assisting professional photographer Andrea Rees, from The Heart of a Woman Project, on her mission to empower disadvantaged women with mobile photography skills. Together, you will run mobile photography workshops, teaching local women how to take better photographs. This may seem like a strange way to help some of the country’s poorest people – but photography is a powerful tool that these women can use to share their perspective, promote lucrative projects in their community and generate valuable income.

Photograph of photographs hanging from a line next to a photograph of a woman holding a postcard

Photographs by Andrea Rees who leads our Nonprofit Photography Program in Cape Town

The photograph above is of one of the women who have benefitted from The Heart of a Woman Project. Andrea tells us: ‘The lady holding the postcards is Esther. She’s one of the original 9 participants that I taught in Nov. 2013. She’s holding her postcard of the church she goes to. I didn’t know it was the church she attends at the time I chose her best image. The funds from the postcard have helped her pay for her children’s transportation to look for jobs; I remember her telling me that just a few days after we launched them. It’s also helped the ladies pay for school fees, clothes and food. The postcards are still being printed and sold at eKhaya eKasi, a community centre in Khayelitsha where the project is based. I am told it’s one of the top revenue generators.’

As well as volunteering on The Heart of a Woman Project, you will also visit a number of non-profit organisations to photograph their work. Later you will have the opportunity to donate those images to the organisations, who can then use them to market their work, fundraise and attract new donors. This is a similar model to the one we use for our NGO Photography Support projects at Penda Trust and is another example of how a photography volunteer project can successfully contribute to social impact programs.

3. You’ll improve your own photography skills

Photography volunteer projects offer exceptional photographic opportunities that will challenge you creatively. It’s a great opportunity to expand your portfolio – especially if you have a particular interest in pursuing non-profit or conservation photography professionally. 

4 Images of African Wildlife by Brian Geissel

Photographs by Brian Geissel who attended our Wildlife Photography and Conservation Volunteer Project

All of our photography volunteer programs are guided by professional photographers who have years of experience in their respective fields. They know where to find the best photographic opportunities, and will offer guidance and support throughout every trip. All our photography tours also include a workshop, where you will be taught a variety of techniques for capturing the best possible photographs and given advice on ethical photographic conduct, so you can sharpen you’re skills under the instruction of a professional. 

This kind of project also puts you in the unique position of being surrounded by other practising photographers – so everyone can learn from each other.

4. It’s an amazing travel opportunity

Photograph looking over Lion's Head and Cape Town by Andrea Rees

Photograph by Andrea Rees

There are always ample opportunities on any of our photography volunteer programs to simply explore, take in the scenery and enjoy the iconic sights of the area. For example, on our Cape Town volunteer program we’ll visit Signal Hill, Table Mountain and the V&A Waterfront – all within your first two days! There’s also the opportunity to travel before or after your trip and explore the country further. South Africa is undoubtedly a beautiful country – so whether you’re witnessing the incredible wildlife in Kruger National Park, looking out over the city from the top of Table Mountain or surfing at Muizenberg – you’re sure to have an incredible travel experience. However, through visiting South Africa on a photography volunteer project, you’ll have the opportunity to see the country from a unique perspective, gain a deeper understanding of the social and environmental issues that South Africa faces and do something active to make a difference. You’ll have the unique opportunity to not only take photos, but to give something of value too.

5. You’ll learn about the potential photography has to make a difference, first hand

Here at Penda, we truly believe in the power that photography has to make a difference. It’s why we started our work in the first place and it’s at the core of everything we strive to do. It can be used as a storytelling device for people to share their voice. Charities and NGOs can use it to gain support and attract donors – to provide them with the means to continue their valuable work. Furthermore, it can serve as a visual reminder of the beauty of the natural world, and how important it is to protect it. If you approach a photography volunteer project with the mindset of wanting to inspire change and make a difference, we truly believe that you can. 

Photograph of a Female Gazelle with her Calf

Photograph by Brian Geissel

Check out all our Photography Volunteer Projects here.

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