Why we’re shifting gears, and focusing on purpose-driven photography trips 

At Penda, we’ve always been interested in exploring the boundaries of what photography travel can achieve; of finding the intersection of incredible photographic experiences and making an impact through the images we create. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need to sharpen this focus, and to adjust – and improve – how we work. Going forward, we’ll be offering photography travel with a purpose.

Travel is an elemental human activity. While COVID-19 has done what would have seemed impossible a year ago – put travel to a grinding and very damaging halt – it is hard to image that we won’t, once it’s safe again, pack our collective bags again. The desire to explore is simply too strong. 

The merits of travel

Journeys offer us much needed breaks from our own routines, new perspectives, and the ability to break out of our own thought patterns. As author Alain de Botton put it in ‘The Art of Travel,’ “[f]ew places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train. There is an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, new thoughts, new places.” 

However, while we’ll most likely pick up our travel habits again, perhaps these habits will see some small shifts. In an interview with National Geographic about the future of travel, G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip suggested that we might end up traveling better. “I still believe travel can be the biggest distributor of wealth the world has ever seen,” he said. “This pause gives us the gift of time to consider how we can travel more consciously.”

How we might travel post-COVID

Perhaps this means going on less trips, and choosing our destinations more carefully. Perhaps it means going more green, and keeping our carbon footprints to a minimum. Or perhaps it means picking more purposeful trips that involve volunteering, or otherwise adding value to the places we’ll visit. 

Who knows. We certainly don’t. I think 2020 had taught us that predicting the future is largely futile. But it does just feel like the right time to take he plunge we’ve been wanting to take for a while; focus fully on purpose-driven photography travel, and exploring innovative ways of doing this. 

Combining photography travel with doing impactful work

As the idea for Penda developed, quite a few years ago now, I was drawn to the potential happy marriage between photography travel and nonprofit work. I had seen how mind-blowing a good photography tour could be, and I’d also seen the impact of photography-focused nonprofit work in Southern Africa. So we set up our charity, Penda Trust, and we always kept an eye out for opportunities to embed a do-good element into our trips. But we never took the step to commit to this marriage fully – mostly because it’s not an easy thing to do. 

There are two pitfalls with impact-driving photography trips. One is the potential for the impact you make as a photographer to be superficial as opposed to substantial. It’s easy to put together a project that will make people feel good about themselves, but it’s quite a bit harder to ensure that the impact is real, and lasting.

The other is the risk of allowing the nonprofit element to take away from the quality of the photographic experience. We know what photographers want; to be taken to the best locations, at the perfect time of day, with the best possible angle. What if doing something meaningful with photography involves giving in on some of these elements? 

How we’ll move forward

It’s a challenge – but an exciting one. We’ve learned a lot over the past years, and we have some new and exciting ideas of how to create high quality photographic experiences that also have a truly positive effect on a humanitarian or conservation level. And we’ll be fully transparent on what you, as a traveler, can expect. What kind of photographic opportunities you can – and can’t – expect, and what kind of impact you can – and can’t – expect to make. 

So, here we go, Penda 2.0. Some tours and programs will stay the same, some will be adapted, and some new (and exciting!) opportunities will be launched soon. I hope you’re all with us, and that we get to take you on some amazing and purposeful photographic journeys soon. 

We’ll be offering the following types of opportunities; 

  • Humanitarian photography programs 
  • Conservation photography programs 
  • Photo tours (with an embedded impact focus) 
  • Conservation photo safaris 
  • Internships and academic programs 

I do hope you’ll be joining us on this journey!

Marleen Lammers, Co-Founder

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