Exploring intriguing stories, we stumbled upon The Disposable Project. We read about the project that handed out disposable camera’s to children in Tanzania, in order to teach, to share the power of photography and to inspire. Triggered by this idea we reached out to Raul Guerrero for a Q&A.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your story and how did photography find it’s way into your life?
I was born in Peru and, when I was about 5, emigrated to the US (San Francisco to be exact) where I was raised. Interestingly enough, photography has sporadically popped up throughout my life as something to pay to – first when I was 13 (having attended a summer photography program), then again in high school. However, it wasn’t until my sophomore year (during my undergraduate studies) when I encountered photography again and realized I wanted to make it a permanent part of my life and perhaps a career.
Finding socially conscious photo documentary projects quite moving, I can vividly recall being inspired by Sebastiao Salgado and James Nachtwey. Luckily, I had an amazing faculty at my disposal during my undergraduate education to help nurture my passion and curiosity for the art form. As I continued to refine my own photographic voice over the years and further educating myself in art – not just photographic – history, I became aware of the power of images. As a result, my sense of visual communication became much broader, including – but not limited to – video and design related work.
Simultaneously, art education and youth empowerment have played big roles in my life, which has led me my current position as Youth Development/Asset Building Peace Corps volunteer here in rural Morocco.
How did this turn into The Disposable Project?
The initial idea of purchasing a bunch of cameras came to me about 2 weeks before taking off to Tanzania. Around that time, I had become fascinated by public art/civic projects; married couple Christo and Jeanne-Claude, as well as Swoon being artists of interest.
The concept for The Disposable Project came about a couple of weeks upon my return stateside. After reflecting on my experience with the kids, scanning and reviewing all 2700 negatives, and understanding my educational/work experience, I noticed an opportunity to help facilitate accessible education in the Newlands area.
To me, The Disposable Project stands for an array of ideas. Firstly, it’s about the 9 photographers: Alex Charles, Jenifer Wilson, John Leo, Kamili Kalist, Peter Michael, Peter Ngowi, Samson Modest, Sebastian Simon, and Stanley Felix.
TDP’s also about the Newlands community. It’s about education in the Kilimanjaro region. It’s about the power of art and photography. It’s about finding integrated solutions to current issues. It’s about the modern, interconnected global community we live in.
Can you tell us about the photographers you worked with?
The 9 photographers who participated in TDP were the oldest students at Born To Learn – a conscious decision due to the fact that their level of maturity and ability to communicate was going to play a part in how they photographed as well as critiqued their work.
Off the bat, there was an initial excitement from everyone – the 9 amateur photographers, the other kids at BTL, and community members alike. At the beginning stage, with curiosity shooting through the roof, I decided to pass out one camera to each participating youth per week, with the hope of giving them the chance to familiar themselves with the technology and shoot whatever they wanted to.
As the project progressed, I began introducing basic photography concepts, along with certain assignments – only possible through the linguistic help from our Tanzanian counterparts. I began to notice a bit of growth in the manner that they were capturing moments and their ability to create compelling images. At this point, I began handing out 2 cameras per week.
What are your plans for the immediate/short-term/long-term future?
At the moment, I’m wrapping up my Peace Corps service here in Morocco. As a YD volunteer, I’m working on a few community-driven projects, including a collaborative youth-focused photography workshop happening February 2015.
Regarding TDP, we’re currently coordinating a few fundraisers, internationally and in the US, to take place before the fundraising campaign’s over next April [Check out the video here]. Coinciding with the end of TDP campaign, I’m working towards traveling back out to Moshi once my Peace Corps service is over.
Do you have a life lesson or piece of advice you could share with us?
A while back, I came across this quote by Alex Furman (Co-founder of InVitae) on Tumblr. I think it effectively communicates my initial passion and interest in photography.
“There’s one thing that practicing photography does to you that is immensely valuable and often overlooked. It forces you to see the world around you in a completely different way. It teaches you to find beauty and impact and symbolism in places that most people wouldn’t grace with a second look. Photography teaches you to pay attention and to appreciate. It’s about seeing much more than it is about capturing what you see.”