Tanzania Expedition

Photographer focus: images of Iringa trek

6th December 2017

Expedition photographer Paul joined the Alpha 1 team on their first six days of trek, capturing the volunteer journey through Rural Iringa. I took a chance to get his thoughts on the experience as well as the reasons that brought an established photographer on a Raleigh expedition to Tanzania.

Paul lives in Brighton and has been photographing since 2000, mainly freelance. His passion is exhibiting fine art photography and as he particularly likes walking, he bases a lot of his work around long adventures geared towards the experimental and literature styles of photographing. Joining a Raleigh expedition is something Paul has wanted to do for a long time as he describes becoming, “Tired of the commercial element of my work, so coming out here I really wanted to develop skills in photographing portraiture and social documentary – it’s a totally new type of photography for me which is really exciting.”

Portrait of Alpha 1 volunteer Josh at trek camp in Rural Iringa.

A big aspect of Paul’s job is being deployed into the action of the Raleigh projects; during his professional assignments outside Raleigh expedition, he actively prepares his approach with diligent reading and researching of the work, on expedition he explains, “It’s getting stuck in and photographing things as they unfold. Primarily it’s about human relationships, meeting people and seeing where that leads and seeing where the interesting pictures come from in those interactions.” On the youth leadership trek phase, the environment changes dramatically every day, moving through it as a group and supporting each other, consequently developing relationships that lead to more photographs.

Alpha 1 volunteer Scarlett with volunteer manager medic Emily at a stream crossing in Rural Iringa. “Because you are moving and changing every day, from the moment you wake to before you go to bed, there’s always something happening, something to photograph,” Paul said of life on trek.

A fundamental part of the youth leadership phase is youth development, and even in the first days of the trek, it is notable for building confidence daily. Volunteers who will initially be reluctant to assume a leadership position, will observe the days where their counterparts will set the example, thus motivating them to step up and make their leadership turn their own. As Paul recounts, “A lot of them may be young and just come out of college, or thinking about going to university and they’re in this extreme environment, unlike anywhere they’ve ever been before, and suddenly they’re leading a group of peers through these landscapes; you can see it is empowering them.”

Alpha 1 volunteer Emmanuel trekking in Rural Iringa. According to Paul, the best trek images are, “The ones where you see that they’re really into the moment, putting everything into the walk; you can see the determination in their faces and they’ve given themselves up to being in the moment. Which is what trek is really; going from one moment to the next and dealing with it.”

Bringing back a strong portfolio which will showcase another dimension to his photography is certainly one aspect of personal development that has brought Paul to Tanzania, but questioning his motives further, it became clear that Paul’s rhetoric is intrinsically within the heart of the Raleigh ethos, “My photography has brought me to lots of really nice places but by myself, and I really wanted some kind of big adventure that is beneficial to others, use my skills in a positive way for other people, but do it as part of a team. Learning those skills and being part of a team is something I’ve really got out of Raleigh.”

From his experience, Paul sees photographers as generally isolated, autonomous people and not really working as part of a team, but he equally loves the ultra social part of the expedition work, being sent to an event and having the artistic control to make decisions on how best to capture it, “I think that’s really pushed me. Its constantly that feeling that you have to be at a higher standard because it is representative of who I am as a photographer”, he imparts.

Alpha 1 volunteers Simon, Connor and Eliott during trek in Rural Iringa.

Paul will be returning to the UK to work alongside a collective exhibiting in Milton Keynes as part of a bid for city of culture. Admitting that life commitments back home not impeding, he would volunteer again, he concluded with some advice for future photographers, “Embrace it and find your own way – don’t rely on anyone else, get stuck in and enjoy it because it goes really fast.”

Alpha 1 trek guide Adam in Rural Iringa.

Words by Miguel. Images by Paul and Miguel (featured image).

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