Wednesday, August 12, 2009
CM (08) Top50 Profiles: Jaime Kowal
• Name, location
Jaime Kowal, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
• Is photography your day job? If not, do you want it to be?
Yes, photography is my full-time work, play and passion. I work both editorially and commercially and the majority of my commercial clients are social entrepreneurs, foundations and non-profit organizations.
• Can you remember/describe the first print you ever made? Why photography? Why do you do this?
I can't remember my first print, but I will never forget the first time I shot a roll of film - I was ten years old and photographed the toy soldiers in the Santa Claus Parade at Disney World. I remember the mad desire to capture the excitement and exhilaration of the parade, and the images I got back were abstract and colorful and surreal... I was hooked.
Photography is a natural form of expression for me. I have always documented my life and the lives of others with my camera. I created documentary projects in high school of my friends and the culture of being a teenager. I am fascinated by cultural anthropology, sociology and psychology - and photography is my way of exploring this. It doesn't matter if I am photographing a person, a physical place/space, abstract concept or story - my goal is always the same - to reflect the authentic energy of my subject.
For example, if I am hired to photograph a program for a non-profit, my goal is to listen to and uncover the energy of that program, capture the essence, intention and benefit, and communicate this to others is an artistic, visual way that celebrates this inherent energy. It is a deep creative process for me, and that is what inspires and sustains me.
The idea for this project has been developing for years, and is long-term in nature. I believe in focusing on solutions, positive people, ideas and visionary ways of thinking. I try to look beyond the symptoms of violence, racism and judgement at the deeper, underlying causes of this strife. Why do so many people feel threatened by those who appear different from them? We forget we are cut from the same cloth, and that we have more in common as human beings that not. And one of our most powerful collective experiences as human beings is that of birth. Birth looks different from one woman to the next, from one country to another, but in sharing the stories, the issues, the experiences, I hope to connect us through the understanding that we are fundamentally all the same, and we can reach out and help each other. And hopefully through that increased understanding and acceptance we will help build community and bring peace to this planet.
The other goals of this project are more region-specific. In developed countries the idea is to empower and educate women about their choices and intentions around their birth experience, and in developing nations to raise awareness about some of the basic amenities that women are lacking and ideally to help provide aid.
In April 2008 I officially began this project and traveled to Liberia, which has endured almost 16 years of civil war and consequently has one of the highest infant (157 in 1,000 births) and maternal mortality rates in the world. (994 in 100, 000 births) My goal was to start to understand the experience of these women in relation to other cultures. Liberian families are dealing with basic issues including malnutrition, food shortages, sporadic and/or zero electricity, high unemployment, a battered transportation system, a dramatic shortage of doctors, nurses, midwives, medicine, hospital beds and funding. Traditional Midwives in rural Liberia are dealing with serious issues including a lack of sanitation, supplies for their birth kit, clean water, education and transportation - it is nearly impossible for pregnant women to reach a hospital or clinic for delivery.
As I continue to photograph women and their stories about birth here in Canada, I am also learning about social media and how I can share these stories to help procure aid and support for these women. I have been collaborating with a fantastic foundation called the McCall MacBain Foundation which is providing practical means for supporting maternal health in Liberia. They have been very supportive of this project.
• It's early yet, but have you had any concrete opportunities arise from your participation in Critical Mass? Shows? Publications? Print sales? High fives at a party?
I attended Review LA and many reviewers recognized the work from Critical Mass. I also received some great comments from the reviewers of Critical Mass themselves - people who have asked me to stay in touch and who have given suggestions and support.
• Who are your favorite photographers, images, websites, projects, or blogs, etc. that inspire?
I am inspired by women photojournalists and activists in general - Alison Wright, Ami Vitale, Lauren Greenfield, Karen Kasmauski, Nina Berman, Maggie Steber...and Lisa Ling's journalism.
I also frequent Magnum Photos, VII, Redux Pictures and MediaStorm's websites, and am a subscriber of course to aphotoeditor.com
A few inspiring projects are:
The Girl Effect
Playing for Change
One in 8 Million
• Do you have a favorite youtube video that you'd like to share? It doesn't have to be photo-related.
Isabella Rossellini's Green Porno videos on the Sundance Channel are fascinating and hilarious. I really enjoy all of the presentations on TEDTalks as well.
Posted by shawn at 5:27 AM