|Karen in Uganda|
NANCY: Like many of us, you stretch yourself thin so you can make a difference. You operate an incredible fair trade business working with artisans in Uganda and you also manage to find time for wedding and journalistic photography. I'd love to know more about both. And I think people reading this blog post will as well. I'll do my best at asking you a bit about both.
Can you tell me what inspired you to get involved with fair trade? How did you come by working with artisans in Uganda?
NANCY: Tell me a few more specifics about the work you do in Uganda. Is there a type of product that Project Have Hope specializes in? Do you have a favorite items you sell?
KAREN: The work I do in Uganda has a lot of elements beyond products and craft-making. Although the crafts are what makes it possible to fund our work, my primary focus is helping the artisans become financially independent. Much of my work has to do with overseeing our child sponsorship, vocational training and loans programs and developing new programs that will help the artisans find ways to support themselves. Although I have many ideas, ultimately, it is the artisans and the community that knows best what they need, so it's imperative that I spend time talking and listening to them and helping to implement their ideas into living, breathing, effective programming.
|Alice learned Tailoring|
Over the years, our product line has greatly diversified. We invest heavily in vocational training and have trained more than 25 women as tailors. These tailors have helped us to expand our textile offerings to cloth napkins, tote bags, aprons, oven mitts, headbands and plush animals. The most exciting part of our crafts is the collaborative process. By sharing ideas, skills and strengths, we have been able to create a versatile line of products that have been very well received.
NANCY: Is there something you feel particularly good about when you think of your work in Uganda. An accomplishment? A life you changed? I'd love to hear a story or two.
KAREN: Oh gosh, we're going on 16 years now, there are so many stories. I guess there is one that stands out more than the rest. It's a story of little Gerard. I still remember when he first came to our community center for a workshop to paint peace tiles and he looked so sickly. I asked one of the women what is sickness was. "Malaria? HIV? TB?" They responded with words I didn't understand. And then they translated. "Lack of protein." Gerard was slowly being starved to death. There's a long, ugly story around that situation, but the result was that we stepped in, got him medical treatment and found a home where he would be well taken care of. Now, more than ten years later, he is thriving and you'd never know that there was a time that no one expected he'd survive. He is my shining light. So often it's easy to think of all the things I cannot do, I cannot change. Gerard is the reminder that we all have the power to make a difference in the life of one person. And even if we accomplish nothing more, we've done well.
NANCY: Another aspect of you that I really admire is your photography work. Your Instagram feed is loaded with wonderful product shots and amazing artisan pics. Here's a technical question you might be able to answer for me. Sometimes you have background items such as flowers that help you show off a pair of earrings. The flower is a bit blurry and the earrings are crystal clear. These kind of photos always interest me. Is there a "tip" for how someone manages that effect? Answer as technically as you must.
|Camera Focuses on Bracelet|
NANCY: Wow. You'll need to be even more specific for me. Can you baby-sit me through the process?
KAREN: I typically use F2.8 to keep a shallow depth of field and a moderately fast shutter speed of 125. I also generally stand on a stop ladder so I'm above the subject and can tilt my camera to focus in on one specific area. This helps to naturally blur the background.
NANCY: And your people pics are extraordinary. I adore how you've had relationships over many years with some of your artisans and their children. In many cases you document their growth. It's obvious to me they admire and trust you, allowing you to take and share these images. Can you tell me a bit more about how you've changed some of their lives?KAREN: I think a better question is how they've changed me. I'm exceedingly impatient; they've taught me patience, among so many other things. They've taught me the benefits of interdependence, collaboration, the importance of being still, present and truly listening. They've taught me that someone's educational level or financial status does not in any way represent their net worth and their value, nor does it lessen their impact, nor make their voice any less worthwhile and strong. (Wow! Love this!) They've taught me more than I could ever impart on them. I've been extremely fortunate to be the connector - connecting their stories and artistry to others.
NANCY: I view you as a photographer extraordinaire. Do you have any tips for a small business person when it comes to producing good photography? Go out on a limb here. You can share tips for product pics or people pics.
NANCY: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
KAREN: I think I've already said too much. (said with a big smile.)
--end of interview--
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