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Behind the Scenes Help-Portait Nigeria: A Personal Project by Sasha Leahovcenco

11/29/2013 ISO 1200 Magazine 0 Comments

Sasha Leahovcenco explains on his blog more about "Help-Portait Nigeria", an amazing and inspirational personal project:

It all began over a cup of coffee. My good friend Kim, who is in charge of the Global Missions in Bayside Church invited me to go to Nigeria and document the story of Dr. Chris and the great work he does for the Nigerian people.

Sometimes there are things you don't need to think about or pray about - you just need to say Yes to immediately.

Two months later I was on a flight to Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.

Me and my friend Danny arrived about a week later after the rest of the team, and had a little bit over a week to do a documentary. Most of the our time was spent in the hospital which had started in a single room and grew to a 3 story building helping over 400 patients daily. By now Dr. Chris and his staff have helped over 750,000 people across Nigeria. During our entire trip to Nigeria, I had a chance to literally follow Dr. Chris for 16+hr days daily.

One day, myself and Danny had to woke up at 2am (that's the time Dr. Chris wakes up every single day), and film the Doctor's daily routine.

Along with the hospital Dr. Chris helped start multiple skill acquisition centers where people can receive free education in some form of professional proficiency. Also Dr. Chris and the Faith Alive Organization support multiple schools and smaller clinics all over Nigeria which we also had a possibility to visit.

Yet, our main purpose was to create a film documentary. We also decided that it would be a great idea to do Help-Portrait in every school, clinic and orphanage we visited.

We started with the Faith Alive main hospital in Jos where all the staff and their family had a chance to come and take their family photo.

After that we had a chance to go to some of the schools, both outside Jos as well as within the city.

We've been working for over a week in Nigeria, and almost got all the materials for our documentary except the interview with Dr. Chris.

And while we were in FaithAlive hospital, we saw doctors rushing in bringing a kid of 11-12 years old. Dr.Chris went to check on him, and turned out it was an orphan from local orphanage for children with HIV/AIDS.

Yet this kid not only had AIDS, but also sickle cell anemia.

Probably 2 hours later when we were done with the interview one of the doctors came downstairs of the hospital and urgently asked Dr.Chris to come up.

What happened was that 11 year old kid passed away.

One thing is when you hear stories like that, but another thing is when you see AIDS talking kids' lives.

Next day we decided to bring a little bit of joy to the orphanage where all the kids are HIV positive, and decided to do another Help-Portraits. And once again, it blew my mind how joyfull and happy those kids where. Even thou it seemed like they didn't have anything, yet they found joy in simple things in life.

Accident with the kid with thing is when you hear about it. another is when its happening in front of your eyes.

Every time I do Help-Portrait projects I always learn something new. Something new about myself, people and approach to photography.

Here are some things I learned on my trip to Nigeria.

- Ask people to smile. Make them smile. It doesn’t matter how old or how young they are. They look better with the smile on their face.

- Do your best. You never know, you might be photographing the future president.
Treat everyone equally, and do your best to deliver the best photograph you can deliver. You never know who is standing in front of your camera, so treat those people as if you are photographing the president of your country.

- Show that you care.
Smile. Smile a lot. Learn how to say “smile” and “hi” in the language/culture you are in.
Hug them. Twice. A lot of times. Especially when you are photographing orphans, all they need is someone who would show that he/she cares and happy to see them. Make sure you send that message.

- Remember It’s NOT about you. It’s about the people in your photo. Make sure they are your #1 priority.
Sometimes as photographers we can stress out about our lighting not being perfect, or the person in front of the camera not standing or not looking the way you want them to look.

- Don’t wait to be asked. Ask to photograph.
Be the first to come and ask people to photograph them. You are there to serve them, and not vise versa. Don’t wait for people – especially you never met before to ask you for photo.
If you see someone seeing or watching nearby – go and invite to get a photo.

- Throw all those things aside and focus on the people in front of your camera. Approach those people with love and great respect. Make sure they know it’s all about THEM, and not YOU and your photography.

Yet probably the most important lesson/reminder I took from this trip and would like to share is something we very often neglect – To be thankful.

Text, video and images via Sasha Leahovcenco

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