My life sits at the intersection of documentary photography, ethnographic and narrative research, and facilitation. I am interested in questions of home, belonging, and identity. I have explored topics ranging from: the lived experiences of homeless individuals; to the community response to HIV in Canada and Haiti; to place-making in informal settlements in South Africa. I have enriched my practice by using digital storytelling and arts-based methods to expand the possibilities for dialogue. My photos have been exhibited throughout Canada and have been featured by such media as Photo District News, The Globe and Mail, Photo Life Magazine, Alberta Views Magazine, the Edmonton Journal, and CBC Television.
I have facilitated over 350 projects with civil society and public sector organisations of varying sizes and complexities in Canada and abroad. As a change agent, my work blends social innovation, human-centred design, and community organising with developmental evaluation approaches. I have facilitated workshops and social labs using these methods in Canada, South Africa, Kenya, Sweden, Tanzania, Pakistan, Haiti, and the USA. My assignments have ranged from supporting the Mayor’s Task Force to Eliminate Poverty in Edmonton; to mobilising community-based organisations to address citizen engagement and social inclusion.
I have a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Alberta as well as a MSc in Public Health.
My documentary work is collaborative and community-based. I spend extended periods of time in locations and focus on topics over the long-term. I only undertake photography once trust and mutual respect are established. Relationship-building takes precedence over picture-taking.
In 2012 (ongoing), I initiated a documentary project on spatial justice in Woodlane Village (Plastic View), an informal settlement situated in a wealthy suburb in Pretoria, South Africa. I was initially drawn to this community because of its unique history: the settlement was created by court order in 2009 following legal advocacy by Lawyers for Human Rights (NGO).
The Village comprises 856 households representing around 3000 people from Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, and provinces in South Africa. Most of the residents are political and economic migrants. The settlement is a crucible for the tensions South Africa is experiencing around migration, housing, and economic disparities. As Donald Banda one of the residents says: “We ran out here to make a life. I mean there is no place like home. But if home no longer feels like home, we are lost. We are a lost generation.”
In 2006 I completed a major photo-project comparing and contrasting the human experience of HIV/AIDS in two cities: Port-au-Prince, Haiti and Vancouver, Canada. The photo-based initiative involved partnering with 24 NGOs in both locations. AIDS in Two Cities pioneered an innovative bifocal approach of: A) Using “cities” as the analytical lens for looking at programmatic and policy responses to HIV/AIDS; and B) Using a commonalities approach to challenge the paternalistic assumptions that have formed the basis for the north-south development model. This project led to the creation of the Vancouver Initiative (2006-2012) — an effort to re-energise the community response to HIV/AIDS by harnessing visual, participatory, and narrative methods to build dynamic new links between Vancouver and other cities.
From 1996 to 2006, I undertook a photographic exploration of homelessness in Edmonton, Canada. An initial photo-documentary project on the inner city turned into a personal odyssey to explore social issues in my own backyard. In the course of this journey, I witnessed first-hand the structural inequalities present in an otherwise affluent city.
Images from my documentary work in South Africa have been recognised by the News Photographers Association of Canada in the 2018 National Pictures of the Year Awards Competition. The photos are also winners in the photojournalism category of the PDN Photo Annual 2018. Additional award recognition was provided by the 2018 Prix de la Photographie, Paris (P×3), Tokyo International Foto Awards 2017 (TIFA), and the Siena International Photo Awards. A monograph of the images taken from 2012 to 2018 will be published by Daylight Books in April 2019 to coincide with the 25th Anniversary of South Africa’s first open election (1994).