Annie Griffiths on Photography for Good

Image source: Annie Griffiths.

by Lex van den Berghe

posted on 07-11-2018

National Geographic photographer and Ripple Effect Images founder Annie Griffiths joins us to discuss the inspiring women of the developing world, shining a light on underreported stories, and Photography for Good, an initiative Annie is launching with Adobe. Through the partnership between Adobe and Ripple, Annie has a vision to promote a creative legacy of positive change, activating you and the greater photography community to create visual art for good from a local to a global scale. Read on to learn more about Annie’s story, and how her partnership with Adobe will come to life.

Annie Griffiths on assignment in Africa. Image source: Annie Griffiths.

From National Geographic to Ripple Effect Images

Working as a photographer for National Geographic, Annie had the opportunity to work in over 100 countries in the developing world, meeting and connecting with women whom she recognizes as both heroes and survivors, sustaining life in the most difficult of circumstances. In her years of connecting with these women and learning their stories, Annie realized a few truths that have inspired her work.

First, she notes, “These women’s stories are both underrepresented and misrepresented — these women don’t want pity, they want to be self-sufficient.” She continues, “The common thread among these communities of women and the communities that serve them is sisterhood and the necessity of spaces for women to gather, share information, build confidence, and plan projects.” Lastly, regarding the work of the aid organizations she now promotes with Ripple, Annie says, “It’s working! This common thread is at the heart of all successful aid programs. There’s more growth, less poverty, less disease as a result of this work.”

On how these truths have informed her purpose of promoting photography for good, Annie says, “I am a member of a group of Nat Geo photographers and filmmakers who back aid programs in [developing] countries, showing that women are valuable, important, and deserving of respect. We use the assets we make to raise significant funding for these organizations, taking the story at a high level to corporations, donors, etc., who then repurpose assets on social media to drive continuous support of these organizations, as well as drive and shift the view of women in these places.”

And so, Ripple Effect Images was born. Ripple aims to tell stories that are accurate and compelling to the point where viewers feel empathy and want to learn more. Annie says, “Ripple aims to humanize the reality of disenfranchisement of half the world’s population. These women are not to be pitied, but to be admired, and the media hasn’t been telling this story. If the story isn’t being told, then tell it.”

Karen woman and baby in Thai refugee camp. Image source: Annie Griffiths.

Photography for good

In discussing what inspired her to found Ripple, Annie says, “It was a series of moments. I started at Nat Geo as a 25 year old and was mainly just terrified. But early on, I started having interactions with these women who were being misrepresented. For example, I met a community of women in Namibia, located in Southwest Africa, who were living in and dealing with seven years of drought. Despite this, they kept their children alive. I realized that they had a knowledge of survival that my culture never even talked about. And these women were hilarious to boot — both smart and funny survivors.” Once Annie realized that these women’s stories needed to be told, and told well, she also recognized that photography has the power to reveal these stories proactively, responsibly, and accurately to the world.

The concept of “photography for good” is not entirely new — it began in the environmental space with photos in publications like National Geographic moving people to care about endangered species, natural history, and climate causes. In applying this idea to the stories of women in the developing world, Annie says, “It’s time to rethink legacy — what stories have you told that can change the world? It’s not just about women, but about the issues they care about — from animal rescue to health care to building habitat houses. It doesn’t have to be globally relevant to matter, it matters at the local level. Strong photography can ignite action, and we all have the capacity to support something that matters. If you’re sincere in your interest in a cause, it’s immensely satisfying to see that your photos are useful as well as beautiful.” Now, Ripple is partnering with Adobe on Photography for Good.

Arab girls studying at a school in the West Bank, Israel. Image source: Annie Griffiths.

On partnering with Adobe

Annie hopes that the partnership between Ripple and Adobe will distribute these ideas more broadly. She wants to “ignite a fire in people and activate them to take action locally.” Ripple’s mission is for photographers everywhere to think about the causes and organizations that matter to them, and offer their photography to tell these important stories. Annie says, “We should all honor organizations that are using photography for good. We aim to launch with cool videos and a co-hosted website for maximum impact.”

There is also a parallel nature to the visions and strengths of both Adobe and Ripple. Annie says, “Adobe is the leader of innovative visual storytelling, imagery, and design. At Ripple, we want to show creators, from amateur to aspiring professional photographers, that they have the ability to affect change. We want to change the dynamic from ‘please hire me or publish me’ to ‘I can create things that are needed.’ We’re opening their eyes to their ability to do these things.” Together, with Adobe, we can do amazing things.”

Household Air Pollution Issue in Mexico. Image source: Annie Griffiths.

Parting thoughts

Annie believes that any photography enthusiast can do good with their photography. At a local level, she says, “Think about what you love, what you care about, and who needs you. It could even be the local lacrosse team — take photos and use them for a fundraiser. In an unpaid capacity, doing this work builds up confidence, reputation, and skills to eventually move into a paid position and on to larger projects.”

On a larger scale, Annie says, “We need to shine a light on underreported stories, which are usually about women. Around 70 percent of people who die in climate disasters are women, likely because they’re busy saving everyone else. We need to be proactive, not reactive, in showing how valuable these women are.”

Your turn

Share your photos and experience on social using #PhotographyForGood to show us how you are getting involved with organizations and groups that matter to you.

Annie Griffiths

As one of the first female photographers to work for National Geographic, Annie Griffiths has photographed in nearly 150 countries during her illustrious career. Annie is deeply committed to photographing for aid organizations around the world. She is the executive director of Ripple Effect Images, a collective of photographers who document the programs that are empowering women and girls throughout the developing world, especially as they deal with the devastating effects of climate change.

Topics: Creativity, Photography

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