Often when we see images related to human rights, we see the absence of human rights—of atrocity, of body mutilations, of famine and hunger—to represent the need for human rights. Consequently, there is a potential for the exploitation of the subjects. While these ethical considerations are my biggest concern whenever I want to take photos of others, I believe in the overall power of human rights documentation because it is actionable and meaningful in that the act of re-presenting the narratives can create change by shifting the way we perceive our reality.
When I reflect on my experience in Malawi, Africa, I am conscious of the social injustices present in the communities we visited that make the country rank near the bottom of the UN Human Development Index: a lacking education system, a police force that beats children living on the streets, and extreme poverty. However, that is not what I will remember most. If I could sum up the spirit of Malawians in one image I will never forget, this would be it. The pure joy and the laughter of the children of M’Dala Chikowa Nursery School racing past us up the fields of the mountain, eager to share with us a genuine part of themselves, to show us the breathtaking beauty of Lake Malawi below.