Award-winning Suffolk photographer Julian Claxton set up Ugandan-based charity, Give a Child a Camera, in 2015. Here he talks about capturing life in lockdown back home, and how he’s hoping to return to Africa later this year to get started on the next part of the project
I’m so fortunate to be a photographer and film maker. I get to see behind the scenes, photography/film amazing feats of engineering, life and activities and I’m fortunate to get paid to do something I genuinely love.
The passion for telling stories through imagery is fundamental to my approach of work. I feel incredibly lucky that people let me into their lives and trust that what I shoot will be both sensitive and positive.
I fell in love with Africa in 2012, when I cycled more than 5500 miles in 64 days from the UK to Rwanda. It was a journey which changed my life and ultimately led to the birth of Give a Child a Camera – a charity which empowers young Ugandan children to tell a story of their life through photography.
I have been returning to East Africa every 12 months to run the project with young children. Working in and around Southwest Uganda, the project has been run in rural districts utilising film cameras (and also in 2018 in large towns using digital cameras), working with a group of young vulnerable children, who sadly all have HIV, and are under the welfare of Katuna Marps, an NGO designed to help the most at risk.
The project has been run with groups from four to 25 children, and, during the three-week workshop, children are provided with all materials, transport, food and drink.
2020 was looking to be another hugely successful year, for both the charity and professionally. One of my photography students was hoping to get work experience working for a Ugandan paper and on a professional level it was scheduled to be a busy year, with commercial, renewable and storytelling commissions, most of which were sadly side-lined or cancelled completely.
Uganda has been hit hard. Of course, things aren’t always what they seem in Africa and needless to say, a mixture of poor healthcare, poor diagnosis and corrupt officials means, apparently, according to Feb 2021, Uganda has only had 325 deaths to Covid-19. No wonder residents, especially those in rural Uganda, look at our European figures and are astonished and worried for our safety. I very much doubt the figures are that low – time will tell.
While Uganda has been in lockdown throughout some of 2020, things understandably have not been easy for them. Education and welfare standards have suffered. However, as of February, I am pleased to say that the schools are open and children are attending, which is great.
On a professional note, obviously things have been difficult. That said, I have managed to produce two films focusing on people living with dementia during lockdown and, also, a lengthy film telling the story of people attending Burgh Castle Almanac, which has been a ground-breaking metal health and wellbeing programme and also had a solo exhibition of emotive imagery shot in Camden during the first lockdown, which was showcased at the Samsung KX gallery in London.
These days anyone can shoot relatively good images. It’s about the story and bringing these elements together to form a strong narrative and providing a social record of our time.
I hope to be able to get out to Uganda/Rwanda sometime in 2021 and start the next element of the project. I’ve got one at risk teenager, Violah (the daughter of a sex worker), learning tailoring and dress making and I’d like to see how she is getting on.
I also want to try and further the aspirations of young Surrender, who is a girl I’ve worked with on three occasions. She has real talent and I’m eager she develops those skills further.
Visit https://giveachildacamera.co.uk. All the cameras Julian takes to Africa are given to him, and funding comes from donations made at talks he gives to local organisations.