THE HUMANITARIAN PHOTOGRAPHER SHARES HIS INSPIRATION FOR HIS ART
Jordan Snowzell is a 30-year-old British photographer and videographer, working and living in the heart of Africa, Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills. Jordan has worked in fashion and tourism for several years, but he is most passionate about working with nonprofits, using his craft to help raise awareness for things that really matter to him. Jordan is an adventurer at heart. He loves that his camera takes him to the great outdoors experiencing new sites, new cultures and meeting people with extraordinary stories.
Q. How did you get into photography? When were you first interested in the camera?
A.I loved having disposable cameras when I was younger, I would take photos of family members, or nature I found in the garden. But a significant moment was when I was about 14 and I was going on a trip to Uganda, my first big international trip and I begged my parents for a cheap digital camera, and after not shutting up about it they said yes. I went to Uganda with a little silver digital camera and loved it! I loved photographing the streets, the markets, and the people. The light and the colours were exciting, going from grey weather in the UK to brilliant Ugandan sunlight.
Q. Tell us about your particular style of photography?
A. I’m mainly a humanitarian photographer, I love capturing people and culture. Mankind is truly fascinating, the different faces, traditions, dances, clothes, colours, arts. We are a fascinating race and I’m always discovering and learning. I love to capture what I see. My favourite photography is when people continue what they’re doing and don’t stop and pose at the camera. I love capturing real life and real moments and I don’t do any heavy editing, people are beautiful as they are – wrinkles, scars and all. I never edit to add or take away but compliment what’s already there.
Q. What is your connection with Africa? Why do you go back time and time again?
A. I went on a trip to Uganda when I was younger and it was one of my first trips outside of Europe and I loved how different it was, everything was fascinating and beautiful to me. After that first trip to Africa, I continued taking trips to Uganda every other year. So I grew up with a connection to Africa. Later on, in my adult years, I went to Rwanda and fell in love with the land of a thousand hills and decided to not just visit but stay for a season. East Africans are some of the kindest, most generous and most welcoming people I know. I often forget that I’m a foreigner because I’m treated as one of them. They are also such creative people and I always feel inspired to create when in East Africa.
Q. Tell us about your work with NGOs.
A. I sometimes work in travel and tourism, sometimes in fashion and commercials, but my main work is with NGOs. I love working with organisations that are making a difference in our world. It’s humbling to know my work is helping raise awareness and making a difference in some small way.
Q. Who and what inspires your work?
A. I love the work of New York-based photographer and cinematographer, Jeremy Snell. He’s originally from Hawaii but he does a lot of work with NGOs. His work is very striking and contemporary, not the classic NGO photography you sometimes see. His art has so much character and it inspires me to keep trying new things and push the boundaries.
Q. What in particular do you like taking pictures of?
A. People! I love taking photos of people. I think people are beautiful and fascinating and every face has a story and so much character. I love taking photos of culture, whether it’s dancing, markets, or rituals. I just love capturing action, moments and colour. I also adore nature – capturing landscapes and animals.
Q. Where has your work taken you to? Any interesting countries/cities?
A. Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria. I’ve travelled to more places, but these are some of the places that I’ve gone for work purposes. India is always a favourite because it’s extremely rich in colour and culture. People are often open to having their photo taken there too. It’s a fascinating country.
Q. What’s on your bucket list and why?
A. Japan! I have wanted to go to Japan for a long time, I need to just make it happen. As soon as travel opportunities permit, I will make a trip happen. Again, I’m fascinated by the culture, the food, the architecture, the people, the values, the neon lights of Tokyo, and the serene landscapes in rural Japan. It seems like such a beautiful and serene land. Also, I love Japanese food!
Q. What do you love most about being a photographer?
A. So many things, but I think mostly the diversity. I’m an adventurer and, even though travelling can be tiring, I get so much life and energy from travelling, exploring, seeing new sites and meeting new people. I love that every job is completely different. One day I’m in a luxury hotel photographing for a magazine, the next day I’m in a refugee camp hearing and capturing difficult but hope filled stories to help raise funds. On another day, I’m in a forest doing a documentary about mountain gorillas and helping raise awareness around conservation. It can be a tiring and stretching job, but I used to be bored in an office job back in the UK so I’m grateful to be in a job I love that is wild, unpredictable and so life-giving.
Q. Any tips for budding photographers?
A. You don’t need all the equipment to start. Start with what you have and don’t get caught up in the ‘if only I had a better camera’ or ‘if only I had better editing equipment’ … etc. Don’t give yourself excuses but use what you’ve got and go out and shoot. You can grow your equipment along the way, so you don’t need everything at the start. Also, the best way to learn is to try. Just do it! Don’t wait for the right time or the right equipment; just work with what you’ve got – shoot what you love and grow your craft. Also, we artists are such perfectionists sometimes, so accept that the finished product might not always be exactly what you had in mind, but it’s still excellent and the world still wants to see it. You should be proud of your work, even if it’s not perfect in your eyes.
Lastly, as you start getting more work, don’t forget that you are shooting what others are paying you to shoot and hopefully (a lot of the time) that will be stuff that you are excited and passionate about. But always have projects of your own to keep the passion and excitement for video or photography alive. This will keep you passionate and excited about your craft. Passion will also compliment the paid projects you are hired to do. So go be awesome!
Q. Talk us through some of your most favoured work?
A. I was doing video and photography for an amazing NGO called ‘Seed Effect’ who do savings groups in East Africa. They help people save and start their own businesses and they have many groups in the refugee camps. We visited one of the groups and it was a group of Dinka people (a south Sudanese tribe) dressed in the best clothes they had from the savings group. They had tattoo dot work on their faces and arms which looked incredible. They are known to sometimes be hostile or private, but they were so welcoming and were kind enough to let me photograph them. It’s some of my favourite work as well as one of my favourite experiences. They also offered to tattoo me with their traditional style, which I was very tempted to say yes to, but we ran out of time (haha) maybe next time!
Q. What do you want to see more of or do more of when it comes to your work?
A. I would love to film or photograph more tribes and other diverse groups of people. I would also love to use my skills in disaster zones to help raise awareness and funds. Whether it’s natural disasters or war zones, I would be very humbled to be involved in disaster relief work – even though it would be a difficult and challenging mission of course.
Q. What are you most proud of in your career?
A. I’m proud of the fact that a lot of my work isn’t just for me. My work champions a lot of amazing organisations that are doing great things and I am proud and humbled to be part of things that are way bigger than myself. Grateful that my craft can help make a difference in some way.
Q. Any new projects coming up? Anything you are excited about?
We are currently working on a documentary for Dr Cindy Descalzi Pereira, originally from the Congo. She is a Dolce & Gabbana model and public figure. But she’s also the founder of La Foundation Congo Kitoko. Her organisation focuses on charity work specifically in the Republic of Congo. We are creating a documentary about the mountain gorillas – how poachers have stopped hunting endangered animals and instead now fight to protect and celebrate them. But it also stresses the need for conservation in East Africa. We’re excited for this project because it shows off the beauty of East Africa as well as calls people to action in protecting the world we have been entrusted with.