Southern New Hampshire University is linked to a small Non-Governmental Organization called Kepler. This particular NGO offers college-level education courses to people in Rwanda. Since its launch in 2013, Kepler is honored to announce the completion of its first graduating class whom now obtain Associate Degrees. To celebrate and document the graduates’ tremendous accomplishments, Kepler hired France-based photographer Alex Buisse for the job.
Alex was chosen to photograph both the graduation ceremony as well as the last few days of classes in session. Knowing that Kepler was handling the local logistics regarding transportation and security, there was minimal planning involved for Alex. Since this was an editorial assignment, Alex’s goal was to create images with a photojournalistic feel to them. With much experience shooting (recent) reportage assignments across refugee camps in Kenya, Alex was relieved to already be up-to-date with his yellow fever shots and to be able to travel to Rwanda stocked with malaria pills, leftover from his last Africa trip.
The trip lasted four days, in total. It was a whirlwind for Alex, but, luckily, there was some downtime amidst the first two days, as there were classes and study groups in session. This gave Alex an opportunity to chat with the students and staff and slowly become more accepted.
My favorite moment happened halfway through the graduation ceremony. The only large building in the camp was full of the students’ friends and families, and half the camp was watching from outside. As soon as all diplomas had been handed out, things went wildly off script, and everybody burst into spontaneous dancing, singing, and hugging. The joy of this moment was overwhelming!
One primary concern Alex had during this assignment was working with the harsh, natural light that presents itself during the day in Africa. Since Alex had to exit the campgrounds by sunset, mostly for security reasons, he found himself being challenged to capture the shots he imagined with this lighting obstacle. Oppositely from having trouble capturing content with excess amounts of harsh light, Alex also found himself in a situation where the classrooms and ceremony halls lacked natural light. Putting on his creative hat, Alex was sure to pick his backgrounds wisely and used all the outdoor and shaded areas he could find, whenever possible. He also used a small lighting kit that he brought with him to help make indoor shots more manageable.
The client has loved these images, as well as other NGOs in the field. Alex is hopeful that the positive feedback from this project will lead him to similar jobs in the future. Alex enjoyed getting to know some of the students and hearing their stories, in addition to capturing the emotions of all the students and their families. Many of the students are continuing on in their education to achieve their Bachelor’s Degree. Alex is hopeful when they complete their schooling in a year or two he will be there again to capture the moment!
See more of Alex at alexbuisse.com!