We often dismiss the information we don’t want to hear, for lighter, more entertaining subject matter. It takes a special person to bring the darker side of life to the forefront of our attention. Milwaukee reportage photographer Darren Hauck did not shy away when he had the opportunity to cover the orphaned children of Malawi, an African country where HIV is a serious problem. Nearly a million people in Malawi are currently living with HIV, and over 9% of the adult population has contracted the virus. The epidemic has left many children without parents and in need of someone to care for them. Darren visited KOMAI, a non-governmental organization that helps provide these children with aid.
The project was a natural fit for Darren, who has spent his career storytelling for editorials and photo journalism assignments.
Darren was introduced to the project by a client of his who had met the founders of KOMAI from traveling for business. He was immediately recommended for the shoot.
The client knew about my dedication to documenting Central America and thought I fit into what KOMAI was trying to accomplish. It is always such a great compliment when people pass your name along to others as it shows they respect you and the work you are doing.
The original multimedia piece was used to show KOMAI supporters how their donations are crucial in making a difference in those people’s lives who are affected by HIV. Darren then created his own personal gallery to tell the story, where he decided on black and white schemes throughout.
When you are working in a foreign country there are always challenges. Darren had to take time to gain trust of the community; he did this by working with community memebers who were well respected.
I think the main thing is always to work slow and just talk to the people who are as interested in you as you are in them. I tend to spend more time talking and learning about my subjects and sharing my life story than I do actually shooting in the beginning. This is all about trust as people are opening their lives to a complete stranger. It’s a real privilege but it also carries a lot of responsibility.
KOMAI and their field workers handled the majority of the production planning. The team met via Skype calls to research the area’s history and get on the same page in terms of production before heading out.
There is always planning but in the end things are fluid and change as you go – being flexible and open to this is key. I try to never stress about these things, some things are just out of your control and you need to roll with it as it happens.
The reaction to the images has been great and Darren’s team had a lot of people from the area vocalize their appreication for the photos. The client and those who work and live in the area really felt the images were honest and did a good job showing what KOMAI was trying to accomplish.
Some of the most impactful and uplifting moments for Darren came from learning from people who had been through very dark times yet kept such an upbeat and positive attitude.
They truly enjoy the simple things in life. I always need to remind myself of this as I can lose perspective with my pretty privileged life. Meeting the wonderful people like those in Malawi really makes me see things in a new light.
In the future, Darren would love to get back to Malawi and the beautiful people and culture of the area.
To view more of Darren’s work, check out dhauckphoto.com.