Mothers In Lilongwe

We spent another afternoon adding to our Malawi B-Roll library. Michelle on the slider, and I on the time-lapses. Our driver, Moses, drove us to the outskirts of town to try and get some great sunset shots. While I was shooting my time-lapse, a couple of women, with their children strapped to their backs, were walking into town along the roadside. They were curious about the time-lapse setup and I returned their inquisitive interaction with an offer to take their photo. They happily agreed and these beautiful portraits were the result.

I am often fearful of asking people to be photographed. We live in an age where being photographed is no longer an honor. It usually just means someone is trying to make money off of your likeness or circumstance. I am especially conscious of this while traveling within the third world. I hate the idea that someone may feel they are an object to be exploited by the american photographer who is traveling abroad. Many people here are very keen to the idea of the western film-maker and will actually ask for money after posing for a camera pointed their direction. Unlike my portraits from previous posts, I do not know these women personally.

And that really bothers me.

We had only a brief connection, but I cannot help the emotional and aesthetically pleasing outcome. They were warm. They were kind. They were patient as I reconfigured my 5D from video to still mode. They were in many ways vulnerable. The light was incredible. These are the chance interactions that photographers dream of.

As I look at these photos, I cannot help that they may be my top selections from this month long trip. They encapsulate everything this journey is about: The uprising of strong, self sustaining, financially independent women. Dare I say more than women, but mothers. Mothers who are raising a new generation to change the very fabric of their country. Mothers who are facing impossible odds within a sexist culture, head on, and kicking it in the ass. I could not be more honored to take a photo that represents this movement.

B-Roll In Lilongwe + Hyperlapse

Today we took a break from interviews and spent some time driving around Lilongwe shooting b-roll. A large amount of b-roll at our disposal will be critical for the final edit we have in mind. Here are some stills from the day.

Time-lapse still

Framing up a time-lapse

Time-lapse still

Our driver, Moses.

Time-lapse still

Michelle shooting with her favorite slider

Time-lapse still

The light diffuses beautifuly out here

Today we also tried out the new Hyperlapse app by Instagram. I managed to have some free time and a wifi connection for the laptop, which led me to reading about it on Wired. I promptly downloaded it before we headed out to shoot this afternoon. Unfortunately, it did not turn out to be as useful to our project as I hoped, but I uploaded a clip to share a bit of the scenery from our drive today. It is a super fun tool, but the iPhone compression just does not look good side by side our 5D footage.
You will see from this clip two things that surprised me about Malawi. Despite Lilongwe being the capital city of a country, there are very few cars on the road because most people walk or bike. Also surprising was how rural the city here feels. Keep in mind, this is not the villages we have been filming in which you have seen in prior posts.


We're now in Malawi and are getting to spend our days hearing the stories of women here. Malawi is predominantly rural-- very different than the bustling city of Nairobi. So far we've filmed interviews with six women-- two village chiefs, a pig farmer, a jewelry maker, a tailor and a soap maker.

Gender inequality is a real issue here. Young girls are not encouraged to advance in school like boys. Traditionally, women marry young and tend to the home. As a result, the HIV/AIDS pandemic has left a wake of destitute, widowed, single mothers.

Four of the women we filmed are widows that learned a trade to provide for their families. In turn, they have trained other women in their communities. We were told that for some of these women, launching a business was the first time they held actual money. They are now not only financially independent but are part of a growing movement of women who are redefining cultural norms.

It will take us awhile to sort through the footage, but here are some of their portraits.