These crazy-powerful photos were actually taken by kids

New York. India. Baltimore. South Sudan. Cuba. An incredible organization, New York-based 100cameras, gives cameras to at-risk children in those regions. With these cameras, they’re asking these low-income kids to go out and take pictures of their day-to-day lives, teaching them in the process the power of sharing their stories through photography. It’s all about empowerment, honesty, and perspective.

What’s especially impressive about 100cameras is that it really does focus on the children and their unique POVs. It’s amazing what these kids are able to capture, and so exciting to see the world through their eyes. When I look at the pictures, I can really imagine the kid taking the shots — not only from the height perspective (though a lot of the pictures are adorably “looking up”) but because of the tenderness in them. They’re magical.

After teaching the children how to take pictures, and after the photos are taken, 100Cameras then sells the prints on their website. One hundred percent of the proceeds go back into the community, the money helps to fund community development and grow resources. The kids are not only learning, but they’re helping their family and friends! One girl from New York, Danna, pursued a college degree and is now teaching other kids in the same after-school program she once attended. The other kids are using computers that her photographs helped fund. How. Inspring. Is. That?

I had the chance to speak with one of the co-founders, Angela Bullock, and I asked her about how the ability to take and share pictures changes the children’s understanding of themselves and their role in society. She responded with this lovely story:

“There is this moment in every project when the kids realize they will be able to share the way they see the world and that their perspective is important and beautiful. They have of course always had their own perspective and it has always been important – but they just may have not felt heard.

“When this clicks along with the realization that they can give the food, medicine, or educational tools that they and their community members need, their sense of empowerment, both to lead change and choose positive decisions for their future, becomes unstoppable.”

100cameras started with a project in St. Bartholomew’s Orphanage in Kajo Keji, South Sudan, which is a haven for children displaced by the war. Kiden is one of those girls, and her photos are some of my personal favorites. I so appreciate her approach and sensitivity. She seems to capture some graceful, feminine perspective amid what is really a war-torn environment. Ultimately, the children in the orphanage with her were brought together by tragedy. Her photos elevate that reality, and make it something serendipitous and beautiful.

Print sales from the project in South Sudan have raised $17,000 for the community so far. This money has helped build a fence to protect the children from Sudanese radicals, maintain the delivery truck, and give resources to about 170 children in orphanages in the area.

Here on HG, we’ve covered some cool happenings where women are redefining their roles, particularly in communities where they’ve been regarded as second-class citizens. In a broader sense, these 100camera projects also help support female empowerment in the developing world. In the communities in South Sudan and India, particularly, most of the artists are female. The project gives these young women a voice on the global stage that they might otherwise be denied.

“From cultures in India to Cuba to Sudan to the United States, we have seen how life-changing it can be for a kid’s perspective to be heard, and given a chance to lead, both as kids today and as future leaders of that same community,” Angela told me.

100cameras is itself almost entirely led by women. In the U.S., women hold less than 15% of executive-level positions. 100cameras is breaking that mold – 9 of the 11 team members are women, including both of the co-founders! Angela spoke eloquently on the issue of professional female leadership as well and her message is one we can all take to heart.

“There is something wonderfully inspiring about working with a group that includes a lot of women in a professional setting . . . I believe women have such a unique gift to build one another up for success – both inside and outside of the workplace — especially when we choose to lean into that gift,” she said.

This team of leading ladies is doing great work to support female empowerment and positive social change around the world. Check out the website to see how you can support their initiatives, or even get involved!

[Images via 100cameras]