The need to tell stories is the key driving force for many photographers, the compelling desire to capture a moment and to share what we see, to educate, to inspire. In the first of a series of interviews we take some time out and share stories of photographers all over the world, some professional, some semi-professional, those who have been touched by an experience and know the power of photography can shift opinion and inspire change for the better. Our founder, Vanessa Champion first met Russell Carr a few months ago where he told her about his visit to Bali and that he felt compelled to do something. Within a few weeks, he’d published his book and was selling postcards to help raise money for BAWA the charity in Bali, a non-profit organisation which works to save, protect and improve the lives of all animals in Bali and beyond. We catch up with him now, to find out a little more about him, what happened out in Bali and what he’s doing to support. His story just proves that we all have the power to make a difference whatever stage in our career, whatever we are doing alongside the day job, wherever we are. It’s a choice we make.
First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself, how you started photography and why?
I’m Russ, I live with my wife and our four legged friend Marvin and some other exotic animals! I guess a key thing to mention would be my sweet tooth, food, cake especially is certainly away to my heart. It’s strange to think back on how I used to be a little nervous of ‘professional’ or ‘real’ cameras, all those buttons and dials seemed very daunting to me. This was probably one of the reasons I didn’t take the leap into photography properly until a couple of years ago. I guess I wish I had started sooner but ever since buying my first DSLR (in Jan 14), a Nikon D50, I knew it was time for me to explore the world of photography properly.
I literally see everything in a different way now and being honest I can’t get enough of it! I’m pretty much self taught, I have ploughed so much time into research and practice and made every effort into learning as much as I can, and I still am! Now I run my own photography business on the side of my full time job, where I mainly shoot weddings. One of my favourite things to capture however, and a real passion of mine, just has to be street photography. If I’m looking to ‘de-stress’ all I need is my camera and the streets!! I love it!
Can you describe a typical day for you at work?
I work full time as an industrial model maker producing prototypes of anything from medical equipment to gaming figures. I’ve been in the industry 11 years now. A typical working day however for my photography would be having the pleasure of capturing a couple’s very special day. It can be a very pressured day but one I thoroughly enjoy.
Tell us how you came about supporting this charity with your photography?
In March this year I was very lucky to travel to Bali with my wife and friends for a ten day holiday. I think it goes without saying my camera went with me, well three actually! I have mentioned my love of street photography and I couldn’t wait to hit the streets around the area of Seminyak which was where we were staying.
After my ‘first taste’ out and about, camera in hand, I wanted more. I spent many hours capturing images of the locals and soaking up as much as I could of the real Bali. I even got heat stroke because I just didn’t want to stop. It was an amazing experience, the sights, the sounds, the smells and everyone was just so friendly and welcoming.
Just seeing so many people outside, I got a real sense of a community. It wasn’t people sitting there not talking to each other on their smart phones, they were laughing and playing and working. It almost felt like I had gone back in time.
There were some sad sights to experience too though, I saw many street dogs and I was shocked by the condition of some of them. Some wore collars and many were guarding their owners houses, but there were obviously strays too and in real need of some care and attention. As a dog lover, it was really hard for me to just stand by and do nothing, however I knew I wasn’t in a position to take them all home. It was pretty heartbreaking to see. A few days in to our holiday, we visited Ubud which is a couple of hours North of Seminyak. It really comforted me to come across a charity shop run by Bali Animal Welfare Association (BAWA) which is a Bali-based non-profit organisation which works to save, protect and improve the lives of all animals in Bali and beyond. Funded by donations, BAWA relies heavily on a staff of dedicated volunteers.
How are you supporting the charity and why?
We came home from an amazing Holiday in Bali, one of those once in a lifetime trips, however the thought of those dogs I had seen was playing on my mind and I knew I wanted to do something to raise some awareness for BAWA and in some way make a donation.
An idea came to me after a couple of weeks, that maybe I could put together a collection of my Bali street photography to sell for the charity. I contacted BAWA with my ideas and they were thrilled, so I began sorting everything out. I had 50 Photobooks made and a total of 200 postcards. Half of these have gone out to Bali to be sold in the 3 charity shops run by BAWA, the rest are available here in the UK and all profits will go to the charity.
I feel like I got so much from Bali, a fantastic holiday and such an amazing experience, I had to give something back.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge for the charity you support?
If I have to choose just one thing I would say funding. BAWA is funded entirely by donations, without this it probably wouldn’t exist and I dread to think of the consequences. The many great programmes and services that this charity provides really needs the donations we give.
Why do you think photography is important?
Photography has a special way of capturing and provoking many emotions that’s why I feel it’s a key media when it comes to charity work. It plays an important part in the realisation of what’s both good and evil in the world.
Has working with this charity changed the way you work or are generally as person or how you approach life?
I would say it’s certainly left an imprint on me. Its helped ease my own conscience over the fact I couldn’t do anything to save the animals I saw on my trip (directly anyway). It’s made me more aware of the ways in which people can do something to help any charity if they put their mind to it, a little something is better than nothing. I’ve always tried not to take things for granted, not always easy though as life can suck you in sometimes but it’s important for it to be put back into a little perspective sometimes.
If you could go anywhere with your camera, where would it be and why?
Since Bali, I think I would love to explore more streets of the world – why? because it’s the only way you can really get to know somewhere. It’s also a great way for me to show others a real taste of street life – outside of what’s presented to most of us as tourists!
For more details on the charity BAWA itself, have a look at the Charity website www.bawabali.com