Library of Congress Acquires Vietnam Prints

Boys At Play, 2008, Cao Bong Province, Vietnam













(My studio issued the following news release today.)

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 7, 2012 – The Library of Congress has acquired 10 color fine art prints from photographer Robert Dodge’s Vietnam 40 Years Later portfolio, Robert Dodge Photography announced today.

The images come from an ongoing project by Dodge that documents what has happened to Vietnam since the end of the war with the United States nearly 40 years ago. Dodge made the images acquired by the library during multiple trips to Vietnam between 2006 and 2011.

In a separate acquisition, the library has accepted Dodge’s gift of 165 digital images captured during public and Congressional memorial services for gay civil rights leader Franklin Kameny. The images will be added to other papers and historic documents from Kameny’s life now held by the library and the Smithsonian Institution.

“In both cases, I am very proud that my work will add to the historical record of our country,” Dodge said.

A freelance journalist, Dodge captured images at two memorial services for Kameny, which were held following his death in October 2011 at age 86. Kameny, who was fired in 1957 from his job as a government astronomer for being gay, was a trailblazer in the gay rights movement. Kameny contested his firing with the U.S. Civil Service commission, pressed a legal case to the U.S. Supreme Court and later co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C.

The Kameny images are in digital format. The Vietnam images are 13×19 color digital prints. The prints are on a 100 percent cotton substrate of Moab Entrada matte paper made by Legion Papers and printed with Epson UltraChrome K3 pigment ink.

Dodge’s Vietnam project is coming to fruition at a time when the United States is starting to focus on an important series of anniversaries around U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. During the Memorial Day weekend, President Obama recognized the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the war and called for a 13-year period by federal, state and local officials to honor those who served in Vietnam.

As 2015 approaches, American’s will focus on the 40thanniversary of the end of the war, a time when 77-million Baby Boomers and 2 million Vietnamese Americans are likely to contemplate on how the war affected their lives. Dodge’s project encourages Americans

Floating Markets XXVII, Nga Nam, Soc Trang Province, Vietnam

to replace their violent and vivid wartime memories of Vietnam with an updated view of the emerging and vibrant Southeast Asian country. Dodge’s photography provides a compelling and colorful story of a nation at a crossroads, a country with rolling tropical mountains, clear-water beaches and bustling cities, a country with one foot firmly anchored in the traditional life of ancient Asia, another leaping forward to embrace the modern world.

The acquisition by the Library of Congress will help the institution update its own collection of Vietnam imagery and keep abreast of these important milestones in U.S. history.

“When Americans hear ‘Vietnam,’ they need to start thinking about a country and not just a war,” Dodge said. “By updating their own awareness about Vietnam, they will find the United States is again deeply connected to this faraway country culturally, politically and economically.”

The 10 images acquired by the library can be seen on Dodge’s website at Dodge’s full website can be seen at All the Vietnam images can be purchased as limited-edition, fine-art prints. For more information, contact Robert Dodge Photography at 202-986-1758 or

Robert Dodge is an award-winning photographer and writer with more than 30 years experience as a journalist, media relations expert and photographer. He accepts personal and corporate commissions and assignments, mostly from Washington, D.C.’s advocacy industry of non-profit associations, non-governmental organizations, trade associations and political/lobbying firms, as well as local and national corporations.

Mekong III, 2006, Chau Doc, An Giang Province, Vietnam

See all 10 prints acquired by the Library of Congress:

Using Photography to Show Your Group’s Passion

Students, some wearing school colors, check-in at ACPA’s NextGen student conference.



Louisville, Ky.

I am happy to be photo shooting this week for a great organization that makes it possible for so many college students to be successful in student life, academics and ultimately in earning a diploma — the American College Personnel Association.

You might think that a professional association’s annual conference would be kinda boring, unless it was your own. But ACPA’s meeting is all about helping students and

It didn’t take long before students to find something in common and start getting acquainted.

provides an opportunity to use photography to help illustrate the important work the organization’s university administrators, faculty and student affairs officers do at about 1,200 private and public institutions.

Just check out the images from ACPA’s NextGen conference, a two day-event held during the convention for students who want to enter the student affairs profession. Their energy comes through in the photos and shows how an organization can tell its story in a way that is energizing to its members, supporters and donors.

The organizers and staff gave students a warm welcome and encouragement as the conference opened.

Students came to the conference from universities throughout the country.

Bagels, Diet Pepsi and an Internet connection…what more could a student conference need?

Breaks provided an opportunity to prep for the next session or catch a few winks.



Project India: The Comeback Kids

Family Portrait: Rizvan, Rihan and Faizan with their parents before leaving for school.

Dehradun, India

Rizvan Praveen is a charmer. He may be too young to be fully aware of his allure, but his irresistible smile, warm brown eyes and happy disposition could take this sweet-natured 15-year-old a long way in life.

Or maybe not.

Rizvan faces formidable challenges in becoming successful in life. His family, which includes younger brothers Rihan, 12, and Faizan, 10, live in the worst slum in Dehradun,

Rizvan often smiles when he pleases his tutor.

a city of 575,000, located six hours north of New Delhi by train. All the boys are about two years behind in school, their father is unemployed and the family’s only income comes from a part-time job their mother holds cooking lunch for local government bureaucrats.

The family lives in a two-room house built from loose bricks, largely stacked without mortar and held together by gravity and a prayer. The roof is made from plastic sheets and one room has a dirt floor. The family of five all sleep in one bed and there is no electricity or running water. Like many people in their neighborhood, they live on the banks of a river that provides polluted water for drinking, bathing and waste disposal.

To be sure, the brothers are at risk of falling hopelessly behind and being condemned to life in the slums. But there is a silver lining of hope for the Praveen family that comes from a local non-governmental organization (NGO) called Astitva. The NGO has been successful in getting the boys enrolled in public school and is providing an intensive tutoring program so they can get caught-up with their peers.

Astitva’s intervention stands as an example of the plentiful good-news stories many non-profit organizations have to tell about their worthy deeds. Identifying stories like this one and using strong photography and multi-media resources provide powerful tools that NGOs like Astitva can use to show their donors and other constituencies that they are fulfilling their mission.

Whether an organization is raising money or trying to influence policymakers, its staff cannot just talk about what they do. The group needs to have an effective communications strategy that shows real-life examples of what it’s doing.

Astitva is not a rich, multi-national NGO with a sophisticated communications staff. Far from it. But it does have Preeti Kirbat, Astitva’s director, who understands the power of

Astitva's Preeti Kirbat

photography. “Our donors are always saying, ‘Show us more pictures,'” she said. Kirbat was keen on hosting me for the better part of a week during February to shoot photos at Astitva under the auspices of a program sponsored by the Momenta Workshops of Washington.

I spent two weeks in India working with two non-profit organizations, creating a portfolio of images for each of them to use in their communications work. It was during my time at Astitva that Rizvan’s charming smile jumped through my camera lens and gave my heart a big squeeze. After I spent some time photographing him working with his tutor, I learned two of the other students were his brothers and that’s when I knew we might have a special story.

Kirbat’s association helps women from abusive homes become more confident and take control of their lives by helping them improve their economic standing. She found out about the family when she was approached by the mother who had heard of Astitva’s program for helping abused women.

While Astitva’s focus is on being an economic incubator for women, the organization also provides family support services so women can invest time in a job or start a small home-based business. And for the Praveen family, that meant intervening to rescue the boys from a free fall. “We have enough schools here,” Kirbat said, “but not all children are going to school.”

In addition to supporting the women, Kirbat sees Astitva’s work with children as an opportunity to end the cycle of abuse that is handed down from one generation to another. Through its youth programs, Astitva also reaches out to boys to show them they do not have to adopt the violent behavior of their fathers.

The Praveen family came on hard times a little over three years ago when the mother was hit by a car while walking alongside a road. A surgery and other medical care wiped out the family financially. And with the father out of work, they decided they did not have money to send the brothers to school and pulled them out of classes for three years.

The brothers are probably at a critical juncture in their lives. If things do not go right, they could fall further behind in school or even drop out. Kirbat worries that Rizvan is getting old enough that his father might be tempted to pull him out of school and make him work to support the family. “There is a lot of pressure to drop out of school,” she said.

The father examines his latest haul of scavenged tools.

But the things I saw were encouraging.

The brothers work hard during their tutoring sessions, each bursting into smiles each time they please one of their teachers. They seem to enjoy learning and the tutors said they are reasonably smart and learning fast. “We like English,” said Rizan, who often acts as a spokesman for his younger brothers. “Math is interesting, but it is very difficult.”

Their economic situation and standing in school have not been lost on Rizvan. He seems to understand the hard work he faces. Asked what he likes to do after school, he responded: “We have no time to play. We wash clothes and help our parents.”

Once the boys get caught up, Kirbat hopes that she can get them enrolled in a private school. That would cost about $15 a month for each child, but for the Praveen family, that is a fortune. Kirbat would like to raise scholarship money, but for now, does not know how that will happen. There also is hope the father, a mechanic, will be able to find a location to open an auto repair garage. He currently scavenges tools, keeping the best ones and selling the others.

On a recent frosty February morning, I accompanied the boys’ tutor from Astitva on her weekly visit to the family home. The Praveen family generously welcomed me so that I could take photos of the brothers getting ready for school. And even though they have

Elements of style: A shared comb and an auto rear view mirror.

little in this world, they still insisted on brewing chai tea and offering little glazed doughnuts.

The brothers start their day helping their mother with household chores. Then they each take turns washing their feet, faces and hair. After drying off, they get dressed, sporting western-looking jeans and other garments with fashionable logos. Economic circumstances aside, they are like youth the world over in wanting to look sufficiently cool in the eyes of their peers.

And so, in a final act of grooming, each of the boys takes a small pour of corn oil kept in an old plastic Coca-Cola bottle and rubs it thoroughly into their hair.

And with that, we’re ready for the walk to school.

The brothers take turns washing up before getting dressed for school.

The morning sun pours into the small home as the boys get dressed for school.

The brothers insist they take turns carrying their two backpacks. But today, it seems Rizvan pulled rank on the younger ones.

Rihan, center, puts pressure on his older brother Rizvan to produce an answer for their tutor's question.

Youngest brother Faizan is deep in thought as he seeks an answer to his lesson.



Project India: Photos Show Early Intervention at Work

Kindred spirits: A child arriving with his mother stops to offer a proper Indian greeting to the gatekeeper. The man was once a student at the special needs center and now maintains the front gate.

Dehradun, India

Not long ago, disabled children in India had not a scintilla of hope. They often were abandoned by their families and cast aside by society. But now, thanks to organizations like the Latika Roy Foundation, many children with mental and physical challenges become more self-sufficient, are supported by their families and have the opportunity to live more fulfilling lives.

Latika Roy was started nearly 20 years ago in this northern India city by Jo Chopra, an

Learning to walk is a priority but not always easy.

American who moved to Dehradun with her Indian husband. Chopra started Latika Roy after discovering there were no schools for disabled children when she adopted a daughter with special needs.

Today, Latika Roy has a family of facilities that work with children and adults with developmental and other disabilities. Its centers provide early intervention services, education, livelihoods development, training and awareness. And if you want to see an example of a mission-driven non-profit association that understands the power of photography, check out the Latika Roy web site. The organization’s use of full-screen, color photos paints this NGO as a dynamic, credible and highly engaged organization that is making a difference. See it here!

During my second week in India, I got to work with one of Latika Roy’s project organizations, the Early Intervention Center, which works with small children who have mental and physical disabilities. The center is located in a two-story house in a neighborhood of Dehradun, a city of about 575,000 located six hours north of New Delhi by train.

The two dozen children at the facility, who are mostly age 5 and younger, have conditions like autism, cerebral palsy and down syndrome. When they come to the facility,

A therapist sings a song to a troubled child and eventually turns tears into a smile.

many cannot walk on their own or perform daily self-care tasks like getting dressed, feeding themselves or using a toilet.

“Many of the parents are just hoping to see their children start walking or talking,” said Aarti Nair, the project head.

My charge was to show the center’s counselors at work with the children and their parents. Initially, parents attend sessions with their children, leaning how to follow-up at

Wtih Mom watching, a therapist works with a child to develop touch and eye coordination.

home and reinforce the daily lessons. Having the parents attend also gives some comfort to the children, who often have trouble adjusting to new environments and challenges.

Much of the therapy and training is designed to make the children self-sufficient with daily living tasks. And that often can start with learning to walk. Each of the counselors is usually working with up to four children, performing exercises as simple as strengthening leg and torso muscles to more complicated tasks such as eating and returning plates and glasses to the center’s kitchen.

As I shot photos for three days I saw frustrated children erupt in tears and then just seconds later be smiling and laughing again. As I watched all this through the camera

After the morning sessions end, the staff has time for lunch.

lens it was apparent to me these children are in excellent hands. I’ve never seen such patience as I saw in the therapists and teachers, and judging by the plentiful spontaneous smiles, these people find true joy and meaning in their work.

My favorite image for the week is the one that starts off this story. A young child accompanied by his mother has arrived for his sessions at the center. He spontaneously stopped to greet the gatekeeper, an expression of kinship that most of us will never fully understand. Mayank, the gatekeeper, is an adult with special needs and was enrolled at the center many years ago. It’s now up to him to mind the gate and make sure the children are secure, and serves as a reminder to parents about why they make the daily trek to the center.

“He does it well,” Chopra said, “and in the process, he reassures many parents that their own children can also succeed in life.”

Blowing bubbles may seem like play but here it is a skills-building exercise.

Eating is not always pleasurable for the children and requires work with a therapist.

A child smiles as his therapist helps him identify objects in a children's book.

Clockwise: A child's feet with walking braces; a father works with his daughter; a counselor and child play a computer game and a boy shows he's ready to answer a telephone.

The children loved playing in this box of colorful balls.

Left: This child is not happy about doing walking exercises. Right: Lost in his own world, this boy waits for a parent.

At the end of the day, braces rest on a cabinet. They give children the support they need to take their first steps.


Project India: Empowering Women with Economic Success

After lunch, teachers at Astitva tuck children into blankets for an afternoon nap.

Dehradun, India

Preeti Kirbat believes you cannot just treat symptoms. You must intervene and address the causes of a problem. And that is what she and her staff are doing at Astitva, a small but vibrant non-profit association that helps women become more economically independent as a way to break the cycle of domestic violence that is endemic in their community.

“We do not want to do the victimization thing,” said Kirbat, who started Astitva about four years ago. Instead, Astitva helps women put their domestic skills to work, knitting and

The kitchen always seems busy at Astitva.

sewing clothes to sell in local markets, as well as cooking lunches delivered to office workers in a traditional Indian container called a tiffin. Kirbat said women who have economic means feel more confident and strong and can stand up to abusive husbands.

Astitva is located in Dehradun, a city of 575,000 about six hours north of New Delhi by train. Nestled next to the Himalayan foothills, it’s a little off the path for most tourists. Astitva is located in a neighborhood where poor and upper class people live within close proximity. Many of the poor live along a polluted river that is used for waste disposal, bathing and drinking. Many of the men here hang out in the mornings on a nearby bridge where local construction contractors come looking for day laborers.

I spent five days at Astitva, photographing the organization’s activities as part of a workshop with six other photographers under the direction of the Momenta Workshops. During our two weeks in northern India, we each spent time with two non-profit associations, also known as non-governmental organizations (NGO).

The idea is to create a portfolio of images about each NGO’s work. The NGOs, which usually would not be able to afford to hire a photographer, gets a portfolio of images they can use to show prospective donors, beneficiaries and other constituency groups. For us photographers, it was an exceptionally rewarding boot-camp experience in learning how to support NGO clients with our photography. By day we shot photos. By night we drank Kingfisher beers, ate curry dishes — and had many late-night editing sessions.

“People are always telling us, ‘Send us more pictures. Send us more pictures,'” said Kirbat, explaining that the photography portfolio will be a key component of telling Astitva’s story. “You can tell them what you are doing,” she added, “but with photos you can show them.”

To be sure, the NGOs in Dehradun do not have the global reach of big, international organizations. But the directors of the local NGOs are no less sophisticated in

Keeping up with the day care toddlers keeps the program's teachers in full motion.

understanding that photography is a powerful tool in building donor support to fund their activities. They have learned this by working with photographers and using their images, as well as from training they received from the folks at Momenta.

“We have a very strong mission to educate the non-profits on the value of photography,” said Jamie Rose, director of the Momenta Workshops. “They are invited to a one-day intensive seminar on digital communications. We help to train them on the importance of using local photographers after we leave to keep a sustainable photography program going and use multimedia in their promotions, marketing and fund raising. We do not just hand over the pictures and say, ‘Good luck.’”

For Astitva, the photography is an opportunity to show its donors and local community the range of work it is doing for women and their families. As Kirbat was building her NGO, she found it was not enough to show women how to put their home skills to work. Women also needed day care for their youngest children and some of their middle school children needed remedial tutoring.

Astitva also started a youth program. The program aims to instill young people with healthy ideas about family relationships and head-off future violence. As part of the youth

The student fellows at Astitva.

program, Kirbat found funding for a student fellowship program that now includes two boys and two girls. They work on projects that raise awareness among their peer group about gender equality.

Kirbat said poverty often makes the men in the family feel inadequate about their ability to support their families. With too much time on their hands, they spend their days playing cards with their friends. Then the drinking starts and the abuse follows.

“Sometimes they just get fed up and they get in the drinking mood,” she said.

With all these programs, Astitva, which occupies the first floor of a large duplex, is busy all day. In addition to the day care and student programs, the women who knit and sew make weekly visits. They get tips on techniques and also check-out Astitva’s store to see how their sweaters, scarves and other garments are selling.

And Astitva’s kitchen is always busy, starting with morning coffee for staff, a light breakfast for the day-care children and lunch for everyone, including the office and home

Lunch includes a colorful and flavorful entree of vegetables.

customers who purchase daily tiffiins. Food preparation is a for-profit enterprise where two women operate the kitchen as a business.

As toddlers from the day care program chatter over a french toast breakfast, Kirbat tells me she understands that she cannot change the world or even her country. But she’s gratified that she’ll be able to have an impact in her neighborhood.

“We are just working in this pocket of the world,” she said. “This is a place where we can do something.”

And now, with a fresh portfolio of photos, she’s got the communications tools she needs to have an impact on her pocket of the world.

Preeti Kirbat outside the Astiitva facility as student fellows hold a meeting outdoors.

There is plenty of color, aromas and action in the Astitva kitchen.

The knitting women meet weekly to socialize and get tips on knitting techniques.

Most of the knitting is done at home. Here women congregate on the roof top of one home.

Kirbat and a volunteer at Astitva's retail store coach a young seamstress on her apparel and price points.

The knitting women visit Astitva's store to see how their products are selling.

Mornings are very busy at Astitva. But when the toddlers settle in for their naps, the day begins to wind down.


Project India: Changing the World with Photography

New Delhi, India

I am again fortunate to be traveling abroad, this time to Dehradun, India. As I write this, I am in New Delhi and preparing to take a six-hour train tomorrow morning to our destination.

I will be participating with six other photographers in a project to support some non-profit groups in Dehradun, a city of about 1 million people in northern India nestled in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains.

Each of the photographer will be assigned to work with a non-governmental organization (NGO) and produce photo stories about their work. These are small NGOs that are doing exceptional work in education, health care and other social services but would otherwise never be able to afford the services of a professional photographer.

The NGOs can then use the photos to show their donors and other supporters that they are fulfilling their mission. It’s a project that demonstrates that visual images can and should be part of any effective public affairs program.

It is a time for us photographers to get some boot-camp training in shooting for worthy NGOs plus give back to the community where we are working. We’re not only taking photos, but hopefully making the world a slightly better place for having been there.

The two-week project takes place under the direction of the Momenta Workshops, which brings the photographers and NGOs together. (To learn more about Momenta, see the Q&A below with the organization’s director, Jamie Rose).

I will be assigned to work with a small, one-room school for deaf and handicapped children. I’ve been told it will be a challenging assignment. But I also know that it will be one that makes me grow as an individual and a photographer. While Internet connections in Dehradun will be sketchy, I anticipate you’ll be able to follow my adventure by tuning in here. As you can see, I’ve already posted a couple of photos from my walk about New Delhi on Saturday

Fabrics are dyed at a shop in a busy New Delhi market.

Tailors finishing up work for the day.

Rush hour commuters stop for a tasty fried snack.

Rush hour commuters stop for a fried snack.


Photography as a Force of Change

Akhil Bharatiya Mahila is a 66-year-old ashram, a place of study, in Dehradun, India. The center has four points of focus : A medical dispensary; elderly women's home; a school up to grade five, and an education foundation for 50 girls who live on the ashram site. They also provide a hostel for 50 girls from poor areas, as well as food, clothing and education until they complete 12th grade. (Photo copyright 2011 Project India student Alison Harbaugh/Momenta Workshops).


Communications professionals involved in the advocacy business can learn a lot from Jamie Rose, the director of the Momenta Workshops. Based in Washington, D.C., Momenta undertakes photography workshops overseas and here at home that introduce both photographers and non-profit organizations to the power of visual images as a force of change. In this Q&A interview, Rose and I talk about the power of photography as a communications tool and the work of Momenta Workshops.

Q: How and when did Momenta get started?

A: Chris Anderson and Seth Butler started Momenta Group LLC in 2008. Both men had been doing private workshops and consulting for workshop companies. They had a devoted following and many requests to do their own line up. So they took their vision and created a company devoted to communications as a force of change. They understood the importance of quality travel and documentary work, and how professional and citizen journalism could advance the industry with proper training. And so the first two workshops were in Burma and Uganda in 2008.

Q: And how did you find your way to Momenta?

A: I had been working in Washington since 2003 as a photojournalist, covering politics and news primarily. In the two years before joining Momenta, I had started expanding my base to do a lot more work with humanitarian and non-profit groups. They saw that my level of expertise would allow me to expand the non-profit workshops at Momenta and build on their ideas for using photography as a force of change.

Q: So how does a Momenta Workshop work?

A: Through a rigorous research process, we find reputable, small, local non-profit organizations that would benefit from working with a photographer to produce a documentary portfolio of their mission work. Once on site, students in our workshops, whether domestic or international, are assigned to work with a specific non-profit and produce one or more photo stories.

Q. Why is the photography valuable for the non-profit?

A: Non-profits need quality visuals to communicate their mission, whether they’re fighting AIDS in Uganda, operating a homeless shelter in Virginia or dealing with the aftermath of

Jamie Rose (Photo by Jonathan Ernst)

a hurricane in New Orleans. It is important here to draw the difference between documentary and public relations photography. The era of the grip-and-grin photo is gone. We are dealing with an incredibly media savvy population. Donors and grant-making foundations want to see where their money is going. They don’t just want to read about it. They want to see it.

Q: And these are non-profits that ordinarily would not have the resources to hire photographers?

A: Most of them have very small operating budgets, less than $50,000 a year and that includes things like salaries for staff and rent.

Q: Given that this is a first-time experience for many organizations, do you help the non-profit learn how to use their photo portfolio?

A: We have a very strong mission to educate the non-profits on the value of photography. They are invited to a one-day intensive seminar on digital communications. We help to train them on the importance of using local photographers after we leave to keep a sustainable photography program going and use multimedia in their promotions, marketing and fund raising. We do not just hand over the pictures and say, ‘Good luck.’

We look for ways to increase their ability to hire photographers. We know we have done good when we go back for another workshop and they say they have actually hired a photographer and do not need us anymore. That is music to our ears.

Q: So, what advantages does working with non-profits have over traditional news organizations?

A: I think everyone gets into photojournalism because they want to help educate the public on important stories. With limited budgets today, photo professionals do not always see that opportunity in traditional newspaper assignments. One of the appealing aspects of working with non-profits is that you can tell such great stories, see positive outcomes and know you are doing good with your work. After working on a long-term project, a photographer might get two or three pictures in the newspaper. But when working with media saavy non-profits, you might get to illustrate their entire annual report or produce long form documentary multimedia. It’s really gratifying on a creative level.

Q: But this work is different in that you are no longer working for an objective news organization. You are now working for an advocacy organization with a point of view, right?

A: No matter what, every photographer has to eventually decide what their ethical position will be with their own work. The media likes to believe that they do not take a position. But that line of ethics has become incredibly blurred in the last decade, as the 24-hour news cycle has grown. You have Sanjay Gupta doing triage when on assignment or James Nachtway saving a man’s life from being beaten. It is very inaccurate to say that journalists do not get emotionally involved or have beliefs that are translated in their work.

Student Magda Rakita, left, and instructor Jeff Hutchens walk through the streets of Gulu, Uganda, at sunset during the Project Uganda workshop. (Photo copyright 2011 Jamie Rose/Momenta Workshops)

But I don’t change my ethical understanding of what the photographer’s job is in shooting documentary work or nonprofit work. You just have to be clear with the client: ‘Let me do what I do, and I will make good pictures for you.’ My conversations with clients are long and detailed and I explain the documentary process. The savvy clients say, ‘Just do what you do.’ That is why the non-profit environment is so interesting for documentary photographers. You get to tell good stories, keep your ethics in tact and help an organization that is creating a better world.

Q: This work has taken you to some very interesting places. How do you choose the locations for the Momenta Workshops?

A: We don’t throw darts at the map or look at our competitors for ideas. There is a lot of research time and energy that goes into creating a workshop. It takes six months to a year to organize a workshop based on the familiarity of the location to the instructors and organizers. We choose the location based on need, where there has not been a lot of focus or growth in the work of non-profits. Sometimes we go to a more developed country because the rest of the world is ignoring that area as they do not perceive there is a need.

We will typically work with an instructor who comes to us with a wonderful place, where the photographer has worked with organizations there in the past and where we can get an unbiased assessment of those organizations.

One example is our South Africa workshop. Our instructor, Jeff Hutchens, lived in South Africa and came to us with an idea to do a workshop there. It is an area that a lot of people do not focus on in terms of nonprofit outreach needs and the workshop was really successful.

While there are many regions we would love to visit, we also put the highest priority on the safety of our students and staff. The students are coming to work in a foreign environment and some have not had much experience in developing areas. They’ve never hired a local fixer or had to bug out if things get dicey. So realistic safety is first.

Q: How do you choose what instructors to hire? 

A: We are very selective about who we work with. We do not go for the biggest names in photography. We choose the best teachers. Our instructors are passionate and dedicated to documentary photojournalism with a quality portfolio. However, we need to be sure they will be good and supportive of all levels of skill.

Q: And finding the right non-profits must also take some time and work?

A: Yes! We find all the non-profit organizations for our students. That is why each workshop takes so much research and staff time. In each country, we work with the community organizers to make sure the NGOs we work with are offering the services they promise, they have a good reputation and follow their mission of helping the public. We keep consistent and continuing relationships with the nonprofits and have had great luck with those relationships.

Q: Most of your workshops are not typical travel workshops where students shoot photos during the day and have fabulous dinners and wine at night.

A: No, that’s not our model. We do not offer photo tours or travel-with-a-camera workshops. Our participants are serious, dedicated photographers who want a classroom environment to work in whether it is in India or New Orleans. They are dedicated amateurs and professionals who do not just want to travel and take pretty pictures. They want to do something with purpose. Even our travel workshops have lecture components and research for the students. They are amazingly fun, don’t get me wrong. People form friendships for lifetime. But you’re also working very hard.

Q: So, how does that change the content and structure of the workshop? Tell me more about what happens when your students hit the ground. 

A: The one thing that makes our workshops different than others in the marketplace is the editing process we offer. Students get daily one-on-one editing with instructors. The benefit of consistently working with an editor on a photo story for two weeks is invaluable. You are going into the field and shooting everyday and then getting feedback every night.

Q: Do students do some self-editing before meeting with their editor each night?

A: No, we look at every single picture. Most workshops send students out to shoot and then say give us your best 10 or 20 images. We do not think that is the best way to improve our photographers’ learning curve. Reviewing all the images is the most beneficial way to improve a student’s learning trajectory.

Q: This rigorous editing process explains how the non-profits get such good story-telling portfolios. What do the photographers have at the end of the workshop?

A: At the end of a workshop, our goal is for the photographer to also have one or more documentary photo stories for their portfolio. Likewise, during the workshops, we offer business classes where we discuss how to market and present portfolios to clients. The goal is not to just go have a great life experience, but to have the portfolio and information you learned for professional development.

Jamie Rose, director of the Momenta Workshops, shows her international nonprofit portfolio during the Project New Orleans workshop. (Photo copyright 2011 Chris Usher/Momenta Workshops)

At the end of the day, a useable portfolio is one of a photographer’s best marketing tools. The ability of a photographer to come back from an assignment with quality photo stories that they did in just two weeks is a powerful tool in their marketing kit. They can use that to market for paying clients.

Q: And are there some big success stories to share from the photographers and non-profits?

A: Absolutely. We worked with a non-profit in Africa and the student gave them a disc of images to use for their promotion. They were contacted by a large, multi-national bank who wanted to list the NGO as a beneficiary in a holiday giving campaign. The non-profit shared our student’s images with the bank and they were just blown away with the photography. They used them to create a high-quality marketing campaign.

In another case, a non-profit in South Africa did a gallery exhibition of one of our student’s work as a fund raiser. The photographer was able to say his work was exhibited in a gallery in Cape Town and the non-profit was able to communicate its mission to the public.

Q: After this type of training and experience, what does the photographer bring to the table for the non-profit?

A: The photographer needs to be the expert at the table. When you are sitting across from the CEO, the marketing director or a public relations exec, you need that portfolio to support your bid for the job or your proposal for the project. You need to be able to show the non-profit what you could do for them if they invest in your photographic services. You need to be able to show your work and say, ‘Here are examples of other organizations I worked for. This is what I can do for you.’

You will still have clients who say we just want pictures of happy, smiling babies and headshots. You need to become an expert in their marketplace and their competition so you can say, ‘If you want the same old-same old, I can do that. But let’s get more creative so you can be competitive and innovative.’

Sure, at the end of the day, everyone is worried about their budget. But when they see the value in these images, they will continue to hire photographers.

Q: You mention budget pressures and in this economy they are acute for many organizations. Some turn to stock photography saying, ‘It is good enough.’ When is good enough not good enough?

A: There is a time and place for stock. I did my homework once on a client before the initial meeting. In a simple Google search, I found the stock photo they used for the cover of their annual report used on billboards and four other annual reports. I walked into the meeting with the print outs and my point was made without me needing to say it.

Hiring a photographer brings an organization content that no one else has. And original content is the only way to communicate that your company’s or non-profit’s program is unique.

Q: What does the future hold for this type of documentary storytelling photography?

A: Multimedia and innovation go hand-in-hand in the future. Multimedia is already becoming important in non-profit coverage. However, a lot of it is being done poorly and by an intern or non-professional staffer. Many NGOs don’t even realize what a photographer can do for them or the value of it. So you need to be innovative in how to show the organization’s what you can do.

Q: As you know, so many photographers have had difficulties surviving in this economy and adapting to the new digital world. It’s encouraging to hear an optimistic story about the future of photography.

A: So many photographers are downtrodden and caustic about the future. Quite frankly, we do not buy it. We do not believe the down economy and the changing state of news and journalism will be the end of our industry as we know it.

From Momenta’s standpoint, there is a future for documentary photography and it is bright. It may not have the same look and feel found in the hey day of newspapers and magazines. But that can be a good thing. It means that corporations, non-profits and community organizations are seeking out creative individuals to create content in new and exciting ways.

With Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo and YouTube, social networking is taking place at a level we have never seen before and we are entering a grand new age that should be met with enthusiasm and excitement.

Jamie Rose Snapshot: Rose is an award-winning photographer who has worked on five continents as a contract photographer for some of the largest non-profits. She started
her career shooting for The New York Times and other daily news outlets. She has published by National Geographic Books, The Washington Post Magazine, O Magazine, Rolling Stone, Time Magazine and others. Rose’s non-profit clients include The Global Fund, Doctors Without Borders and Physicians for Human Rights to name a few.

See Rose’s portfolio:

More Cool Stuff:

Momenta’s Official Page:

Follow Momenta on Facebook:

Case Studies:

Project Rhino by Momenta instructor Jeff Hutchens

Fighting AIDS with Multimedia by Momenta students and staff


Case Study: How Strong Images Boost News Media Coverage

City Councilmen David Cataina (left) and Jim Graham were accompanied by service member pallbearers



Washington, D.C, Nov. 7, 2011

It is no secret that news organizations do not have the lush news budgets that they did a decade ago. Big city metro dailies have cut staff, reduced the size of their newspapers and slashed freelance budgets. New online media seldom have had the luxury of generous advertising to support lavish spending on news.

And today’s lingering economic problems have only made things worse. But you can turn all this economic distress to your advantage.

One area of news coverage to suffer is photography and other visual elements. News organizations simply do not have the staff or freelance budgets to generate the photographic content they would like to offer their readers. And that is where you can help them and gain greater news coverage and exposure for your organization’s or client’s message.

Whether you are having an event, staging a news conference or rolling out a study, you can provide photographic coverage that will greatly enhance the attractiveness of your story. To be sure, there are mainstream news organizations that will not publish your photos because it is content supplied by possibly biased sources or their public relations firms. But there also will be news organizations that provide expanded coverage or higher profile display because your story comes with photography.

In more than 30 years of being in the news business, I can tell you one of the constant drum beats in newsrooms is to get reporters and editors to think about how they are going to illustrate a story.  Whether it’s a one-on-one meeting between editor and reporter, or a bigger meeting of top editors planning the Sunday paper, the frequent question when discussing a story is, “Whadda got for art?”

As a case study, consider last week’s memorial event at the Carnegie Library for gay activist Franklin Kameny.

Bob Witeck, a co-founder of Witeck-Combs Communications, was one of the lead organizers of the event. Witeck knew some news organizations would send photographers. But he did not know how many. Witeck also knew it would be valuable to have a documentary photographer to add to the collection of biographical materials and chronicle Kameny’s achievements, materials that have found a home in at the Smithsonian Institution.

“Having good photography was essential to continuing Kameny’s fight for equality,” Witeck said. “Strong images would allow us to raise public awareness of his contributions and his message, as well as provide an meaningful experience to supporters who were unable to attend the event.”

So, that is when Witeck called in Robert Dodge Photography to document the event. We agreed that it was essential to have the images available immediately after the event for interested news organizations.

“We knew that some news organizations might run a short story or brief on the event. But if we had photos, they might do a bigger story or even a photo essay on their web site,” Witeck said.

Having photo coverage paid dividends. Among the big hits: Both the Huffington Post and The Advocate, a national gay news magazine, ran extensive photo essays. “This is clearly coverage we would not have received without a photographer,” Witeck said.

Event organizer Bob Witeck greets military pallbearers.

Councilman Graham is interviewed by television reporters.

"Gay is Good," the famous Kameny mantra that changed lives.

Getting ready: Military pallbears recognized Kameny's World War II service.

An usher pauses to look at the Kameny casket before the public viewing begins.

The famous Kameny protest sign with flowers and flag-draped casket.

Kameny's casket with flag, flowers and a military guard.

Washington DC area residents dropped by after work to pay their respects.

Mourners with the Kameny protest sign made for powerful images.

Councilman Cataina and other officials spoke at the ceremony.

Members of the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington provided inspirational music.

Under dramatic evening lights, Kameny's casket is carried out of the building.

A final salute for a hero, activist and champion of civil liberties.


Some Final Thoughts and Images

Shooting rice harvesting in Sapa near the Chinese border.











Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Photography by Khoa Tran

At some point early in this photo shooting trip, my able assistant, Saigon photographer Khoa Tran, half-jokingly told me his primary responsibility on our journey “…is to keep you from getting killed.”

Happily, Khoa did his job.

Khoa had been warned that I am a bit of klutz and fall off things like rice paddies. As I leave Vietnam, I know that I have many wonderful images for my project, Vietnam Unexpected. So in addition to keeping me safe, Khoa did a great job of providing the kind of support I needed to find the photographic subjects I needed for my work.

I leave with an eagerness to return home and get busy on the sorting and editing of my images, as well as eating some American food.

But there are many things I love about Vietnam which will draw me back here again. I love having pho and strong iced coffee for breakfast. I love plunging into the frenzy of Saigon’s traffic and hearing the constant hum of motorbikes. I love the variety of foods found on the streets and in restaurants. And I love scenes in the small villages — women in conical hats, children at play or men drinking coffee and smoking — that resist the enormous economic and social change around them.

And I find it amazing to bear witness to a society and culture that are in historic transformation.

I love turning each corner and finding unexpected photo possibilities that are rich in color, texture and life. I am regularly surprised at the capacity of this place to offer up fascinating visuals that make compelling and challenging photo subjects. Each day brings multiple surprises.

My most unforgettable character will always be the young boy at the Agent Orange treatment center in Hanoi who greeted me with a huge hug and his hip hop dance routine. His simple joy in meeting other people, his uninhibited and innocent delight with self expression and his life shaped by a war long ago explain a lot about why I pursue this project.

Somehow the advenure on the fishing boat in Nha Trang began to feel like a remake of Gilligan's Island.

The minority children around Sapa are always hoping the foreigner will pay for photos.

I will miss my breakfast of pho, the tasty Vietnamese noodle soup.

My favorite character: The hip hop dancer at the Friendship Village in Hanoi.



Eating in Vietnam and the Fowl Business of the Duck Works


Ducks are slaughtered, blood drained, feathers plucked and dressed at the duck works.













Hai Phong, Vietnam

Eating in Vietnam, like many third world countries, can be an adventure. A diet forged by times of shortages and serious hunger, this is a country where people eat anything that wiggles, crawls or moves.

Snake soaking in wine.

I’ve seen dog, cat and rat on the menu or sitting on plates and cooking grills in the village markets, as well as wine aged with snakes, scorpions and larva in the jug.

To be sure, there are some great places in the major cities to get seriously good food. And many people who live in U.S. cities with large Vietnamese-American communities know the wonderful flavors and varieties that the Vietnamese diaspora brought to our country.

But on this photo shooting trip, we are traveling through the rural areas of the north and the concepts of fine dining have not crossed the city limits of the larger metropolitan areas. In these small towns, restaurants have concrete floors, open air kitchens and usually have a limited offering of choices each day.

Lately, I have become increasingly interested in how food fits into my ongoing Vietnam Unexpected project. It has become apparent to me that food has emerged as an important theme in the portfolio, even though I had no conscious intent of making it a central part of the project. But food definitely is a core ingredient because Vietnam is still an agrarian culture. The planting, growing and harvesting of food consumes much of the work energy of this country everyday.

I owe credit for seeing this thread in my work to Penny De Los Santos, an accomplished food photographer in the United States. Penny recently did a weekend workshop online and it helped me see how food photography is more than just shooting photos of pretty morsels on white plates for slick magazines. Food is the story of a country’s people and culture, weaving a rich narative from the moment seeds are planted in the soil to the crackling instant bread is broken around the table.

With that in mind, you can imagine my delight at finding the duck works in Hai Phong, a deep-water sea port on the coast due east of Hanoi. The duck works is my name for the place, located on a street corner in the public market where all kinds of produce, fish and meats can be found. It is unique because here ducks are sold, slaughtered and dressed. And it all happens right here on the street for all to see.

Out on the sidewalk, there are several dozen live ducks. To keep them from running off to avoid the butcher’s knife, they are stuffed into bags that have openings for their heads. Shoppers stroll through the bags of ducks, examining them closely, obviously looking for the most tasty specimens.

Behind the duck shopping area, there is a space where ducks are being killed and then dressed. A single man is killing the ducks, relishing his work to an extent that is a little unsettling. He takes each duck, turns it upside down and shoves it head first into an open-ended shute. He then cuts the ducks throat and drains the blood.

The blood is collected in a large plastic bag, which is then cooked in large pots of near-boiling water. When the blood is cooked, it is like a jelly and is used as an ingredient in other foods.

Adjacent to the jolly duck killer there are rows of women sitting in front of vats of water. They remove the feathers and dress the birds.

Indeed, it is very visual. But you should not linger here too long with a camera. The lady who runs the duck works is not too keen on having all this bloodletting photographed. She yelled at me when I first showed up, so I did not point the camera in her direction. But I kept photographing the other activity, as it is on the street and within public view. For awhile, the lady disappeared, apparently having bigger ducks to fry.

But she returned a half hour later, more angry than ever. Without warning she slapped me in the arm, hurling a mouthful of Vietnamese curse words at me. I resisted the urge to smack her back. And knowing that my First Amendment rights might not extend to the streets of Hai Phong, I decided a quiet retreat might be the best option. I had already shot hundreds of images and a confrontation that might draw the interest of the local police seemed unwise.

I also never got to taste any Vietnamese duck. In fact, the food we ate during our time in the rural north was often very poor.

I have survived thanks to the French. When the French occupation of Vietnam ended they left behind baguettes and French fries. To this day, you can find these foods in the tiny hamlets of North Vietnam. So, I’ve been able to count on a helping of crinkle cut fries to round out my meals while my traveling companions are eating eel and stir fried whole sardines.

On one trip a couple of years ago I was traveling in the far north near the Chinese border with my photographer friend Ly Hoang Long. After several days on the road, Long had our driver stop at a store in a small town that looked like a little Piggly Wiggly store. It looked very out of place with its neat shelves and stacked processed food products. Long marched into the store on a mission. He emerged after about 10 minutes with a shopping bag full of processed meats like baloney, as well as cheese, white bread and a bit of mustard.

“What’s this,” I asked.

“I am sick of this food from the north,” said Long, who lives in the Central Highlands town of Da Lat. “It’s bland and has no taste. Sometimes it just makes me crazy.”

On another occasion, Long and I were photo shooting in the Mekong with some of his photographer friends. All day they kept telling me they would be taking me for a special dinner to a restaurant that is known throughout the Mekong for its rat. “These are not like your New York City rats,” one told me. “Ours are clean because they live in the fields and eat corn and rice.” I was anxiously contemplating all day how I was going to get out of eating rat. We went to the restaurant, got our table and ordered a round of beers. After a few sips and toasts, one of Long’s friends said: “I am very sorry but the restaurant is out of rat today.” That’s when I knew for sure they were messing with me. I turned to Long and asked him to order me some fries.

While I am not a terribly squimish or fussy eater, I do have my limits. But I also have tried to keep an open mind and be ready to seize on a nice surprise when it happens.

One day on this trip, Khoa Tran, my photo assistant, emerged from a restaurant carrying a bag of four freshly baked baguettes. He ordered some fried eggs and we scooped up the runny yokes with the warm bread. And on each trip, I find something new that I really like. On this trip, I’ve developed a passion for Vietnamese coffee. The coffee is dark and rich and is allowed to drip through a simple metal brewing container into a cup. Generous amounts of sugar, and sometimes sweet condensed milk, are added and then the mix is poured over ice.

I am also coming to appreciate the regional differences in food here, too. For instance, food from the south is much more flavorful and spicy than the north. And foods in the Mekong are often sweeter.

From the anecdotes here, you can see that food has played a sometimes amusing role in my daily life as a photographer here. I know now that the variety of food photos I have accumulated will play an important role in telling the story of Vietnam, even if I choose not to sample all the foods.

One day early in this project, I was traveling with a young guide from the north. He spoke awesomely good English and was proud of his ability to understand euphemistic expressions and coin his own clever phrases. I asked him to explain how dog tastes. Is it like pork, chicken or beef, or does it have a unique flavor like lamb or game?

He contemplated my question for a few seconds and then his face lit up: “Robert, dog tastes very dogly. You’ll just have to sample it.”

I am still not going to try it.

Shoppers carefully look over all the ducks before making a selection.

The morning rush hour is a busy time as customers pick-up ducks on their way to work.

Another bird faces the jolly duck killer as a production line keeps the fowl flowing to customers.

A final duck is pulled from a cage to be slaughtered and dressed. This man enjoys his work too much.