Interview with Carol Allen-Storey-a member of our Photography Award panel

In this blog I would like to share with you a transcript of an interview with Carol Allen-Storey @carolallenstorey - an award-winning photojournalist, documentary photographer and member of our panel of judges for the #AnnaSteinhouseAward Photography Competition, which we are running until the 19th of August (incl.)

In this interview Carol tells us about her background as a photographer, shares her views about the Award and tells us what she will be looking for in the submitted works.

A: - Hello! I am Anna Steinhouse

While we are still running our photography competition until the 19th of August, today I have a great pleasure of welcoming one of our members of the judging panel Carol Allen-Storey. Carol is an award-winning photojournalist and a documentary photographer, and she specialises in chronicling complex humanitarian and social issues, especially amongst women and children. Please welcome Carol.

Hello Carol, Welcome! Thank you very much for finding the time today. I have got a few questions. If you don’t mind me asking you a few questions. The first question that I have got is this: would you tell us about your story as a journalist?

C: Ah! My story! I try to keep this as a shortest synopsis as you have ever seen. I see myself as a photojournalist, more of a documentarian. In other words, I am not what a press photographer may do: there is a building that has exploded, and I have run out with three sets of cameras and different lenses and take pictures. Most of my work is documentary. It is about issues and people that I really deeply care about and I feel that they have not had a voice and they have been voiceless… and…the best way to give them a voice is to visually document and tell what their story is and, hopefully, make aware the wider public through the press and the variety of different vehicles that you can use and I work principally… I am a UNICEF ambassador for photography, and I work with NGOs, like Save The Children and USAID and International Alert for Peacebuilding and an enormous amount of work that I do with the Elton John AIDS Foundation. So, the different areas, dealing with the peacebuilding, humanitarian issues, particularly women’s rights and children’s rights, gender quality and health issues. So just the way the HIV AIDS was an enormous pandemic that spread like wildfire throughout Africa, we are having the same situation right now with the COVID pandemic. So, my view is that anything that I shoot and any story that I tell has to have a reason. People should be asking questions ‘why did you do it?’, ‘what you hoped was going to happen?’, ‘what is the outcome of it?’. It is not just making the happy snaps, although some of my pictures are happy and so on, but that’s not what it’s about. What it’s about is to give the voice to the voiceless and particularly to support people that require support that are not getting what they should.

A: Thank you for this summary. You are doing an amazing work and these issues are very important to shed the light on.

C: Let me tell you about one short story, which was really important for me. I was working on my personal project Angels at the Age of Darkness, which was about AIDS in Africa amongst a few different nations. I was working in Tanzania and whilst I was there, some of the women were telling me about a terrible thing that was occurring in all the schools that children who had an HIV AIDS had to wear a red epaulette, sawn into their school uniform denoting that they are HIV positive. And you can imagine, for me it was ‘déjà vu’ of Hitler! Horrific! And I said: ‘Can I get access to these schools? Can you ladies open it up for me?’ You know I work with children all the time and you really have got to be clear to do that. And they said: ‘We can do this’. So, I went to twenty different schools and there might have been some more. On this one trip I was staying there for three weeks and I have photographed this and have interviewed the heads of the schools and the children. I have interviewed all the children as well. And when I came back, I was saying that I was doing some work for Eldon John's AIDS Foundation and I saw the CEO Anne Aslett and I was telling her about this, and I showed her some of the pictures. And they were looking for the story for the World AIDS Day, which as you may be aware, is on the first of December. They said: ‘This is the story’. I named it ‘The Red Badges of Courage’ and we sequenced it and the Guardian run the story and because of the story and the impact it has had, lobbying began in Tanzania and the entire process of forcing children to wear those uniforms sawn with the red epaulettes was eliminated.

A: Amazing!

C: And that to me is why do I do what I do.

A: That’s so wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing that, Carol. That’s an amazing story, really and a great example of what you do. Can I ask you the second question now? About the competition?

C: Of course!

A: First of all, thank you for being on our panel. It is a real honour having you on the panel of this competition. Could you tell us why should people apply, professional or amateur photographers? What is good about this competition?

C: A couple things that I thought were interesting: The one is all about a community. You know we are a community and it was an idea of how we should be working together to support one another. I think it is really important that people take responsibility and one does not always say ‘oh! This is not my job!’. It is your job! It is your job to be responsible within a community and given what we all have been trying to support and the things that have been happening during COVID, you know, it’s a nightmare that none of us were prepared for. Least were the governments, not just here in the UK, but around the world. The idea of a community was an important thing. The idea… because how we are reaching people… Although it’s on Instagram and that’s how people are applying. Put it up on Instagram. You could be shooting on your smartphone, whichever smartphone you have. And it’s down to the idea. And I am a very curious person. I saw the theme and I thought: ‘Perfect!’ and after my curiosity of what people are going to be putting up and the opportunity for the people who may not have the budget to apply for so many of the contests that are out there. Let’s see the work and let’s go from there and maybe open up some door and discover some fantastic talent. Why not?

A: This leads us nicely to the third question: ‘What personally will you be looking for in the submissions? I know, probably, it’s not an exact formula, but what will be interesting for you?

C: It’s our world today, you know, and it could be someone’s world and home with their mother and, you know, there are a lot of different interpretations. And I want to see how their mind is working, and I also would be very interested, and this is always very important for me is to get into a narrative. ‘Why are you submitting this work? Why is this important to you?’

A: A story behind it (nodding)

C: Yeh! Because it tells you where they are travelling, what journey they are taking and why they are taking that journey. And they may shift in the middle of it, as we all, you know, modify and be flexible and be nimble, which I think is very important in anything that you do in life. Be nimble! Be flexible! Keep an open mind and always think outside the box. So, I want to see what their virtuosity is, you know, how they execute and it’s fine to be on an iPhone. I am curious to see what they are thinking is in our world and again, as I said, it’s not the equipment, it’s their idea and how they execute it and something that is different. I would like to see some originality in thinking. And the pictures do not have to be totally in focus. I want to see motion; I want to see a dynamic thing. And I want the pictures to ask me questions. I want to turn the page to see what’s the next instalment. Why am I here? Tell me more about what you were thinking.

A: Right. Thank you so much, Carol. Thank you again for coming today…

C: Pleasure!

A: …and well, we look forward to the submissions!

Read more about the Photography Award or on Instagram Photography Award

Find out more about Carol Allen-Storey's professional work here

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