Nantucket photographer Katie Kaizer shot thousands of images during her trip to Uganda. Amazingly, between shooting still frames, Katie was also able to record video footage and conducted interviews with many of the women and children she photographed.
PHOTOGRAPHER KATIE KAIZER IS A NANTUCKETER IN THE TRUEST SENSE. Her link to the island traces back through her maternal bloodline to her great-grandmother. Yet unlike many historic Nantucket women, who often stayed behind while the men went off in search of adventures afar, Katie is most definitely not landlocked when it comes to exploring the world. “I think as Nantucketers we should travel whenever possible,” she says, “and bring back new ideas, new insights and new inspiration to the island.” Katie spent the month of March in Uganda, volunteering her photography to small organizations that are dramatically changing the lives of women and children who have been devastated by decades of violence, disease, and poverty. “I was trying to give these women a platform, a way to tell their story… they were so happy,” she says, holding back tears. “They wanted to share their story.” Katie’s story in Uganda is a hard one to tell—that is to say, it’s hard to do it justice. Taken by an experience so powerful that words, even her own, can only lend a fraction of understanding, she kept insisting during our interview: “You’ll have to see it in the photos.” Indeed, Katie’s images are breathtaking, capturing a scene so foreign, yet also familiar. The photos transcend their subjects and echo universal truths: the love of a mother, the innocence of a child, the pride of work, the strength of community. In them you also see the courage of an artist, pushing far beyond her comfort zone for the sake of her craft, and for the benefit of those who perhaps could never be more deserving.
Twenty years ago, civil wars drove the Acholi people from their land in Northern Uganda. Many of them settled just outside of Kampala City, where they found work crushing aggregate stone. Through vocational training and loans from Project Have Hope, many women have been able to get out of the stone quarry—but there are still some who continue to work there.
I was grateful to Lumunu Helen for sharing her story with me. She works long days in the quarry, and is the toughest woman I have ever met. Her late husband owned part of the
quarry, and when he died she continued to work there. She is a single mother with ten children.”
— Katie Kaizer
Lalam Cecilia started her business selling charcoal after receiving a loan from Project Have Hope. She supports her children and grandchildren with the business, and is in the middle of building her own brick house in the Acholi Quarter.
“Part of the magic of traveling is being open to opportunities that come your way. So it was that I met Renate Sluiseman of Arise and Shine Uganda by chance on a local bus. Based two hours north of Kampala in Jinja City, Arise and Shine Uganda runs a children’s care home and a school in the Kimbuye Village. With Sluiseman’s help, I was able to photograph Arise and Shine Uganda’s efforts, traveling two hours by local bus then an hour and a half by motorcycle on dirt tracks to reach the school in the Kibuye Village.” -K.K.
“This photo below will always be a special to me. It was a calm afternoon when I visited the children’s care home. After being bathed and fed, these two girls seemed so peaceful and happy when they laid down for their afternoon nap. For many of these children, common acts of caregiving were absent from their lives before reaching this children’s care home run by Arise and Shine Uganda.” -K.K.
“At the end of my trip, I printed out a stack of 4×6 photos for the women. Some didn’t own photos of themselves and others did not own any photos at all…they were overjoyed. That’s really what photography is about for me: to make photos that can help people and bring them happiness. Photography does not stop at knowing how to operate a camera, it’s about pushing yourself to do projects that can make a difference and broaden your perspective. The photography I did for Project Have Hope and Arise and Shine Uganda is now being used for fundraising campaigns and to create more visual awareness.”