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The Intuitive activist ~ Danielle Da Silva

Danielle Da Silva’s photos do more than entertain the eye‒ they provoke the mind. Scrolling through her portfolio is an experience that pulls at your core and demands your attention. Each compelling image tells a story of the people she’s met, the places she’s been and the moments she’s lived; a journey, which she says, was guided by none other than intuition itself.

As a photographer, filmmaker, conservationist and activist, Danielle has catered her career to producing stories that rouse interest and inspire change. In 2009, she founded Photographers Without Borders (PWB), an organization that connects visual storytellers with grassroots initiatives, nonprofits and non-governmental organizations around the world. She is the sitting CEO and, since PWB’s creation, has connected over 175 storytellers with over 175 organizations, all the while addressing all of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals in over 35 countries.

“Storytelling helps us visualize and imagine new possibilities,” reads a quote from Danielle on her website. “That way we can manifest new realities.”

Growing up, Danielle says she was always filled with a burning sense of curiosity. Having a Portuguese mother and a British father of Indian-Pakistani descent, she said, prompted her to carry forward a quest of identity that was passed on from the generations before her. Her circumstances manifested into various solo travels at a young age, but it wasn’t until 2008 when she visited Kerala, India and worked with the Swami Vivekananda Medical Mission that she was truly propelled on a path of self-discovery.

“I took photos the entire time I was there and produced these amateur images that people seemed to really like when I came back. And that kind of struck a chord in me,” she said. “With those images, we were able to raise money to build nine schools in little villages. And that was a huge indicator to me of the power of storytelling.”

With no real formal training behind the lens, Danielle’s knack for photography came about rather organically. Following her trip to India, she was urged to pursue this apparent gift, and slowly, she began to merge her newfound passion for storytelling with her education in science and global development. Her work was met with a strong momentum, and has since carried her to more than 80 countries working with humanitarian groups that assist women, children, marginalized communities and conservation efforts.

In 2016, after a trip to Indonesia with PWB, Danielle co-founded the Sumatran Wildlife Sanctuary, which works to conserve rainforest habitat near the Gunung Leuser ecosystem. That same year, she also co-founded a local non-profit called The Dandelion Initiative, which, after witnessing cases of harassment in her field and experiencing the trauma of assault herself, advocates to end sexual violence through community action.

Throughout this dynamic journey, she’s mastered six languages and garnered the inspiration for two powerful TED Talks. But, the real goal in each of her ventures is to produce a narrative that evokes something visceral. “My photography is very, I think, unsettling sometimes…and I find that that’s something that’s really necessary right now. We’re so overloaded with information and imagery…and I think that my images make people look twice,” she said. “I think that can have an impact on people’s emotions, how they view different situations in the world and how they view their relationships to them.”

Danielle believes that it’s this exact push and pull between photograph and viewer that can reshape perspectives and breed positive change. Her motivation for setting the stage, so to speak, is rooted in her intuition‒ a natural, instinctive feeling that tells her what’s right, she said. Using this guiding force to navigate through the world, she hopes that her content continues to shed light on her own self-discovery, and not only inspires the communities that are featured through her work, but also other female storytellers who are awakening to the true potential of their art.–

“Don’t let anything get in the way and always follow your intuition because we [women] have a very strong sense of it. It’s something that a lot of men don’t have or have to work hard at, and I think that that can really be a good guide,” she said. “Using that intuition will help you flourish and thrive, and reimagine what the industry can be.”

 

Capturing strength, confidence and beauty: Why every woman deserves to step in front of the camera

Taking photographs has become a customary part of daily life – from selfies to photos of the kids, day trips and vacations, interesting architecture, fancy meals, the list goes on. But how often do we go back and look at these through our phone, computer or social media channels? How many photos of ourselves do we print off and place on display?

My family has a photo shoot done every couple of years where we have family portraits done as well as various staged and candid shots of the kids, the pup, and my husband and I together. These photos are always printed and put out on display, then dated and put away in an album when the new ones are ready to be framed.

We have fun as a family doing these shoots, coming up with ideas and spending time together. These photos reflect where we are in life, our interests and show how we are growing.

I have thousands of photos of my family on my phone and computer, they aren’t organized in folders; there are hundreds of duplicates to sort through, some are complete duds, and only a handful include me or my husband.

That is why we have a photographer – so we can be with our children in photos that we love and are proud to display around our home.

It was these family photos that led me to a personal photo shoot. This isn’t an idea I would have come up with on my own, however the opportunity arose to have my hair and makeup done, wardrobe styled and photos taken. I jumped at the chance.

I’ll admit, at first I felt a little awkward about getting dressed up and being in front of the camera. After all, there was no special occasion and no exact purpose for these photos. But, my goodness, it was a breath of fresh air. As a mother I have no issue setting up elaborate newborn shoots and cake smashes, arranging portraits of our children to hang on the wall. The kids get all the glory, and you know what? I deserve a bit of the same.

Participating in this photo shoot was lively, fun, and honestly, empowering. I felt beautiful, confident and successful as the photos were being taken. Those feelings stayed with me for days afterwards, and came back even stronger when I received the images.

That shoot was a wonderful reminder of who I was prior to becoming a mother, and who I could still be outside of motherhood, my career, and other responsibilities.

Every woman deserves to feel the way I felt and continue to feel whenever I look at those photos. It isn’t just about the cosmetic or outward beauty that is captured. With the right photographer your personality shines through; you will see strength, perseverance, confidence, and the beauty within.

These photos can extend to your professional life as well, be it on your LinkedIn profile, business website or blog. Having quality pictures that reflect who you are and what you do will set you apart. They show that you’ve invested in yourself and that others should too.

When hiring a photographer their price and portfolio are often the main considerations. However, if you don’t jive with the photographer, the photos will reflect that. You want to work with someone you feel comfortable with and can even be vulnerable with. Ensure they are good with kids and pets if they will be in the photos as well.

Have a plan in place for what you want to accomplish, and ask if they can honestly offer what you are looking for. Are they available to come to your home? Can you have multiple set-ups? What kind of packages can they offer?

With any profession there are varying degrees of experience and price points. This is not something that should break the bank, however it isn’t something to skimp on either. Once you decide how much you want to spend, take time to speak with different photographers and get an idea of who will be the best fit.

Finding a photographer and having professional photos taken of yourself and your family is worth the investment. Even if you only do it once, you have the images forever.

 

Woman of the Week: Jo-Anne McArthur

Photography can be a tool for change — there is no limit to the difference a powerful image can make. Animal rights photographer Jo-Anne McArthur has taken this medium to a new level by using her DLSR camera to take astounding photographs of animals in various states of suffering. She has gained attention worldwide for her courageous work, and her investigative journey was also featured in Liz Marshall’s documentary The Ghosts in our Machine.

“It is unforgiving work. I am trying to make art out of the atrocities,” McArthur says. “If I produced shitty images, people aren’t going to look. How are you going to look and not get people to turn away?”

McArthur’s job is difficult, no doubt. She is forced to get up close and personal to each and every animal, and then has to walk away from the suffering in order to keep doing her job without legal litigation. Not to mention, many of the photos that McArthur take are in hard-to-reach places that often keep animals in terrible conditions.

“Most commonly, I am sneaking onto a property at night with a security team. We know when people are coming and going,” McArthur says. “I never break or touch anything. I will climb a fence if I have to and document — whether that takes half an hour or six hours.”

McArthur says her most difficult photography shoot was with minks held in cages, because of the low lighting and confined space. The cages were quite small and the mink are often trying to protect their young. Photoshoots like these make McArthur feel devastated, especially when she has to walk away without interfering. A photography shoot involving a lone elephant is one of her worst memories on the job. “The saddest thing I’ve seen was an elephant named Jeanna in France. She does fuck all except walking in circles and swaying back and forth,” McArthur says. “It was devastating to see this girl who has been alone for 15 years. They should re-home her, give her sanctuary, and give her enrichment. Seeing her once was bad enough, but then I come back the next day and she is doing the exact same thing. Why isn’t the world screaming about her being there? I take photos, but I feel inept.”

After years of working in the trenches of animal rights investigations, McArthur found herself suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  “I was doing too much time in the field. It is natural to need a recovery period from traumas. I felt I was invincible and I was not. My first thought when I woke up in the morning was mink or gestation crates,” McArthur says. “I had therapy to help me process what I had seen I was thinking of the utter sadness of animals in captivity all the time. I had to relearn the basics, eat well, and sleep well. I annoyingly tell activists to eat, sleep, and have sex. If we are not joyful, we are not healthy and we need to joy to advocate for animals. I got used to seeing the sadness. When people ask me if I’m desensitized, I want to say no. To go there emotionally, it is not productive.”

Along with being a leader in animal rights activism, McArthur is a huge supporter of women. She began an initiative called the ‘Unbound Project’ with Associate Professor of Visual Arts at Brock University, Keri Cronin that features women in animal rights activism around the world.  “Over many years of doing animal rights work, I saw that it was women on the front lines. There is often men at the top for optics, but women are really the dominant sex in this movement,” McArthur says. “I’m doing the Unbound Project because I see that it is women that lead the movement, and I want to celebrate that.”

McArthur has been fascinated by animals since she was a child. She says that many people get into animal rights to change the world, but for her it was a different story. “Even as a wee kid, I would feel sad for an animal. I took action because I was worried,” McArthur says. “My parents allowed me to express these concerns and act on them.”

An avid reader as well, McArthur is currently reading The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. She also recommends Aftershock by Patrice Jones for women going through PTSD. She has also published her own book, We Animals.

After having faced so many countless atrocities, it is a wonder that McArthur has hope in the future of the world we live in. She says that living with hope is the only way to stay positive. “I certainly have moments of despair, but that is not where I live. I live with a focus on change, and with every person I reach, that is a victory. I choose to live hopefully instead of despairingly or I wouldn’t be able to do this shitty work I do.”

Here is a sample of some of McArthur’s work and you can find more animal rights photographs here:

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”3″ gal_title=”Photos by Jo-Anne McArthur”]