Editorial Photography for USAID

By Douglas Gritz

Denver Photographer

Last month I was hired by USAID to cover a story in the African country of Ghana. USAID is a federal international development agency. Their work advances economic prosperity, which contributes to our national security.

In Ghana, they help connect shea butter processors with the global marketplace. So the shea butter you might find in in a stick of chapstick from Whole Foods very likely could have come from the processors USAID works with in Ghana.

USAID wanted to show how shea butter has helped better the lives of women and their families in northern Ghana through a video and photography. I do both video production and editorial photography and have done both internationally and in developing countries multiple times so was a good fit the project and excited to be a part of it.

During our initial discussions of the project I found most of USAID’s focus to be on the video. The photos were kind of a “get what you can” situation. For the video, they had identified one woman, Rita, to focus the video on. Rita operated 15 processing centers around northern Ghana.

I had three days available to shoot the video and the photos. Establishing a story and capturing all the elements for the video is a time consuming process. Because of that I didn’t have time to shoot photos until near the end of the last day. But I was happy with what I got and so was, more importantly, my client.

The final story is published on the USAID website in a package that includes both the video and photos called “She Sells Shea.”

Below are some of my favorite photos from the shoot.

 

ghana woman with pink headscarf

ghana woman with blue scarf

ghana woman with brown scarf at shea butter processing weigh center

ghana woman with green headscarf

ghana woman with brown scarf

ghana woman poses at shea butter processing center

leader of shea butter operation center in ghana

ghana woman laughs

three shea butter processing woman pose

Such fascinating faces among these woman. And the colors they wore were fantastic. I shot the portraits above in a warehouse where the shea butter nuts are stored, weighed, and sorted. Although I brought some strobe lights with me, there wasn’t a lot of time to set anything up. So instead I had the women stand just inside the door way, which allowed me to use natural light to light them. There was a side door that I opened to get light on the background.

 

two ghana women walk with buckets of shea butter balanced on their heads

two ghana women walk with buckets of shea butter balanced on their heads

two ghana women walk with buckets of shea butter balanced on their heads

a truck full of ghana women

While I waited for all the women to arrive to shoot their portraits, I snapped off some quick photos of some of the women carrying bowls of shea nuts to the warehouse. And then of the rest of them arriving.

 

several ghana women pose for group portrait

Group portrait of all the women Rita works with at one of her shea processing centers.

 

denver editorial photography shea butter processors usaid ghana bagging shea nuts

denver editorial photography shea butter processors usaid ghana weighing shea nuts

denver editorial photography shea butter processors usaid ghana weighing shea nuts

These images show how the shea nuts are sorted and weighed before storage.

 

denver editorial photography shea butter processors usaid ghana woman sorting shea nuts

denver editorial photography shea butter processors usaid ghana woman kneading shea

denver editorial photography shea butter processors usaid ghana rita tallies numbers

denver editorial photography shea butter processors usaid ghana woman with baby

denver editorial photography shea butter processors usaid ghana woman carries shae nuts on her head with baby on back

Finally, on the last day before packing up to make the long drive back to our hotel in town, I was able to put away my video camera equipment and focus solely on getting still photos of the women busy at work processing shea. In addition to working long hours doing heavy labor seven days a week under suffocating heat and humidity, many of the woman also have a small child attached to them while they do it!

 

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