I present you my newest interview about my documentary project from Uganda “Children of God”
“What I like most is showing human stories” Those word I said yesterday when talking with Ilona. Yesterday I had the pleasure to be a guest of Ilona in the Szczypta Luksusu.
Our conversation concerned my documentary project “Children of God” which I did in Uganda. In Uganda I spent 7 months during which I worked at school and photographed street children to draw attention to this important, and I have the impression, forgotten issue.
I did the project because I thought it was a story that many people don’t notice, including the people of Uganda.
Also we talked about the religion in Africa, about traveling alone and about courage.
Instead of telling big stories, I invite you to read. For those who would like to read the original interview, I invite you to go to this website where it is in Polish.
Photography is just a tool to show the lives of others
Aleksandra Dynaś, a photographer, tells us behind the scenes of her career path and tells about the reportage “Children of God” about children from Uganda, and also she explains why Indians want to die over Ganges.
Ilona Adamska: Traveling was your biggest passion from an early age. I know you travel alone since you were 15 years old. Tell me more!
Aleksandra Dynaś: Traveling is my greatest passion. When I was 6 years old, my mother came up with a great idea to send me to a 3-week camp. It wasn’t easy, but somehow I survived. Later I traveled with my parents who took me to various distant corners of the world. When I was 15-16, my parents sent me to a language school in Spain so that I could learn Spanish better.
I spent over a month in a small town in Andalusia. I liked this experience so much that later I tried to repeat it and I started to go to distant countries myself. But I think that at the very beginning it was the idea of my parents and they pushed me to leave the world.
Photography started few years ago. You deal with documentary and reportage photography as well as social topics. Why do you do exactly a reportage?
It seems to me that reportage, documentary and travel photography in some sense suits my personality best. When I started studying photography, the first course I went on was a reportage photography course. So called photojournalism. I didn’t know the basics yet, and I went to a course that taught how to tell stories, show social problems, injustices or stories of people.
I just like people, I like talking to them, I like to learn about their lives and learn things from them. I’m curious. From a child. Therefore, when I became interested in photography, it somehow naturally pushed me to tell stories. Actually, photography is just a tool to show the lives of others. My nature, what I believe and my values, did not really play with fashion photography, food or interior photography or children.
I do not agree with the direction in which the world is going and I want to draw people’s attention to things that are important. Things that are more important than ourselves. We live in a global world. We are all connected.
You lived in Uganda for 7 months, where you worked with street children, most often suffering from AIDS. How do you remember this rather difficult time?
I will explain that the children were not suffering from AIDS. At least not all of them. So it is better to say that I worked with street children. I chose this topic myself. I began to document how the children live the street live and why they are there. It was also the topic that touched me the most. I thought it was a needed project and a story to tell, so how I felt myself didn’t matter much.
Of course, it’s not easy to look at the situations of these kids, but the more it scared me, the more I felt I was doing the right thing and the more I wanted to get to know the whole problem as best I could. If someone decides to go to Uganda and document certain topics, then they have to be aware that not everything will be beautiful.
But the desire to highlight certain topics and talk about difficult things is an inseparable part of a photojournalist or documentary photography.
As a believer, I was intrigued by your project called “Children of God”, which was presented not only in Poland but also in Spain. Could you tell something more about him?
The documentary “Children of God” is a project that I did in Uganda about the lives of children on the street. In Kampala, the capital of Uganda, there are more than 10,000 children on the street. They found themselves there because of domestic violence, poverty, sexual violence, and psychological violence. Some are orphans because their parents died of AIDS. Some fled the house, hoping to find a better life in Kampala.
I spent three months in Kampala slums, being with adults and children. Children who live on the street are only an effect. Some of those children have no choice but to run away from home.
I called it the Children of God reportage because most of these children are very religious and despite living on the street, many of them still go to church and pray in the hope that God will help them.
However, without the help of local organizations, government, international NGOs, unfortunately many of them will remain on the street. I’m showing this project in Poland and Spain and speaking of it, I’m also trying to raise money for a trusted organization that deals with helping these kids.
What does faith and God look like in Africa?
I can’t talk about the whole of Africa, because I haven’t visited all of it, but in Uganda, where I had the opportunity to be big, faith in God is very strong. Sunday is holy, women put on their most beautiful dresses and go to church, where the mass is very lively. People clap, sing, pray together. This is a very important day. In Uganda, there are 84% of Christians and about 14% of Muslims.
I remember one day when I was going to church with the family I lived with. I put on ordinary shoes, sneakers. When they saw that I wanted to go to church in these shoes, they asked if I had better shoes. So I had to change my sneakers for more elegant shoes. Religion is very important in Uganda.
In Uganda, even before Christians arrived in Africa, people had their traditional beliefs. Their prayers were based on singing, dancing, beating drums and a very active form of prayer.
Therefore, now, despite the fact that many people profess the Christian faith, the way of praying is still based on traditional forms of talking with God. Ugandan Mass can be carried away to a large party organized in the church. It is a very beautiful moment and worth seeing.
Ugandans dress their most beautiful dresses because of respect for God. Dance and drums are natural for Africa, for their culture and traditions. Each mass is adapted to the culture in which it is conducted, which is why our Polish mass is so different from the African.
You photographed people who want to die in Varanasi because they think that only by dying there will they be saved.
Some time ago I came back from India, where I was for 6 months. I worked there on two topics: death and tuberculosis. When it comes to death, I wanted to find out why people specially come to Varanasi to die.
Varanasi is considered one of the holy cities of Hinduism. The old name of the city of Kashi means that Varanasi is a “place of spiritual luminance.”
Varanasi is not only a place of pilgrimage, but also a great learning center and a place known for its heritage in the fields of music, literature, arts and crafts and there is also one of the most famous universities.
The Ganges River also flows through Varanasi in the opposite direction. Legend says that god Shiva and his wife Parvati were there when time began to run. Hindus believe that bathing in the Ganges is a deliverance from sin and an achievement of nirvana, and that death on the banks of the Ganges is a guarantee of heavenly bliss and freeing oneself from the eternal cycle of birth and death, i.e., Samsara.
People want to die there because the process of reincarnation and earthly life is considered a punishment. I had access to people who come and wait to die in special homes. It is almost a mystical experience. I recommend everyone who ever visit India to visit Varanasi, because there are few places on earth that have such energy. I was there a month, but I would definitely stay longer.
By touching so many human tragedies, do you believe that in the world is finally winning the good? Do such experiences and adventures somehow shape your faith?
Unfortunately, I don’t think life is an American film where good always wins. Life is more complex. Unfortunately, there is a lot of injustice and evil in the world, because if good always won, there would still be no wars, hunger, rape or poverty.
Everyone would live in prosperity. I believe in good people and willingness to help. That in the face of crises many people can unite and be in solidarity. In my opinion, the world is good, people are good and there is more good than evil in the world. At least I want to believe it. And the people I meet often confirm that.
I think it’s hard to think about something final. The world is not ending and it probably won’t end soon. Throughout human history, peace has been understood as a temporary lack of war. In today’s world, peace means no likelihood of war. We’ve probably never lived so well before.
More people die because of obesity than because of hunger, war kills fewer people than diabetes and having a nuclear bomb protects the world from war. Now war as we know it from the past does not pay off and we live in a world of many non-fired projectiles and non-fired bombs.
However, if we decide to go back to it – it will be only our own fault and not some destiny or magical causative power in which evil wins.
Thanks to communing with many cultures, dealing with many faiths, I am increasingly asking myself questions about the existence of God, about energy, and what is the meaning in all of this.
And whether it is at all. Maybe life is just life. And only man gives the meaning. What is the meaning of death and why do we live? The more I travel, the more I realize how little I know.
The world is so complex that something is not always black or white. Traveling helps me understand that you can’t see things as they are at first glance.
What does photography give you? What do you like most about your job?
I like showing human stories the most. Real personal stories. Because it allows me to learn more about man, about humanity, about who we are, what unites us and what divides us.
I like to show the world in the way I see it. Photography teaches me to see more, to observe the world, to view the world as something complex and about how a person is perceived in space.
How he finds himself in the world around him. It also allows me to reach places that I would not otherwise reach, and to meet people I would not have met. To get off the tourist path and to get to know the personal places.
For me, photography is just a tool. I love to tell other people’s stories and learn from them. Probably the people I meet contribute more to my life than I have brought in. And I thank them for showing their life.
I think that today’s world is not Instagram, not Facebook, not social media. It is a created world that does not exist and which we are improving on our own need. To satisfy your ego. When I have the opportunity to interact with people from other cultures, in situations where someone dies or suffers, or is on the verge of life and death, all masks disappear.
You show your sensitivity. And that’s OK. You can pretend happiness. Suffering is real. Maybe that’s why I’m looking for difficult situations. To experience real emotions.
You are often invited to various types of incentive conferences for women. What do you talk about during your speeches? What do you want to encourage women to do?
In my speeches I talk about what I do, about my projects, mainly I show pictures. But also through my experience I try to inspire women not to be afraid of going on a lonely journey, that they are not afraid of challenges, that they do what they want.
Society imposes certain standards on us, which it seems we should meet. Go to college, get married, have children. Work 40 hours a week. Leave for two weeks vacation. Over and over again.
I believe that this is only one scenario, one option. Women have been brought up since they were young: “don’t do it, don’t jump, don’t climb, because you will fall. Don’t go because something will happen to you. Don’t try because it’s too hard.”
Our genes, our education, where we were born and what parents we had influence us. Little girls are often raised in fear. Not in courage. But it’s courage and confidence that when you fall, you can get up, they are most needed in life. Because life will be difficult and from an early age you must learn to believe in yourself, in your strength and that you will manage.
I want to show women that they are enough and that courage can be learned. But you have to take a small step. Every day I meet women who could do anything if they would like and dare. I want to show women that making dreams come true is damn difficult, but it’s also worth trying.
Why do you love your life today?
For the opportunity to grow, learn from others, experience so many amazing adventures, do what I love, meet so many wonderful people. For experiencing life with its bad and good emotions. For fulfilling myself in what I consider important and right.
For the opportunity to tell the world through photography. For the good that meets me. For the opportunities I have. For sharing my experiences with others and showing that I can, you also can. That it’s worth it. That you have to try. I think my life is beautiful.
What would you like to say to our readers?
I wish them courage. I wish they weren’t afraid of difficult things, because if they fall, it will be a lesson for the future. And perseverance in making dreams come true. Because it is a difficult, tedious and long way that requires a lot of work. Whether someone fulfills what he dreams about does not depend on how much he wants it. This depends on how much you can sacrifice to achieve it. Therefore, choose your struggle wisely.
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