Do-Gooders: Adventure Photographer Trevor Clark Documents Doctor-Kayaker Jessie Stone in Uganda

Filed in Pro Photographers, True Stories by on August 20, 2012

Editor’s note: Trevor Clark is a professional photographer, adventure sports athlete and passionate observer of life. Jessie Stone is a doctor-turned-whitewater-kayaker, member of the USA Freestyle Kayak Team and passionate agent of positive change. Trevor was inspired to tell Jessie’s story of building and running a clinic that treats patients for malaria and provides outreach programs. So he took a chance on getting funding, packed a minimal camera/video kit and headed to Uganda. He shares the experience here.

Jessie Stone waving goodbye to Dowdy at clinic. © Trevor ClarkWhat about Jessie inspired you to create not only a still and motion story, but start a fundraising effort?
Well, I think her story kind of just speaks for itself. I had known about Jessie and what she was doing for a while, but it was really when I met her at a wedding in Mexico (mutual kayaker friends) and had a chance to let her tell me about it that I knew I was going to tell her story. She was so passionate and determined that I instantly locked in on the idea of getting myself over there. Nearly two years went by with this idea in the back of my head, pulling on me, before I tried pitching it to editors. Unfortunately, that didn’t work very well as there just aren’t too many magazines with a budget to send someone to Uganda for a few weeks. I was really frustrated with the whole process and decided to just go and figure it out later. It wasn’t an easy decision. I didn’t have any jobs lined up. I didn’t have the money to float the expenses and the cost of a multimedia edit. But I didn’t want to give up on it either. I had heard about Kickstarter, but didn’t know all that much about it, so as a last ditch effort I put up a campaign and hoped for the best.

Tell us a bit about the Kickstarter idea.
Like I said, the Kickstarter campaign was a complete afterthought. This all came together right at the beginning of the crowd-sourcing/micro-funding movement and I really didn’t know all that much about it – except that it was worth a try. I was already committed to going and had purchased the flights, malaria prescription, vaccinations, etc… when I had this idea. Unfortunately, I only had two weeks until my departure so I had to set the funding goal end date for a few weeks after my return from Uganda. That meant that I would have no idea if I would get any funding or not until weeks after it was all over. With Kickstarter you have to reach your funding goal in time or you don’t receive any funding. I put it all together, then begged and pleaded with everyone I knew to help me spread the word. Here is the link to the project.

Jessie Stone and teammates practicing in Uganda. © Trevor ClarkHow did you imagine you would shoot this and which gear did you gather to make the job possible?
Luckily this type of water-related story fell right into the type of adventure imagery I am used to shooting, so I pretty much had all the gear and river skill set I needed to make it happen. It was pretty nutty though to pack my kayak full of gear – water-related and camera-related, and check that all the way to Entebbe, Uganda. Doing it all on my own, I knew that I would just be working out of my kayak on the river and out of my backpack on shore. With everything I was already taking, and the fact that I was the only one on the project, I just had to forego some of the fancier video techniques with cranes, sliders and all of that. It really was just me, a tripod and some bags.

DryZone 200. © LoweproWhich Lowepro bags did you take along and why?
I always take the DryZone 200 on trips like this because there are always some crazy logistics on the other end. I had no idea if I was going to be getting off the plane and jumping into the back of a pickup during a rainstorm or if the place would be one huge dust cloud. It actually turned out to be both, somehow. That bag just allows me to have no concern about the safety of my main camera gear. And I can carry it on any airplane. It’s also a little less noticeable and you can move quickly with it, as I found I needed to do through some of the more populated areas. On the river I used some drybags that I have padded out with old foam and bits and pieces of other bags.

What was it like shooting in Uganda? How did you get your gear there and to the various locations? What made it easier?
Shooting in Uganda was pretty wild; it was definitely a new experience for me. When you’re in a place like that you really don’t want to have a ton of camera gear hanging off of you in front of a lot of people. It’s not that I really ever felt unsafe; it’s just that people there are in such a different position than any of us here in North America. You just don’t want to be waving it all in front of them all of the time. I really tried to be as inconspicuous as I could while still doing what I was there for. So I always just tried to carry the minimum amount of gear possible. And like I said, this wasn’t a project where I had an assistant or anything; so I couldn’t just put gear down here and there or have someone else hold it for me. I think the only way to make it manageable was to use what little amount of gear I could move freely with and make the best of it.

Young boy shows excitement for mosquito net. © Trevor ClarkAre you planning other projects like this one? What’s next?
I am actually. This project has sparked a whole new direction on my work with Jessie and right now we are planning to get me back to Uganda later this year. This time, the project will be for Soft Power Health and I won’t have to do any more of my own fundraising. It’s really wild, but everything you do leads to something else.

View Trevor’s Uganda gallery, follow his blog, check out his Facebook page, and see the CNN story.

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Katrina is the Senior Writer for Lowepro's Worldwide Marketing Communications team.

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