Healthcare Poverty and a Camera: How to Do it Right
Annie Grossinger, a Chicago-based photojournalist, is on a mission to show the world what impoverished healthcare conditions really look like.
For the last few years, she’s accompanied groups of doctors and nurses from Rush University's Global Health Program. Not only do the medical professionals perform surgeries, but they also help out with community projects, such as building water filtration systems.
Grossinger documents all their work with her camera. Take a look at some of her photos here and then, read about how she makes each shot happen:
Know your goal
Each time Grossinger goes on an expedition, she asks herself:
What value am I adding to the non-profit and the community? Am I forming relationships? Am I maintaining the community’s dignity?
Grossinger says that by “constantly checking herself,” she’s able to do right by her subjects.
“I want to depict the conditions of what’s going on, but not at the expense of a person’s dignity,” Grossinger says. “When I take pictures, I try to be as unobtrusive as possible, like a fly on the wall. I don’t tell people to pose. I want to capture what life is like there.”
Don’t lead with your camera
When Grossinger meets people, she doesn’t have her camera out. She just starts a conversation, gets to know them — and after a while, she’ll slowly pull out her camera. If someone makes gestures or says to put the camera down, she will.
“I’m interested in their lives, so even if they don’t want their picture taken — it doesn’t mean I just walk away immediately and abandon them,” Grossinger says.
Plus, cameras can be intimidating and Grossinger wants people to feel comfortable around her. She sticks to a simple, small digital camera that looks like a point-and-shoot.
Go solo — safely
There have been a few times that Grossinger has been out in the field without a translator or a team of doctors. This gives her the freedom to explore, but she also has to be aware of her surroundings.
“I’ll say ‘yes,’ if someone gestures to me and wants to talk — I’ll take any opportunity, but at the same time, I also have to be really careful when I’m by myself,” Grossinger says. “I have to pick up on any dangerous clues and listen to my gut.”
She also doesn’t want to attract any unwanted attention to herself and dresses modestly. No makeup, no tight-fitting clothes and no jewelry. She mostly wears medical scrubs to fit in with the medical group.
“The downside of wearing scrubs is that people will stop me on the street and ask me for medical advice,” Grossinger says, with a laugh.