WHY HUMANITARIAN PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO?

While I do love creating videos and taking pictures, it is the story and meaning behind the images that intrigue me. I believe that my heart aligns with the word humanitarian more then it does photographer or video producer. It is an honor for me to be able to tell stories that bring hope to those that suffer. I want my pictures to speak the love and hope I have for these individuals and compel us to take action on their behalf.

As a humanitarian photographer and video producer, I’ve been able to travel the globe telling stories of hope in adverse circumstances. My goal is to preserve the dignity of the people I meet, while simultaneously documenting their needs. I believe that photographs say much about the person who took them and that they are a glimpse into their world through the photographer’s eye. There are many tools at our disposal that help us tell great stories – starting with our choice of what is in the frame, what is left out, what is in focus, the lens we use, the type of lighting and the amount time we spend getting to know what is important to our subject. The decisions I make about these choices reflect what I want to say about the people I meet and the stories they tell.

For me, photographs are a glimpse into the many different areas of our life here on earth. I hear a story and it starts a collage of images in my mind as I try to understand the people, time, and place that surrounded it. It is this collage that I hope to create when I capture moments of everyday life. It is truly an honor for me to tell these stories as we work together to end cycles of suffering around the world.

Holding baby girl, Aichatou, in Moli, Niger as our team from Operation Blessing distributes mosquito nets to help combat Malaria.

How I Work:

  • Show Love
  • Be Real
  • Show Compassion
  • Make Friends
  • Create Images

THE GEAR

Tony Cece Camera Gear

I receive quite a few questions about the type of gear that I use, so I wanted to go ahead and make that list available.  Click here to learn about the gear I use.

HIGHLIGHTS

Currently Kimana, Kenya at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro is my favorite place. If you would have asked me this a year ago, my answer would’ve been Niger. A year before that it would have been India…before that, Haiti. The people of Haiti will always hold a special place in my heart and I will always defend them. It was the first country I worked in and have returned many times since. But to get back to my original answer, I’ve really grown to love the Maasai community where Operation Blessing is working. I’m fascinated by their culture and the environment they live in. It is the first place I saw elephants in the wild – and as my logo would hint, elephants are my favorite animal. I feel an overwhelming peace as I sit under the African sun or under the shade of an Acacia tree. The deep blue sky with bright white clouds are breathtaking. There are many reasons and I am sure that this answer will change with time, but right now it is a place where I could see myself living.
At work I shoot Canon. At home I shoot on a Fuji X-pro 1 and Sony NEX-5n. Sometimes I take my personal cameras with me as a second camera. For the sake of this answer I will stick to the Canon, because it is the main camera I use in the field.  If I could only carry two lenses for the work I do, it would be these:

  • Canon 16-35mm f/2.8: I like getting in close and showing surrounding environment. At 16mm this lens is epic.
  • Canon 50mm f/1.2: It may not be the fastest auto-focusing lens, but the color and contrast of the images and the shallow depth of field it creates make it a go to for portraits and b-roll. It also helps to have a wide aperture in the low light conditions I am often faced with.
  • Other contenders are the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS and24-105mm f/4 IS . I use all four lenses a lot. The size and weight of the 70-200mm is the main reason I’d choose the 50mm over it. I like to keep things as small and light as possible because I do a lot of handheld shooting.

I will try to keep this short, but hope to offer more details in the future.
  • Capture: In the field I often am on my own to produce and shoot both video and photos. I usually travel with in-country staff that help with translation. Many times there is also a program director, project manager, or someone else from Headquarters who is also with me. While they do their work with the projects, I meet people and start to learn their stories and the impact of the programs in their community. I then start capturing photos, b-roll and interviews
  • Backup, Clean Gear, Charge Batteries and Go Over Notes: At the end of the day I go back to my room and start charging batteries, prepping gear for the next day and copy all of my media to a hard drive using Lightroom. Once transferred, I back it up to a second hard drive and start to cull through the photos. In a disaster scenario I also start editing photos and video to send back to the US with an email that contains notes and pertinent information for immediate use.
  • Editing Photos: I edit photos using Adobe Lightroom. I start by culling through photos and marking the ones I think are the best. I then go back to only the photos I’ve selected, edit them and export a full resolution and web version.
  • Editing Video: I edit video using Final Cut X. I start with interviews and look for key soundbytes I want to craft into the story or script (if the video requires a VO). Some videos have stand ups that will tell the main story and are shot on location. In disaster scenarios, I utilize these to speed up my edit process. If I am out and can start creating and recording the story, it saves me time when I get back and start to edit. From there I add b-roll and find music using our FirstCom subscription. As I make big changes, I always duplicate my sequence so that I can quickly go back if I don’t like the changes I’ve made.
That is a very basic look at how I work.
I love spending time with my family, watching hockey and working on creative projects around the house.
One of the coolest things I’ve been able to do was direct and edit the NEEDTOBREATHE music video for their song “Washed By The Water.” See video

Free Download

Check out my recent iBook for Operation Blessing - The People of Pelewanhun.

It is a photographic journey into the forests of Sierra Leone
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