One of the best items I packed for Rwanda

One of the best items I packed for Rwanda (and I definitely OVERpacked in terms of equipment) was the simplest: an instant camera. There have been a few occasions where it’s been a helpful mode for creating rapport, especially when language is a barrier. In our digital-first world, there’s something incredibly fun about being able to immediately print an image, watch it slowly emerge from a blank canvas, and give it to someone as a keepsake. While reporting in a small village the other day, I went through a couple rolls taking portraits of kids and adults alike. By the end, people were motioning to me and requesting their photo, then nodding appreciatively when they studied the final result in their hand. One little boy carried it around for a couple hours while he followed us. I always find myself torn and uncomfortable with the ethical implications of our work, in particular when we are working in communities that are not our own. While I’m still on a long (and maybe never-to-be-fully-resolved) journey toward finding my own sense of values and responsibility as a documentarian, sometimes small acts of reciprocity can make the work feel more connected and more collaborative. I’ll be packing this little sidekick more often.