Photo by Erin Kelly, all rights reserved.
Last weekend I attended the European Summit for Global Transformation in Amsterdam and was introduced to photographer and filmmaker Gail Mooney and her latest project, Opening our Eyes, a 99-day journey around the world with her daughter Erin to document and film the stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in service to others.
Gail has traveled the world for over 30 years shooting for international companies and publications. To say that she is an inspiration is an understatement, and yet I’m not sure I can find other words to better describe the impact she’s been having on my life ever since we shared a conversation and a grilled cheese sandwich a week ago. I learned a lot spending a couple of days in her presence, about how amazing it is what one small act can do, about being a woman photographer in our society today, about our responsibility to remember the truths about our work, and to hold them at once – of its playfulness, and of its power.
Gail graciously accepted to answer our SS interview. Here are her answers:
1. What’s the story behind this photo?
This photo was shot by my daughter, Erin Kelly at the Kopila Valley Primary School in Surkhet, Nepal – the school that Maggie Doyne built. I had been filming the children at the school, shooting in the video mode of my Canon 5D Mark II camera and I was showing the kids the video playback of what I had shot. The children were all so excited and gathered around me to have a look when my took this photo – unbeknownst to me at the time.
2. What was it that lit your photography spark? Do you remember a particular camera, course, person, roll of film?
I became a photographer in a backwards sort of way. I had been studying architecture at college and after my sophomore year, I took a break to travel around the world. After my year-long journey, I knew that I wanted to find a career that would allow me to live a lifestyle that involved diverse cultures, travel and peoples’ stories. So I decided to pursue a career as a photographer and use my tool (my camera) as a means to that end.
3. What’s your photo philosophy? Does it reflect your life philosophy?
As I said above, my camera gives me access to people and their stories and it is a powerful tool in creating awareness and effecting change. Yes it does reflect my life’s philosophy – to use my talents to tell the stories of diverse cultures and social issues – to inform others and create understanding on a global scale.
4. Where do you look for inspiration?
Everywhere – I do not get my inspiration solely from other photographers or photographs. I may be inspired by a piece of art in a museum or seeing something in nature when taking a long walk in the woods – or it may be something someone said to me over a cup of coffee.
5. What would you say is one of your “signature” editing tricks, themes or style? What do you think makes an image recognizable and uniquely yours?
I think that people can see the sincerity and honesty in my work.
6. What aspect of your photography are you constantly working on, trying to improve?
I am always learning and trying new things. That is how I got into shooting motion almost 11 years ago. I was looking for another way to tell a story – using sound and movement.
7. If you could go anywhere in the world for an epic, weeklong photo excursion all by your luxuriously unhurried self – regardless of money, time or childcare issues – where would you go and why?
Antarctica – it’s the only continent that I have not visited and it would a week of exploring extremes.
Thank you so much Gail!
To read more about Gail and the Opening Our Eyes project, please visit her website, blog and watch the trailer here. Gail also started a Kickstarter project to help raise finishing funds for Opening Our Eyes and inspire and motivate people to create positive change in their communities. Please take some time to learn more about this project and back it up if, like me, you believe in it.
Important note: Gail would like to use Jackson Browne’s song “Alive in The World” which inspired the title of her film so if anyone knows him, or someone who knows someone who knows him, please contact her!