Danielle Da Silva is a photographer, activist and filmmaker, and the Founder and CEO of Photographers Without Borders, an initiative that connects volunteer photographers and videographers to grassroots causes, NGOs and non-profit partners, in the hopes that new possibilities will be manifested through the power of visual storytelling. Her work embodies the ethos of Portrait of Humanity, and seeks to show the individuality, unity and community of people across the globe.
Danielle is passionate about using photography to connect people to the earth and to each other. Her personal projects have taken her around the world, and she has worked with hundreds of NGOs, bringing important issues to light through her lense. Her work has led her to be nominated for the 2018 Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award, and she has also done two TEDx talks; ‘Grassroots Narrative’, and ‘Connection is the Key to Conservation’. Her passions are rooted in conserving parklands, fostering equality, and encouraging ordinary people to find their power. The main aims of her work are to communicate the extraordinary efforts of people around the world, who are working to solve the planet’s most challenging problems. We spoke to Da Silva about her humanitarian work, and how she is changing the way we tell the stories that matter.
How did photographers Without Borders begin?
I started Photographers Without Borders in September 2009. After working in the international development field for a short time, I saw a gap in the market. The wonderful NGOs I was working with at the time really needed storytelling and marketing materials to compete in a world that was steadily moving online. Photographers Without Borders made sense and took off from there organically, with NGOs steadily approaching us for materials, and photographers and videographers wanting to volunteer their time and talent.
How has your experience as both a photographer and an activist informed the project?
Stories are everything and they are everywhere. We tell ourselves stories to cope with unexpected life events, and we tell each other stories to make us smile, laugh and to fall asleep at night. Stories impact our emotions and people do things based on emotion. The more powerful the images left in your mind, the more we can create real-world impact and shift real-world norms.
How do you think photography can unify people around the globe?
When we share stories that are created in an ethical way, and we encourage others to make ethical considerations when documenting stories, we are able to unify our audience under those common values. Social media is so accessible, and so are norms and values. I’ve been out in the bush in places like Tanzania and Sumatra, and it’s hard to get away from technology, no matter where you are. All of us can be looking at the same image online, yet you or I might be inspired or moved in so many different and varying ways.
In your TEDx talks, you discuss how photography is one of the most powerful means of communication we use today. Why do you think photography is able to touch people in such a way?
Photography and storytelling connects us to each other, and we need to be more connected to each other, to the land, to the beings on the land, and to address the problems we have created on this planet. We need to relearn the art of relationship, and to decolonize our thinking and behaviour. Photographs can do many things, but when we connect deeply to meaningful subject matter, we can be inspired to act, to act differently, to think differently, to open up, and to become an ally – there are endless possibilities.
You have recently transitioned more into using moving image. What are the different benefits of telling stories through film versus photography?
Film allows me to really explore ideas and concepts in a deeper way; I’m able to construct a narrative rather than to leave interpretation up to the viewer. Film lets me inform the audience while maintaining elements of the beauty of still image. I’m currently writing a screenplay for my first narrative feature film, and directing my first feature documentary.
Do you want to be part of the movement? Together, we will create a Portrait of Humanity