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Entrant’s Name: Organization’s Name: Division & Category: Title of Entry: Time Period of Project:

Douglas Keddy Western University Division 3, Category 26 (Photography) Promise Hotel April-June 2011

PROJECT SUMMARY: While in Nairobi, Kenya to manage the official launch of the Africa Institute at Western University, I extended my trip to volunteer with, and report on, Western’s Ecosystem Health – Africa Initiative around Lake Naivasha. Although reporting and photography are not central to my role, I believed this opportunity would allow me to better understand and profile a key project identified in both Western’s Strategic Research Plan and Strategic Plan for Internationalization – which I am responsible for promoting. INTENDED AUDIENCE(S): • Primary – Western News readers, comprised primarily of members of the University community: 34,000 students and 7,000 staff and faculty interested in understanding Western’s research and internationalization ventures, many of whom would be unfamiliar with Africa beyond typical representations in mass media. • Secondary – Broader communities reached through supplementary marketing and promotion efforts, including alumni, international partners, academics and community members. Given my strategic use of social media to increase views of this image, these secondary audiences were generally Internet savvy and familiar with alternative forms of media. OBJECTIVES: • Goal: To capture a memorable, vibrant photo representative of promise in the Lake Naivasha community, unlike stereotypical, generally unrepresentative images one often sees of Africa (e.g., doe-eyed, emaciated children covered in flies). This image was to accompany an article I was writing for the Western News. • Objective: To promote Western’s Ecosystem Health – Africa Initiative (and Western’s international research efforts more broadly) by leveraging print and online media (e.g., Western News, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Instagram) to highlight this image and drive traffic to additional information about my experiences with the project (e.g., blogs and web articles). KEY MESSAGES/THEMES: It has been said a photograph is worth 1,000 words. In short, I wanted this photograph to say “Promise” or “Hope” and to begin to shift the paradigm of what an image of Africa can look like in the West. Too often, photos of Africa are designed to tug at heartstrings to raise money and do not accurately depict the vibrancy of life I have experienced throughout the continent. CREATIVE RATIONALE: I had taken a prior photograph of the ‘Promise Hotel’ because its name and vibrant colours reflected an image I hoped to accompany my article in the Western News; however, when a smiling girl to whom we had just given a piece of licorice sat down in front of the shop, I found the human element added weight and context to the image. Employing the ‘rule of thirds’ and ensuring horizontal and vertical lines were straight (the bright door helps draw the eye to the seated girl), I was able to capture a vibrant image that maximized the use of colour in the shop and the girl’s sweater, which contrasted with dirt and trash in the foreground. The literal “Promise” in the shop’s name, the girl’s smile and the abundance of colour helped me achieve my objective by more effectively conveying positivity than one often finds in dark, brooding images of Africa. In short, the ‘Promise Hotel’ and the smiling girl convey a feeling of hope, despite the extreme poverty that obviously surrounds her. The novel aspect of my communications approach was my strategic decision to leverage social media to use the photograph as a doorway through which readers could engage with various written accounts of my experiences, which gleans added value from the image. RESULTS: It can be difficult to quantify the success of a photograph beyond the countless positive comments I have received; however, given my strategic intention of leveraging online media to highlight the photograph and drive traffic to additional information about the Ecosystem Health program and my experiences, I feel these results speak somewhat to the image’s success: • • • • •

Selected by the Associate Director of Editorial Services for Western’s homepage banner, which led to this article about the Ecosystem Health – Africa Initiative program. Typically, this generates 5,000-7,000 hits. Selected by the Associate Director of Editorial Services for the Western News, which prints 10,000 copies. Selected by Western’s Creative Director as “Flickr Photo of the Week,” generating 400+ hits and two ‘Favourites.’ Received comments or ‘Likes’ from more than 20 per cent of friends on Facebook, 300 views on Twitter, and, according to Google Analytics, generated more than 200 referrals to my related blog from various digital media platforms. Selected for inclusion in a documentary-style coffee table book about Lake Naivasha, and a framed copy has also been hung in the home of two of the project’s Principal Investigators.




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‘Shutter’ to think: Developing a clearer picture of ecosystem health in Kenya

Peter Mbiyu, contributed

Douglas Keddy, contributed

By Douglas Keddy


ARAGITA VILLAGE, Kenya – With a quick rip of foil and the inadvertent trip of a flash, a jolt of electricity set through the small room in Karagita Village, near Lake Naivasha, in Kenya last month. An excited buzz of Kiswahili then rose at the appearance of a box filled with disposable cameras. Outside, the sky cleared its throat. Given the extent of poverty in Karagita, many members of this community have never seen what they look like in a mirror, let alone in a photograph. As such, nearly 50 curious people sat wedged onto rickety benches ringing local Chief Hussein Guyo’s office this warm morning. They had travelled up to 40 kilometres to participate in a documentary project initiated by Western’s Ecosystem Health – Africa Initiative. Standing behind Guyo’s desk, Canadian filmmaker and photographer Christina Howlett provided a quick rundown of how the cameras work and what was expected, before assigning each a number and handing out the devices. In minutes, everyone sported cardboard monocles, peering inquisitively through the viewfinders. All had come in response to a call to action Guyo had made on behalf of Western’s team the day previous – by literally making two obviously well-placed telephone calls. Their task? To document their surroundings over the following two weeks, and to shine a lens – or 40 – on their communities, while hopefully exposing flashpoints affecting the local environment and people’s health. “The purpose was to show the issues or concerns – joys and sadness – good, bad and ugly of life for those living in Lake Naivasha,” says Irena Creed, one of the Ecosystem Health Research Group leaders overseeing the documentary.

READ MORE ABOUT IT In Kenya this past May for the opening of the Africa Institute at The University of Western Ontario, research communications manager Douglas Keddy subsequently travelled to Lake Naivasha with members of the Ecosystem Health – Africa Initiative. There, he spoke to community leaders, toured the lake, experienced firsthand some of the challenges facing the region and observed some of Western’s research efforts aimed at addressing them. For more about his experiences, visit

This knowledge will then be used to help direct future research activities in the region and provide Canadian researchers with a better understanding of how the community views itself. The Ecosystem Health Research Group – including Creed, Jack Bend, Regna Darnell and Charlie Trick – has worked around Naivasha since 2009 as part of a funded research initiative that seeks to better understand the close ties between factors that affect ecosystems and human health. “We want to achieve greater connection with the community that is ‘at risk,’ identify sources of stress affecting them – which is an integral part of community health – and identify sources of ecosystem degradation that have been missed by going only to ‘official’ representatives and stakeholders,” Creed says. Today, the Lake Naivasha region faces significant challenges. The population has swelled to more than 400,000 from only 19,000 two decades ago, much of which can be attributed to industrial growth tied to ecotourism, geothermal energy production and floriculture. While Kenyans have flocked

from across the country toward the promise of jobs, this influx of people has not come without costs. Research has shown the land is no longer as fertile, fisheries are failing and the region has witnessed an increased incidence of social diseases and HIV/AIDS. By arming them with disposable cameras, the Ecosystem Health team hoped various community members – including student leaders, a disabled persons environmental group and flower farm workers – would indelibly capture the authentic Naivasha experience as viewed through their own eyes. At the close of the two-week experiment, Creed, Howlett and Western PhD student Eric Enanga catered a lunch in Karagita as a thank you for the community’s participation. Each camera was returned. “The camera project is just one of many components – others include a website with data, photos and video,” Creed says, having already purchased 20 additional cameras. “The next step will be to distribute cameras to young people through schools and to elders, and to followup with videotaped interviews later this summer.” Eager to return to Canada and unwrap these 40 presents, Creed was quickly struck by both similarities and differences in perspective reflected in the photographs taken. They ranged from people holding signs about a local dam, to a gathering around a man who had committed suicide. It was a heavy experience. “The photos reveal the amount of waste that surrounds their everyday lives,” Creed says. “There is a tremendous contrast between the exotic animals just across the road – which bring tourists from around the globe – and the young, beautiful faces in front of all this waste.” Expected to be completed by

March 2012 at the latest, the documentary – originally conceived of by Trick, who felt strongly about the need to engage in participatory research that hears and sees issues

from the community’s perspective – has been partially funded by the Western Humanitarian Award the team won earlier this year.

Promise Hotel  

Western University Award of Merit

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