Meet Claire: Our Damelsy Iceland Trip Leader
I’m Claire, the photography expert for Damesly’s (fast approaching) ‘Film and Fjords’ expedition to Iceland! I just wanted to take the opportunity to introduce myself.
As an awkward middle schooler back in the 90s, my grandfather gave me an old SLR camera and I instantly fell in love with darkroom photography. I turned a room in my basement into a darkroom and would spend hours down there. I always knew I wanted to do something creative with my life, but I also wanted to do good in the world. I didn’t want to become the kind of artist whose work just hung on walls for the elite to see. I wanted my work to make some impact.
I ended up studying international studies in college and spent a semester in Mali, West Africa during college. While there, I began to see how the stories of the people I met and worked with were so different from the stories I’d been told about ‘Africa’ through the media in America. I became curious about visual media – film and photography – as tools to tell alternative stories to the mainstream narratives.
After college, I landed in DC where I was hired to manage a global maternal health pilot program for a non-profit called Ashoka. Over the course of two years, I worked with social entrepreneurs from 12 different countries, and organized conferences in India and Ghana. I got to travel a whole lot, and see the ways that our entrepreneurs were telling the stories of their work. The most exciting and fulfilling part of my job was to help them re-write and visually tell their stories in a way that would move people to support them.
Awakened to the role of storytelling and visual media in creating social good in their lives, I jumped ship from the DC non-profit world, took a rambling bike tour along the west coast, and landed in (my friends’ glorified closet in) New Orleans to begin exploring what life might look like if I helped more people and organizations tell their stories in visually compelling ways.
I’ve been working as a freelance photographer and filmmaker in New Orleans for just about 5 years now, and it’s been an incredible ride. I’ve had the privilege of working for some awesome non-profits in the city, and have started my own street portrait project called NOLAbeings, which has garnered a following of over 50k people across social media. I’ve worked with a whole bunch of media outlets including The Atlantic, The Chronicle of Higher Education, TIME, Wired, Glamour, Racked, Eater, Vox, and The Wall Street Journal. I’ve given a TEDx talk at Tulane and told an embarrassing story that won The Moth one month. I’ve photographed stories on the Mississippi Blues Trail while being filmed by a film crew from Amazon’s Digital Photography Review. And every summer for the past 5 years, I’ve taught high school students film and photography for National Geographic Student Expeditions abroad, including trips to Italy & Greece, the French and Swiss Alps (x3), and Iceland.
Which brings me to this trip! I met Kelly from Damesly just after leading an incredible trip to Iceland for National Geographic. I had so much fun, I was dying to go back, Kelly said ‘Let’s do it!’ The last time I went to Iceland, I was responsible for 23 rambunctious teenagers, so this trip is really exciting for me in more ways than one. We’ll be visiting some places I’ve been, and many I haven’t. And we’ll wander, hike, swim, explore and dive head first into photography, visual storytelling, and geothermal pools 😉
What I’m most excited to teach is not just how to capture that landscapes of Iceland at the perfect angle, but how to tell the stories of our journey, the places we go, the people we meet, and the issues that matter on the ground.
I can’t wait to meet you in August!