Archive for the ‘Photo of the Week’ Category

The Miraculous Reality of Fair Trade Coffee Farming

March 11, 2013

Our first trip to Mirembe Kawomera (“Delicious Peace”) Coffee Co-op, located in the village of Namanyoni on the outskirts of Mbale, Uganda, was in 2006. The co-op had been founded just two years earlier, the idea of regional leader JJ Keki who sought a market for local farmers’ coffee as well as a way to overcome historical religious-based intolerance. A year after their establishment – also a year before our arrival – they had signed a deal with Fair Trade coffee buyer/roaster/seller Thanksgiving Coffee Company in Fort Bragg, CA.

We went there as a film production team with the goal of creating a documentary about this inspirational farming collective. Still only one year into their arrangement with Thanksgiving, they had just begun selling a small amount of coffee; the first shipment was a single shipping container. We spent several days becoming acquainted with the farmers, and they opened up to us, inviting us into their homes and lives.

One farmer housed 25 children. Only a fraction of those were biologically related; the others were children of parents who had died of AIDS or other causes, or who were otherwise unable to take care of them. Another farmer showed us the graves of three of his children who had passed away, all from malaria. He did not have money to take care of many of the nutritional needs of his extended family, including children and grandchildren. Everyone complained about a lack of funds to send their kids to school. While public schools exist, families are required to pay for books, uniforms and school lunches – an impossibility for many who are poverty stricken.

Simply put, the needs were overwhelming.

And yet, the farmers had been fortunate to find a Fair Trade buyer. Fair Trade guarantees a minimum and fair price, despite the international fluctuation of this commodity market. It also enables farmers to receive a second payment if the quality of the coffee is very good. Mandating egalitarianism and democracy on co-op boards and in the general running of the organization, Fair Trade additionally gives farming cooperatives a “social premium,” enabling them to support local community projects.

fair trade, coffee, uganda, mbala, africa, farmers, documentary, nonprofit

I write this now from Mbale, where we have spent the last five days with the Mirembe Kawomera farmers. It is almost seven years since our first visit. The school-age children of the farmer whose residence was home to 25 now all attend educational institutions. The farmer whose children suffered from unhealthy diets talked about his new-found knowledge of the four food groups, and how his large family is conscious of – and able to – partake in that diet on a daily basis. He has a new home that is covered with an iron roof to keep out the rain rather than the thatched roof that leaked, and his house even has some furniture. Not one farmer complained that his or her children were not able to attend school. And the co-op used its social premium to help build a new wing on a local public school that had become overcrowded.

When I asked the farmers to tell me about problems the co-op still has, each one – interviewed independently — answered the same thing: A thief broke into their warehouse and stole 15 bags of coffee.

Of course, that is awful – every bag represents a huge expenditure of hard work as well as profits. But then, thieves are everywhere. There was no additional complaint.

Pretty good support for the value of Fair Trade. And an important reminder to consumers who have buying choices that not only satisfy their caffeine longings but also have the ability to change individual lives.

My job – when I work on a documentary — is to be a producer, not a marketer. I look for objective facts. In this instance, the argument for the benefit of Fair Trade could not have been more compelling.

Returning to Uganda

March 4, 2013

 

I remember the first full day of our initial trip to Uganda in October 2006 to produce a documentary about Mirembe Kawomera (“Delicious Peace”) Coffee Co-op. After three days of travel (one from NY to Europe, the second from there to Entebbe Airport, and the third by car up to the Mbale region), we enthusiastically showed up at the entrance of the coffee co-op’s clay-constructed storefront. We were eager to meet the legendary farmers who had formed a collective to bridge interfaith differences and generate economic development through a Fair Trade partnership with California-based buyer, roaster and seller Thanksgiving Coffee Company. Since we had been in touch via email for several months and the executive board had invited us to come, we were ready to break out the cameras following the handshakes and dive into work. Instead, the farmers asked that we sit down for a four-hour meeting that began with the question: “Why should we let you do this?”

At that moment, Curt looked at me and said, “You are the attorney. You can negotiate this. I’m going outside to take pictures. They may be the last ones we get!”


delicious peace, documentary, coffee, fair trade, Uganda

Now here it is, six and a half years after that meeting and three years after the premiere screening of Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean, and we are returning in two weeks for our fifth trip, this time (as the last) with a group of friends in tow.  Dual goals motivate this journey: (1) adding an extra 15-20 minutes of footage for a one-hour TV release focused on co-op updates and the impact of climate change on the farmers’ crops, and (2) introducing more American consumers to the work of the Mirembe Kawomera co-op, helping to spread awareness about their truly delicious coffee and the myriad families whose lives orbit around it.

In many respects, the first aim parallels corporate video production shoots we do around the world for many clients. We have done our homework and know what we want to record, all the necessary equipment is packed and ready to go, a basic schedule is in place, and we have the contact information for folks who will be crucial data-providers.

This assignment, however, comes with advance bonuses. We already have established friendships with farmers in the co-op, who are excited to help with the new phase of the project by devoting days of time when we are present to providing assistance; they understand and appreciate our role in helping to publicize their messages. And – New Yorkers — you know that excited feeling of being with out-of-towners who arrive in New York for the first time and stand in transcendental wonderment upon their initial ascent out of the subway? We will have the opportunity to experience that feeling through the eyes of our trip participants, multiple-fold, beginning with the moment our friend/tourguide Samson drives our group out of the airport onto the streets of Entebbe.

delicious peace, documentary, coffee, Uganda, fair trade

In response to the farmers’ initial question in 2006, I promised a long-term, mutual partnership in which success would be shared. I promised we would produce, complete, and screen the documentary. I said this would be an important avenue to spread the message of the work they are doing to bridge interfaith differences and educate coffee consumers about the hard work of farmers dedicated to specialty coffee production so that purchasing decisions reflect that knowledge. I told them that a successful documentary will trigger interest in their coffee. I told them that we have always established long-term friendships with the people who are the subjects of documentaries we undertake – as we have often done with our corporate video production clients.

Almost seven years later, the documentary has screened (and continues to do so) at over 35 international film festivals with a TV debut in the near future. We have partnered with a distributor committed to creating local educational “Peace Party” screenings around the country. Countless people have watched the program and learned about the important work of the farmers – many are busy talking about it on social media avenues everyday. And we are going back again to visit our friends and continue to develop the informational base.

We’re grateful the farmers took a leap of faith with us and proud to have earned their trust. Uganda, here we come!

 

Spreading Peace in your Starbucks Backyard

November 20, 2012

This month the Delicious Peace photography exhibit of Voices & Visions’ DP Curt Fissel is on display at Starbucks in Glen Ridge, New Jersey because barista Derek Teixeira, a photographer himself, likes to transform the walls of his store into a place artists can show their work. It was his hope that the Glen Ridge Starbucks Community Art Wall would also convey a deeper meaning. “We saw the wall as a way in which to promote the benefits of art. Especially in contemporary times, it really brings together a community,” said Teixeira.

His commitment to promoting community is reflected in the artists it features on the Wall. Last month the students of East Orange Youth Cultural Complex had their art on display. Says Teixeira, “These children worked along side their teacher (and world traveled artist) Miah Leslie in creating collages that both were in homage to Romare Bearden and simultaneously offered its viewers a peek into the mind of a child in 2012 urban America.”

curt fissel, starbucks, voices and visions, corporate video, documentary production

From the “Delicious Peace” show.

This month’s show, Delicious Peace, is a collection of photos taken during the filming of Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean, which is a story about interfaith Ugandan coffee farmers building community and economic development in the face of great adversity. Teixeira draws a parallel between the missions of Starbucks and Delicious Peace, stating, “Its ability to bring people from various religious faiths – Jewish, Muslim and Christian — is in line with what Starbucks aims to do over coffee.”

I always find the greater Montclair region of New Jersey to be a vortex of creative energy. It’s a place where people respect and celebrate each other’s cultures.  At its heart Delicious Peace is about embracing differences and building community. We are thrilled to have found an exhibition space with a mission as similarly positioned. Says Teixeira: “Stop into the Glen Ridge Starbucks on any day, and you’ll see that our store brings together people off all colors, religions, ages and backgrounds! This month’s work couldn’t be any more fitting to help embody that.”

Starbucks

710 Bloomfield Ave.

Glen Ridge, NJ 07028
(973) 743-1752

Where in the world…?

September 5, 2012

Who know where today’s Photo of the Week was taken?

 

Canal, photography, curt fissel, voices and visions, new jersey video production, new york video production, los angeles video production, professional video production company

See last week’s photo.

Photo Optimization Tip

August 29, 2012
This week’s tip for photo optimization comes from our marketing director, Lea:
marketing director, video production, corporate video, voices and visions, professional video, business video, photo optimization, SEO
Never use the default file name for a photo. Before uploading an image to any blog or site, save it with a name that is descriptive. If the photo is saved as GDB00002.jpg, Google has no idea what the image depicts. If it’s saved as beach-santa-monica.jpg, it will be seen as such by search engines.
Tune in later this week for an in-depth discussion of photo optimization techniques.
See last week’s tip on video production.

Photo of the Week

August 27, 2012

 

Last year we went to Uganda with our nonprofit, Jem/Glo, to screen Delicious Peace for the Mirembe Kawomera coffee farmers, an interfaith cooperative that formed to build peace and economic development in the area. Afterward, we led a group of fellow travelers on a gorilla trek, where Curt snapped this photo of a silverback gorilla:

Gorilla, Curt Fissel, Voices and Visions, Jem/Glo, Uganda, Video production

 

It was also recently featured in an article by Wells Fargo. Has anyone else ever been on a gorilla trek?

See last week’s Photo of the Week.

 

Photo of the Week

August 17, 2012
Voices and Visions principal, Curt Fissel, took this photo while shooting Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean with our nonprofit documentary production company, Jem/Glo:
Photo, Uganda, Sunset, Africa, Video Production, Documentary Production
Earlier this week, we sat down with Curt to discuss the art of photography.

Where in the world?

August 1, 2012

This week’s photo is of a sunset over which European city?

Who knows?

photography, photo of the week, photograph, photo, new jersey

Photo of the Week:

July 13, 2012

Who can guess where this week’s photo was taken?

video production new jersey, corporate video production, business video, video marketing