In September 2017 we ventured on a project travel to Rwanda to visit our partner organisations such as ‘Teach a Man To Fish’ and for the first time a local photographer was by our side: Jean Bizimana. The contact with Jean was facilitated by development photographer Adam Dickens. Adam Dickens founded the non profit community interest company ‘Taking Pictures, Changing Lives’ (TPCL) in 2016 with the vision to provide charities worldwide with iconic photography and video footage. TPCL is currently financed through crowdfunding which allows them to work for small charities that do not have many resources.


Adam envisions Taking Pictures, Changing Lives as an international network of talented, local photographers that can visit projects at a moment’s notice. By sharing the stories of the communities and bringing their stories to life, they want to change the way they and the supporting charities raise awareness and increase their funds. Working with NGOs on site gives local photographers access to international customers and resources are channelled into the local economy. The Rwanda-based photographer Jean Bizimana has been photographing since he was ten years old. Having Jean with us proved to be fundamental to the trip in many aspects. Not only did Jean capture beautifully our journey through his country, he also helped with communication and organizational issues.


We have been talking with Jean and Adam about their ‘magnificent obsession’, their first photo and the difference they are trying to make:


Adam Dickens

Jena Bizimana, photographer

Jean Bizimana


15 times around the world

Adam, what inspired you to travel across the world to take photos and then eventually found Taking Pictures, Changing Lives?

I had been working with a small UK charity since 2006 doing website and print design. The charity raised funds for a school in Zambia, and in 2009 an opportunity came up to visit the school, to spend 4 days photographing the students with the aim being to hold a gallery event back in the UK. So I flew out to Africa for the first time in my life, and the photos I took helped the charity raise, in one evening, over £50,000 (approx. 55.000 €).


It has been an incredible journey. In the last eight years I was able to make a further 46 visits to charity projects and partners in Africa and Asia. I have spent a total of more than 14 months abroad, documenting the work of 18 small charities working in 10 countries and gifted over 50,000 photos to those charities.


How does it work? Are the organisations contacting you? 

It has mostly been word of mouth, some organisations have found me through Google searches one charity saw my name on the bottom of three different websites and I’ve since been to Tamil Nadu for them and built a new website as well as print work.


I get a lot of charities contacting me through my  website, and I also have some great supporters who talk about my work at every opportunity. This is what happened with Lemonaid – a friend of mine who I have photographed for in East Africa was at a networking event and put us in touch with Lemonaid & ChariTea.


How do you decide where to take pictures and for whom?

I have worked mostly in East Africa, India and Sri Lanka, but there have been visits to West Africa in the last few years. I am keen to work with charities that don’t have a lot of resources, where our photos can really make a difference. I’m particularly interested to partner with charities that are involved with education, be that educating children or educating people in how to manage their businesses/loans etc, as well as micro-finance projects that help people out of poverty.


For the last three years I have crowdfunded to pay for all our travel costs, and then I charge an amount for each day we are out visiting projects. This keeps the cost to the charity down to a minimum. We also combine country visits to make the trips more cost effective.


This year we have started using local photographers who are working on our behalf, which is how we came to work with Lemonaid & ChariTea. We partnered a Rwandan photographer Jean Bizimana with a team from the foundation on a trip to Rwanda in autumn. This is an area of our work I am especially keen to expand upon next year.


How has taking photos for NGOs changed your life?

It has completely changed my life. I was in my mid-thirties and hadn’t travelled much before I went to Zambia. This experience was such an eye opener and I saw how fortunate I was in the UK. It has given me a passion for travelling, meeting new people and documenting their lives to inspire people in the UK to support the charities that work in their communities. It has become my magnificent obsession’, and came at just the right time in my life.


When did you take your first photograph? Do you remember what it depicted?

I remember being ten and my grandmother giving me a Kodak Instamatic 133 camera that used Magicube flash cubes. I don’t remember my first photograph but I do remember the smell of the flash when it went off and burnt out! And you only got four flashes per cube.



What would you say is the key to taking a good photo?

The pictures come second in a lot of cases. It’s all about relationship building…

I work as a representative for the charity. I will work with the local partners and by being there and observing and getting to know people first they become a lot more open to being photographed. This then makes it easier to get natural shots.


How to balance the dignity of the people you take photos against the interest of the NGOs to raise money?

I always want to show dignity in the people I’m photographing. I also need to strike a balance between showing the positive side of a charity’s work and the starving children shots. Otherwise people might look and think they don’t need help.


What are your next plans?

This year we are forming the Taking Pictures, Changing Lives Foundation, which will focus more on using local photographers around the globe and providing photography training to partner charities to better photograph their work. As a charity there will be lots more funding opportunities from trusts and foundations as well as from equipment manufacturers such as Canon, Go Pro etc, so we can provide cameras to the people we are training. I will also continue to travel and work with my current charities. I am already starting to talk about trips to India, Peru, Ecuador, Uganda, Togo, Nepal and Malawi in 2018.


©Jean Bizimana: Projektreise Ruanda, September 2017

©Jean Bizimana: Project travel Rwanda, September 2017


©Jean Bizimana: Project travel Rwanda, September 2017

©Jean Bizimana: Project travel Rwanda, September 2017


Now Jean, how did you come to work with Adam?

I met Adam via Social Media. He found me on Instagram and he started liking my pictures. He messaged me on Facebook telling me about what he is doing with Taking Pictures, Changing Lives. This is were I become interested in what he was doing and he finally asked me to join his team.


When did you take your first photograph? Do you remember what it depicted?

I took my first photo in 2002 when I became a member of Through the Eyes of The Children’, an on-going photographic workshop for the children living at the Imbabazi Orphanage. A dedicated group of Americans have been traveling to Rwanda to teach the children photographic skills; what I remember is that I did photography for fun, but later became eager in wanting to show the beauty of my country to a wider audience. As a result we started to go in the communities and to document the daily life of the people.


Why did you become a photographer?

I choose to be a photographer because I wanted to a story teller. I am interested in promoting Rwandan culture using photography. My photographs focus on humanitarian and social issues.


What is your vision for Rwanda?

My vision for Rwanda as a photographer is to change the image of Rwanda that is in the people’s mind.

If your search on google the images of Rwanda you get killing images, genocide pictures, and pictures of refugees. With my photography, I try to show the world that Rwandans are smiling and we are rebuilding our country after the genocide. And some of international News Agencies, NGO and international companies do not trust local photographers. They do not give us assignments and rather bring western photographers to document Rwanda. My goal is to show the world that the local photographers able to do that.


What challenges do you face as a photographer in Rwanda?

Challenges I am facing as a photographer are having to find place to publish my stories, financial issues that prevented us to work on stories and Rwandese don’t understand well, the importance of photography.  For us Rwandan photographers it is not easy to get photography equipment. We have to look for some one who is going to travel in western countries and gives him/ her the money so we may have access to photography equipment. This is difficult and expensive.


What was special about taking photos for the Lemonaid & ChariTea Foundation?

Lemonaid & ChariTea Foundation are playing an important role in helping our country development because they support young entrepreneurs and women. Through cooperations with NGOs they support in our country to reduce unemployment.


What is your favorite photo and in which situation did you take it?

My favorite photo is this one:


Men drinking banana beer Rutsiro Distrikt

©Jean Bizimana: Men drinking banana beer Rutsiro Distrikt


I took it when I was doing my first personal project, documenting banana beer processing in Western Province of Rwanda in Rutsiro District. I spent a week there with the local people but they treated me as a tourist and I was in my own country but on my last day I went in a bar to document how the people are consuming banana beer as the last stage in my documentation, the people become friends and they were very open to me.

We sing and dance finally  I was no longer a tourist there.

One final question, where can we see more of your work?

You can find more of my work on:








To find out more about Taking Pictures, Changing Lives: