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Documenting Euphoria: Shooting my son’s birth

As a photographer and filmmaker, of course I wanted to have my first child’s birth visually documented. However, I struggled with the decision of shooting his birth myself.. and if I shot, would I shoot stills or video? I had 9 months to decide and I changed my mind a number of times. (“Yes, of course I have to shoot the birth of my child…” “No, I want to be 100% present and not be distracted by f-stops, shutter speeds and aesthetic decisions.”) The week my son was to be born, I decided I wanted to be present and I’d have someone else take pictures… and the day before my son was born, I disinfected my camera and got my go-bag ready.



I figured, some of the most interesting moments of my life had been lived behind a camera and it hadn’t diminished my memory or the impact the events had on me.. and, obviously, I wanted to ensure we had some good pictures from this amazing moment. I knew this was going to be an extraordinary experience.



I thought I knew just how extraordinary this moment was going to be.. but I was nowhere near prepared for the rush of emotion I felt when I saw Lucas for the first time. I was overwhelmed with the purest of feelings and I felt my body convulse in a familiar way.. I literally don’t know if I was laughing or crying. This baby, this brand new human being in front of me made me feel more in a single moment than I thought I could feel in an entire year.




Staring into my child’s eyes was an unexplainable, almost primal feeling of joy. I felt a visceral connection to past and future ancestors. Only minutes old, Lucas seemed to stare back at me. His emotionless face, his eyes (certainly struggling to focus) looking back at me seemed to be filled with the same unexplainable amazement I was feeling.


I also felt an even deeper connection to my wife, who I didn’t think I could love any more than I did already. Lucas is clearly a mix of Louise and me and I can’t explain how his birth multiplied my already eternal love for his mother. I was also taken by surprise at the emotion I felt looking at her after Lucas was born. As cliche as it sounds, it was like looking at an angel. She suddenly seemed to be something more enlightened than a mere human being.


I realize how cheesy all this must sound (especially to anyone who has not experienced this.. I would’ve certainly rolled my eyes just a few days ago). But I am writing this as a record of my own experience. People often say photographs don’t do justice to the person/place/event photographed.. on the contrary, I think good photographers (and NYC real estate agents) can make things seem better than actuality. However, as much as photographs and films can evoke emotion, they can’t reproduce the feeling of a particular moment. I’ve never believed that more that I do right now. I felt compelled to write down my experience of this particular moment partially to share with family, friends (and anyone else who is interested).. but much more than that, I wrote it for myself to have a more comprehensive record of this unparallelled moment in my life.



Advertising Campaign for Stewart Sukuma’s Mega Show at Hotel Polana in Maputo

[Edit: You can buy tickets to Stewarts Show (on June 6) at Hotel Polana and at select Mcel stores.. including the store on Julius Nerere. For more information, you can visit Stewarts Facebook page to see the official banner with all the needed info.]

Stewart Sukuma has a big show coming up on June 6. It will take place at Hotel Polana in Maputo, Mozambique. He has invited friends (read: well-known musicians) from all over the world to join him in this mega performance. Stewart approached me about making a few spots for the show.. and, as usual, the creative juices flowed and we had an idea in no time for the design and roll out of a three-phase ad campaign.

Stewart mentioned that he remembered being impressed with the super clean look of American advertising during the years he lived in Boston, so that’s the direction I tried to take the overall aesthetic. It was also a good idea since we needed to request footage from musicians scattered all over the world. (I figured the simpler it is, the more likely they will be able to emulate the look.)

The first phase, which was broadcast 4 weeks before the show, simply revealed that Stewart had something happening on June 6, 2014. Nothing more.

Part of the plan for getting information out was to utilize large LED billboards throughout the city. So for each phase of the campaign we made 10-second spots with no sound for these LED screens.

Phase two, released just one week after phase one, revealed that 7 other artists would be involved in whatever Stewart was planning and maintained the date. (The artists we mention: Cuca Roseta, Luis Represas, Isabel Novela, Noumoucounda Cissoko, Maria Berasarte, Gabriele Mirabassi, Oliver Mtukudzi and Jimmy Dludlu.)

(The accompanying LED spot for phase two:)

The third and final phase was released one week after phase two and two weeks before the big concert. At this stage, we revealed everything about the event. We not only mentioned who would be coming but we also made spots that featured as many artists as we could film or manage to have send us footage from abroad. We tried to maintain the same aesthetic but also wanted to incorporate the graphic of Stewart’s face used for his new CD which would be released the day of the concert.

(And the accompanying LED spots for phase three:)

As always, it was a lot of fun working with Stewart. We have a lot of similar ideas and the few times we don’t see eye to eye provides more of an opportunity for growth and development than any source of frustration.

If you are reading this before June 6, 2014 (and you will be in Maputo on that day), do yourself a favor and come to this concert. It will no doubt be an outstanding show and I certainly won’t miss it.

Here’s one last spot, just in case you didn’t see enough already! (And if you don’t speak Portuguese, you’ll like this one because you’ll understand everything being said.)



Communications for Development Work in Zambezia, Mozambique (Videos for UNICEF Mozambique)

As I have mentioned in the two previous posts, I had the pleasure of traveling to Zambezia to create a series of mini-documentaries about the C4D work that UNICEF Mozambique has been involved with in the region. I was impressed with the work and feel obliged to share the documentaries here.

I have already posted the videos for the work done with the regulo (community leader) and the community health worker program in previous posts. Here are the other videos created about some of the great work UNICEF Mozambique is doing in Zambezia.

This video is about the Mobile Vaccination Brigades designed to bring healthcare to remote and isolated rural areas.

This one is about the Multimedia Mobile Units designed to spread awareness about life-saving good health practices and to inform the communities about the Mobile Brigades.

This is a mini-doc about National Health Week in Mozambique. UNICEF not only has an enormous role in making this nation-wide event happen, but they also utilize the massive event to double down on their communication efforts in hard to reach areas of the country.

And lastly, here you have the Overview of all the work. (I suppose if you don’t want to watch all these videos… this would probably be the one to watch.)

For more information about these amazing programs or other great work being done by UNICEF Mozambique visit or check out their youtube chanel.



The Role of Community Leader (Regulo) in Health and Communication in Zambezia (for UNICEF Mozambique)

During the time I spent in Zambezia shooting for several short documentaries to highlight the communication efforts of UNICEF and their government counterparts, I spent some time with the Regulo of Nambui. (A Regulo is a community leader–as best I could tell it is a bloodline similar to royalty that dictates who is Regulo–in this case, Norte Chicapo Nambui is the Regulo of Nambui).

The Regulo is a key component to communication within a community. Because of his social position, what he says carries a great deal of weight in the community. Having witnessed the result of his communication efforts first hand (you can watch the video to see for yourself), I am convinced that Regulos and other community leaders are a vital component to spreading important information in rural communities.

Regulo in Zambezia, Mozambique

Norte Chicapo Nambui – Regulo in Zambezia, Mozambique

I have to admit, I rather enjoyed visiting Mr. Nambui. He is an incredibly polite and mild-mannered man and insisted that his guests eat his authentic Zambezian chicken and xima. At first, he appeared to be a bit shy. I actually got the impression that he wasn’t very fond me, maybe because I am a foreigner.. I’m not sure.. but he warmed up to me at the end we had an enjoyable interaction overall.

For more information about this program or other great work being done by UNICEF Mozambique visit or check out their youtube chanel.



Community health worker in Zambezia, Mozambique

I recently completed a series of short documentary videos for UNICEF Mozambique about several topics relating to their communication efforts in promoting health in rural areas. The project took me to several places inside Zambezia, the most deprived province of Mozambique. The experience was amazing for me. In addition to meeting, sharing meals with and learning a great deal from a number of people there, it was also inspiring to see the work being done to help make life better (and longer, in many cases) for people who don’t have access to regular health care because they live far from any hospital or health clinic.

Community Health Worker visits a family in his Community in Zambezia. He distributes a deworming medicine to a sick child.

Community Health Worker visits a family in his Community in Zambezia. He distributes a deworming medicine to a sick child.

Community health worker in Zambezia helps weigh children and teach families about proper nutrition for children.

Community health worker in Zambezia helps weigh children and teach families about proper nutrition for children at a local school.

Here is the first of several short videos I made for UNICEF Mozambique in Zambezia. This one is about a community health worker program designed to improve health and save lives in all rural areas of the country. As I mentioned, a great number of people live in very remote areas, often times very far from the nearest clinic… what complicates this situation even more is that there are only about 4 doctors per 100,000 people in Mozambique. So this kind of community-based health system is an amazing idea and, by teaching people how to prevent disease and treating several types of illnesses in the community, the program already seems to be having a positive impact on health and effectively reducing child mortality in these communities.

For more information about this program or other great work being done by UNICEF Mozambique visit or check out their youtube chanel.



“Male” – Newest Stewart Sukuma Music Video

I just finished editing Stewart Sukuma’s newest music video for the song “Male.” The title, “Male,” means “money” in Xangana (and it sounds like “molly,” not “mail.”) It’s a catchy song with a kind of retro funky sound to it. As always, I let the song speak to me about what the video should look like and here it is. It’s a fun video about a day in the life of a musician. The story is simple enough.. the band goes from one show to another. Just trying to make that male.

The story really takes place between the first and second shows. As the song says (in Xangana), everything costs money.. which we see as Stewart makes his way to the second show. Stewart also makes a few cameo appearances.. inspired by the likes of Eddie Murphy in Coming to America.

I think it’s a lot of fun. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as I enjoyed making it.



An Honest ‘Critique’

Like most media makers I know, I love getting feedback on my work. The problem is I always doubt if I can trust the feedback I get. My wife or my mother, for example, invariably love my work (my mom also thinks I look like Brad Pitt, so she might be just slightly biased in my favor). On the other hand, you have people who feel as though they have to be negative, just to feel part of the process. It’s a rare person who will give me feedback that I am 100% certain I can trust. Feedback that I know is not clouded by emotional feeling toward me personally or by feeling the need to “contribute” to the creative process by saying something just for the sake of saying something.

I had to work on a few videos while visiting my family over the holidays.. At one point, my 5-year-old nephew pulled a chair up next to me to see what I was working on. I played a rough cut of the newest Stewart Sukuma music video for him. The little guy was so mesmerized by the video that I was afraid he was going to fall forward out of his seat. As if that wasn’t enough of an honest reaction, I asked him if he liked it.. to which he replied, “YEAH!” almost screaming. Mind you, this is the same kid who, just a day or two before, would open a Christmas present and throw it down, saying, “I don’t like that,” before moving on to the next present. The kid tells it like it is.

Thanks for the feedback Cameron!

Ryan and Cameron watching Video


Screen shot from the video I was working on.

Stay tuned for the newest Stewart Sukuma video. Hopefully you will like it as much as Cameron did.



“Why” Official Music Video

As anyone who reads this blog already knows, I have been working closely with the Mozambican musical legend Stewart Sukuma for the past few months. In addition to being a very talented artist, Stewart is also Goodwill ambassador for UNICEF Mozambique and a social activist. He very often uses his art to educate, inform and empower the people of his beloved Mozambique. This song is in response to the rising violence, political unrest and surge of crime in larger cities.

Because the situation in Mozambique seems to be escalating at an alarming rate, Stewart actually decided to release this video early. He stated that this is the purpose of the song and that if is to be useful it should be released now… This shows the kind of artist Stewart is; one who cares more about his work having a positive social impact than releasing a music video at a planned time for greatest commercial impact.

There was recently a manifestation (protest) in Maputo, Mozambique in response to the violence. Stewart was excited to see such a reaction; however, he couldn’t help but think about the situation many others have been facing for years in his dear country. While supporting the protest, he also took the opportunity to point out to his massive audience on social networks that while the surge is violence is reason for concern, we should all be equally concerned about the injustices that so many Mozambican children face everyday. (Many children die of preventable causes everyday, many more are permanently stunted from malnutrition, or abused and exploited in one way or another… all of which rob them of reaching their full potential.)

As the song says, we too often ‘look.. then do nothing at all.’ Why is a song about action. We must react when we see injustice in the world. As Gandhi pointed out to us many years ago, WE must be the change we want to see in the world.



Teaser for New Stewart Sukuma Music Video

Here is the teaser for the new music video I recently made in collaboration with Stewart Sukuma. I don’t want to say anything specific about the song, but it is a touching and, in many ways, heartbreaking song. I think it shows his talent and versatility as an artist and his genuine and caring nature as a human being. My own goal was simply to create a video that is worthy of such a great song; with Stewart’s help, I think we just might have succeeded. His music is also a nice inspiration for visual media, which makes my job all that much easier.

It is always an honor to work with Stewart. He gives me the opportunity to make work that I feel is important; it’s art with a purpose. It’s also always fun to work with Stewart. In addition to having creative ideas and helpful feedback during production, he also has a great sense of humor. We shot for 12 hours without break the first day of production and the day was overall a very enjoyable experience.

Stay tuned for the release of the full video.



Oliver Mtukudzi Video Featured in El País

The short documentary video I made for Unicef about Oliver Mtukudzi’s visit to Mozambique is featured in El País.

El Pais features Mtukudzi and Sukuma Video

El Pais features Mtukudzi and Sukuma Video



Stewart Sukuma Music Video (behind-the-scenes)

I just started production on a new music video for Stewart Sukuma. The song is amazing and the video promises to be pretty great as well (if I may say so myself). Because of some upcoming travel in Stewart’s agenda, pre-production was a bit rushed, but I feel comfortable saying we have a very solid base for this video. Stewart and I collaborated closely in the writing and planning of the video. A few brainstorming sessions and a couple debates about possible interpretations of imagery later and here we are shooting the video.

Here are a few iPhone pictures I snapped during the first day of shooting:

Stewart Sukuma on location for new music video.

Stewart Sukuma on location for new music video.

Choir on location shooting scene for music video.

Choir on location shooting scene for music video.

A crowd gathers across the street from where we are shooting.

A crowd gathers across the street from where we are shooting.



Oliver Mtukudzi video for UNICEF Mozambique

I was able to get the mini documentary about Oliver Mtukudzi’s visit to Mozambique edited faster than I had anticipated. I am pretty pleased with the final product. I have to give credit to the young people who interviewed Oliver for the child-to-child program at Radio Mocambique. These young journalists were incredible! They asked good questions and demonstrated some real skill at interviewing. I am still impressed by Daniela, Maique and Alexandre and have to say that their interview really helped in the development of the structure of the film. I also have to give credit to Oliver and Stewart; it’s not that hard to make these guys look good. They are both great guys who genuinely care about others. Their music is also instrumental in the film.

A lot of long hours and hard work went into the creation of this little film, but I had a great time doing it. Not only was it fun to hang out with these guys and their entourages, but just getting to see the magic unfold in the studio was an experience I won’t soon forget. Take a look at the video here or on UNICEF Mozambique’s Youtube channel.

I will still be donating my time to the making-of video for “Guardians of the Light” that should be finalized and released very soon. So stay tuned for that.



Oliver Mtukudzi and Stewart Sukuma for UNICEF Mozambique

This past week I had the opportunity to hang out with (ok I was shooting, but still) a couple of African Superstars, Oliver Mtukudzi and Stewart Sukuma. These guys are not only incredibly talented musicians, but they are all around amazing people! Oliver is the regional goodwill ambassador for Unicef and Stewart is Mozambique’s goodwill ambassador for Unicef. They are both genuinely caring individuals and clearly concerned about the rights of children. They are also both very humble, down-to-Earth, and hilarious.. the same goes for Sam Tendai, Oliver’s manager. In addition to meeting with a number of children and officials to see the work for himself, the highlight (for me, at least) of Oliver’s visit to Mozambique was the collaboration between him and Stewart to record an original song for child rights. The song is amazing! Here’s a teaser of the song:

You can also visit Stewart’s Facebook page and Oliver’s Facebook fan page to see more about them. If you’re reading this, then you have some spare time on your hands. I recommend checking out both of them and their music. You’ll be happy you did!

I accompanied Oliver almost everywhere for the duration of his trip (I’m pretty sure he got tired of me). He visited a few key places to see some of the great work being done in Mozambique for the benefit of women and children. My personal favorite was a visit to a radio station where Oliver was interviewed by a couple of amazing children (really amazing!). They conducted a fantastic interview with Oliver, which is featured in this teaser for the short documentary I’m currently editing about Oliver’s visit and collaboration with Stewart.

If either of these teasers raised your interest, stay tuned to see the final products.. coming soon to a screen in front of you.

Meanwhile, you can also see these videos (above) and more at Unicef Mozambique’s Youtube channel.



2 Lives: 2 Miles Apart – UNICEF Focuses on Children with Special Needs

I had the pleasure of shooting all the non-interview footage for the most recent “School” episode of the “2 Lives: 2 Miles Apart” series by Unicef. This was particularly meaningful for me because of my professional background in special education and my vehement belief in the right to inclusive and high quality education for all children of all backgrounds and abilities.

Although it was a very quick shoot, I was deeply touched by the children at the community school for children with disabilities that I visited. Not just Carlos and Laura, who are featured in this video, but all the students I met at the school. In fact, I intend to return to the school to offer my services as a media educator. (Hopefully, there will be future blog posts here about the media these children make.)

Take a look at the video below and visit Unicef’s State of the World’s Children 2013 website for more information about the situation of children with disabilities around the world.

To learn more about the work Unicef is doing in Mozambique, visit their site at or check out the Youtube channel for Unicef Mozambique.



Universal Access to Female Condom Joint Programme

I recently shot some photographs for the Universal Access to Female Condom Joint Programme highlighting their work with female condoms here in Mozambique. Personally, I find the topic very interesting and of great importance. I was also very impressed with the many young people involved in the work of spreading the word about female condoms.

Rutgers, WPF, Oxfam, Female Condoms

They speak with others (young and old, male and female) and discuss the use and benefits of the life-saving products. These young people help open the minds of men and women about the topic and often times have to dispel myths and misconceptions about female condoms.

Rutgers, WPF, Oxfam, Female Condoms

Rutgers, WPF, Oxfam, Female Condoms
Rutgers, WPF, Oxfam, Female Condoms
Several of the young activists say they feel safer knowing that they have the option of female condoms because it puts the decision to use protection in their hands.

Rutgers, WPF, Oxfam, Female Condoms

Rutgers, WPF, Oxfam, Female Condoms
While I was with them, these young volunteers conducted awareness campaigns with a broad spectrum of girls of reproductive age, which included girls who are sexually active as well as girls who are not yet sexually active. As a former high school teacher who saw a number of students drop out or fall behind academically due to teenage pregnancy, I was very happy to see such a preventative mindset of this public awareness campaign. Of course, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is also still devastatingly present in Mozambique (as it is in much of Africa). Stories of men refusing to wear protection are also, unfortunately, very common. This simple solution empowers women with the choice of protecting themselves; no longer dependent on a man to decide to use a condom.

Rutgers, WPF, Oxfam, Female Condoms
(This young hairstylist sells female condoms out of her beauty salon and to classmates at school.)

The UAFC Joint Programme is made up of four consortium members: Oxfam Novib, Rutgers WPF, i + Solutions and the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For more information about Universal Access to Female Condom Joint Programme or Female Condoms 4 All please visit Or check them out on twitter and facebook @ZawadiSmartlove.



Instagram Photo Blog

I know myself well enough to know that I probably won’t keep up with a blog. I might, from time to time, be inspired enough (and coincidentally also have enough time) to make a blog entry. However, I obviously love taking pictures with anything that will capture an image.. so I’ve integrated my Instagram feed to this page and that will be my most frequent contribution to this blog.


(Note: These photographs are taken with an iPhone.)



Student Work

While looking for a set of images on my way too many hard drives, I came across some scanned images from the first year I ran an inclusive after-school photo club at the the High School of Telecommunication Arts in Brooklyn. We started out with absolutely NO funding. The first few students and I made pinhole cameras from just about anything we could, used some old expired film and photographic paper I had and used old left over chemicals that had been baking in the school’s darkroom (which was mainly being used for storage).

Soon enough I was able to secure donations for plastic toy cameras (Holgas and Lomo Fisheys) and the school was gracious enough to buy needed darkroom supplies (the school was very supportive of the club and only became more supportive during the years the club existed). The club served as an amazing learning experience for everyone.

Students stayed after school on Friday afternoons to hang out, talk about photography and develop and print in the darkroom. A couple of students from this first year are currently in college studying photography. (I tried to talk them out of it.)

These amazing individuals created some beautiful images that can easily stand up on their own; however, looking at them together at our monthly ‘critiques’ was always something I looked forward to. As you can see from this small selection here, they work together to document life in Brooklyn, New York. They would often capture friends, family members and elements of their homes. They would sometimes photograph interesting sights and scenes around their neighborhoods or during their daily commutes. They always made beautiful and meaningful images that uniquely captured the way they saw and explored the world around them.

Here is a very small selection of the few images I happened to have on this hard drive. I have moved twice since running this club, so I don’t exactly know where my collections of images from each year are.. just in case a student from a more recent year is reading this, don’t worry these are not necessarily my favorites (and if you shot any of these photos.. yes they are ;)).