Photojournalist Daniella Zalcman, who hosted a lecture earlier today, Wednesday, November 1, in the School of Communications at Elon University, spoke about herself to Janna Anderson’s Reporting for the Public Good. In this more intimate setting, journalism students were able to ask Daniella questions on how she got started, how she chooses her topics and how best to work with sources who are narrating past traumas.
Daniella is an award-winning photojournalist based in London and New York. She reports chiefly on human rights issues around the globe, especially focusing on underrepresented populations in remote locations, women, at-risk LGBT asylum seekers, and on the legacies of western colonization. While talking about her work, Daniella said:
“Sparking outrage is my main goal.”
Even though Daniella wanted to be a journalist since she was 12, she began her passion for long-term assignments on humans rights issues in 2012, much later in her career. She believes it is important to tell such stories because the institutions that are responsible for storytelling, like journalism, are not always good at representing everyone equally and telling our histories and the histories of oppressed peoples accurately and holistically.
The long-term assignments that Daniella has taken in the past have focused on thing such as the LGBT community in former British colonies, specifically, Uganda. Presently, she is continuing her work narrating the experiences of survivors of Indian residential schools in Canada and the United States.
The things that Daniella exposes have a sense of urgency to her, and for her are eminent to share. She told the class that things like the Indian residential school systems that wreaked havoc in indigenous communities in Canada. Things like the kidnapping and subsequent forcible assimilation, rampant emotional, physical and sexual abuse that thousands of indigenous children went through. Things that occurred until the late 1900’s, are not included in the narratives that we share about North American history.
She sees this lack of narrative primarily within the middle to high-school educational institutions in the U.S. Part of her grant with the Pulitzer Center, Daniella talks about her work and the experiences to middle and high-school students. She explained to Janna’s class this morning how horrified the kids were that we never talk about this and that so much of our focus in indigenous history is only about things that happened millions of years ago.
Her current project, “Signs of Your Identity,” which is supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and in which Daniella explores the legacy of the Canadian Indian residential school system, helps her expose unexplored narratives. In this project, she puts together multiple exposure portraits to depict survivors still fighting to overcome their haunting residential school experiences. She published these portraits alongside the survivor’s direct interview excerpts in a book last year. Called “Signs of Your Identity,” it won the 2016 FotoEvidence Book Award. An annual award presented to photographers whose work demonstrates courage and commitment in documenting social injustice.
Daniella firmly asserts that the United States as a country cannot move on until its citizens acknowledge that the country is built on stolen land.
In regards to how to properly treat sources who have gone through arduous trauma and on how to properly report on them, Daniella urged the class to remember that protecting their sources is always the most important thing. She does so by being completely honest and transparent to her sources about her process and the impact that her work will have. Additionally, she told the class that she always makes sure to include the backstory and history of her photos to the audience. In doing so, she creates a fuller narrative that does justice to both her readers and her sources.
To see more of her work, to go: dan.iella.net