Annie Griffiths is giving more than a just a voice to the voiceless — she is illuminating the darkness they are shrouded in by showing the world who they really are, one photograph at a time.
The National Geographic photographer will introduce Chautauquans to underrepresented women and girls through her photographs from places such as India, Rwanda, Kenya, Iran and Cambodia at the 10:45 a.m. morning lecture today in the Amphitheater.
Her talk continues Week Eight’s theme, “Chautauqua’s Global Public Square.”
Griffiths’ work has appeared in magazines such as Smithsonian and Time, and she’s received awards from organizations that include the National Press Photographers Association, the Associated Press and the National Organization for Women. She was also one of the first women photographers at National Geographic.
“In my journey as a National Geographic photographer, I had the privilege of being with women in so many different cultures,” Griffiths said. “And I, over time, realized that they were profoundly misunderstood by the Western world.”
What she discovered in her travels — from her very first trip to Africa and then in more than 150 countries across the globe — was a resilience that remained present in women of all cultures.
“I came to understand that these women were smart and funny, incredibly resourceful, hardworking and an absolute essential part of moving the community forward,” she said.
This understanding prompted Griffiths to start the non-profit organization Ripple Effect Images. She recruited other National Geographic photographers, and together they “document solutions and aid programs for women and children in the developing world. Our goal is to help people understand that women and girls are the best investment the world can make,” she said.
If given support, women and children are capable of overcoming their circumstances, Griffiths said. She took it upon herself — while holding other journalists accountable as well — to do a more honest job representing these people.
“[These women and children] were often running into super obstacles to success, and I realized without those crushing boundaries that were imposed upon them — and sometimes it was something so simple as no access to water — you solve one problem and they do the rest,” she said.
Since she started Ripple Effect Images four years ago, Griffiths said the organization has produced 17 films, created an archive of more than 12,000 photos and helped aid programs raise more than $1 million with its resources.
She has also witnessed the women’s moments of triumph firsthand. Women in India were trained to become solar engineers. Griffiths followed one woman who brought a solar lantern into a village of women who had never had their own artificial light before.
During another trip to one of the driest places in the world, Griffiths saw women being taught to extract water from a well using solar power, to properly irrigate the land and to find water sources year-round.
“They were really proud of their fat babies because they were used to their kids being malnourished,” she said. “It’s those kinds of things where it’s so joyful and so hopeful.”