Evoking emotions through visual storytelling

By Sneha Saloni and the Rotary Action Group for Family Health and AIDS Prevention

“If you do not understand someone’s story, how would you understand someone’s pain?” Jurgen Marx (Badenhorst), a photographer from Pretoria, South Africa, has been chronicling people’s emotions during Rotary member-led public health programs to create a conversation about the importance of health since 2004.

“I grew up in South Africa and have always heard about Rotary. When I was a kid, I would always see people from Rotary outside a church or on the streets, distributing food, helping people and I would always wonder who they were. And then, in 2004, I got an opportunity to work with them,” shares Marx.

“Oh! My God! I was in awe of the work Rotary does,” he exclaims. Creativity and empathy, when blended together, have always worked their magic, even in the most difficult times. Jurgen’s idea of capturing a moment or “freezing time” as he describes it, is all about telling an impactful story.

Health is a human right

“I clearly remember the first time I worked with the Rotary Action Group for Family Health and AIDS Prevention (RFHA). We drove to this small town and the volunteers, nurses, doctors, were running around, setting up at the site, doing all the hard work. And I just stood there in the background with my camera, mesmerized, capturing them doing all the groundwork.”

“Health is a human right. No human should wake up in the morning and see their loved ones suffer and wonder how are they going to look after them. RFHA reaches out these people, bringing some hope to their lives,” Marx says.

Storytelling in photography is not so different than storytelling in words. It can be even more impactful as the visuals have the power to capture one’s attention quickly. Trying to find a purpose behind every photo he clicks, Marx says, “Whenever I capture a photo, I think about why I am here, what I am trying to say, and why I want to share this with others.”

“I don’t know how to begin to describe my feelings when I saw mothers accompanied by their little kids, getting checked for HIV, receiving medicines. There was hope on their faces. I feel so grateful that I got this opportunity to walk these streets and capture these beautiful moments. Relating to someone’s pain without walking is their shoes is difficult,” he adds.

Finding solution at the grassroot level

Always looking for those hopeful moments to capture, Marx feels that photographs have a powerful way of telling a story. “There is always a message behind every photo I click, a story. And I want people to feel that emotion when they look at my photographs. There is a reason behind the existence of every image.”

“The reach of RFHA’s work is amazing. You need to understand the problem at the grassroot levels to provide a solution. I have seen CEO Sue and Wilma working tirelessly to help the people find hope from these communities” he adds.

There is despair, sadness, hurt around but there are also moments of hope, love and joy. And these feelings are stronger. Marx’s photographs communicate these stronger emotions. “The joy on the faces of the nurses is beyond measure. You see an HIV positive kid being all smiley and chirpy at these programs, clueless about the harsh realities of life,” he says.

There is nothing more amazing that seeing a kid smile. They are more than their pain and the world needs to see these moments of joy. “These moments are so beautiful and it is made possible only because of the love that RFHA shows towards these people,” explains Marx.

Help us do more

RFHA envisions a society where every individual has the right to a healthy, happy, and dignified life. It is changing communities by bringing free preventative healthcare solutions, vaccinations, counselling and health education to them. Through its signature program, Rotary Family Health Day, RFHA has helped over 2.65 million patients by providing over 11 million free health services.

Spanning from cities to the most rural parts of countries like Africa and India, RFHA dreams of a world where health is within the reach for everyone. Feeling inspired and want to be a part of this change? Get in touch today by visiting www.rfha.org or connect with Sue Paget, CEO, RFHA Inc – +27 (0) 83 456 3923 or email spaget@rfha.org.

The Rotary Action Group for Family Health and AIDS Prevention (RFHA) is one of Rotary’s 27 Action Groups started and led by Rotary members to bring expertise and resources to support clubs and districts in empowering communities within an area of specialization. Rotary Family Health Days, RFHA’s signature program, promotes healthy living and disease prevention by implementing a massive, annual campaign across parts of Africa and India that provides comprehensive, free health care services to tens of thousands of people in underserved communities.


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