Review - "Humanitarian Vision" with Jim Holmes, 22 Mar 2021

A review by Jane Tearle - "Humanitarian Vision" with Jim Holmes, 22 Mar 2021
“One of the most inspiring talks we have had. I think just about every picture was implanted on my brain. Fabulous”, so says one of our members on our club Facebook page. And that says it all!

Jim Holmes is a freelance professional photographer currently based in Cheshire, but he has lived and worked around the world, particularly Southeast Asia. His clients are humanitarian organisations including UNICEF, Oxfam, Water Aid, World Vision and CAFOD. With sometimes as little as a few hours’ notice his assignments take him to parts of the world where major events have put the local people in danger, with a lack of basic amenities, shelter, water, food and medical aid. The things we take for granted.

His task is to document the events through his images and to tell the story of the underprivileged people of the world. We brought these stories to our club - presenting them through his photographs and enthralling us with the stories behind each image.

Starting with the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, Jim showed us a very personal account of the devastation of Banda Aceh: a picture a young man playing ‘keepie uppie’ with a football. Next an image with the shadow of a relief helicopter hovering over a crowd below, the food drop already on the ground. Jim photographing from the aircraft with an arm reaching out waving to the people seated far below as they departed. The picture telling the story. And so the presentation continued with EVERY photo telling the story through composition, lighting and showing his empathy with the subjects.

Jim filled in background information on his relationship with the organisations and their requirements from an image. A typical OXFAM picture, two children looking out at the flattened landscape from a doorway; a frame for the story, a picture exhibited at a gallery on the South Bank, ‘After the Wave’, one of his 15 pictures on show. He also showed us a discrete image showing body bags in the context of the devastation at Banda Aceh - an image that has never been used by his client, UNICEF.

Travelling to Zambia for Water Aid, with a photo of water carriers and we learnt how heavy water is to carry in containers with a child on your back. Bangladesh, how life is lived day by day. Cambodia, the story in the face of the woman who must have lived through the terrors of the Khymer Rouge. Laos, the clearance of ordnance and the results of the terrible injuries still being inflicted on rural families. Burma and the effects of Cyclone Nargis, the resilience of the children knee-deep in mud.

We learnt about Jim’s photographic style: aperture priority, with main subject to one side of frame and the context whether camels, desolate landscape or another figure in the background.

Thailand, Mongolia, Vietnam were also visited , each showing the features of the human story of our world, reminding us of the hardships faced by so many, the criminal influences some have to contend with, the varied and ever changing cultures to be met in different parts of the world. But in every case the people were shown with their spirit and resilience intact. We have a lot to learn and appreciate.

Finishing with another comment from the Club Facebook page: “A very professional thought-provoking presentation by a very approachable man. Inspiring!”

Thank you Jim for an absolutely wonderful evening. I look forward to another evening in your company with your superb photographs.

~ Jane Tearle