RCB: In the book I suggested a chapter on children at play and hope. I found that in spending time with my subjects, that the human spirit transcends even the worst deprivation. I stopped the crew in India to photograph a little blind girl who was in a wheel chair begging to support her brother and her mother. Most of the people just passed her by as if she didn’t exist. I photographed her daily life and never imagined the last photo would be of her and her brother clapping, grinning and singing me a song. Again, this family that had virtually nothing…was bringing me joy.
Another photograph I made in India was of a little boy looking up hopefully as rice was being passed out in a tent school run by the Tong Len charitable trust. Here they are trying to break the cycle of poverty by providing food, basic education, a mobile health clinic and showers to all the children in the slum. It’s a great example of help for the future of these children as they work within their community with the resources that are there. If you donate to this trust I can assure the children will get help.
JC: What words of encouragement or advice would you offer to a young photojournalist who is interested in pursuing a career in today's market? Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the state of our industry?
RCB: My philosophy is not to wait for an assignment but to generate your own ideas. Find a story that is important to you and work on it. If you can generate ideas and are adaptable to change, editors are going to hire you. Our industry is evolving and I don’t think anyone has a crystal ball but I believe that people relate to pictures that are storytelling, heartfelt and evoke emotion.
I think there is a lot of hope for meaningful work. The challenge will be what platform your work will be published? Content is crucial because even if you learn all the technology, the end result won’t hold up without it. I think if you have good content, master all the tools and are determined, you can succeed as a photojournalist. But I also think teamwork is the key to the future of multimedia and you have to be able to have a good working relationship with your coworkers. I’m optimistic for the future!
JC: Years down the road, when someone looks at your body of work, what would you like them to most remember?
RCB: That she was the ultimate storyteller, connecting with her subjects on a personal level with sensitivity and compassion, producing a body of work representing some of the most poignant issues of our time. Through that heartfelt connection, her photographs were a catalyst for change.
JC: Lastly, what's on the horizon for Renée C. Byer? Are there any projects that you are at liberty to talk about? Do you have any parting thoughts that you’d like to share with our readers?
RCB: At the moment I’m searching for funding for exhibitions with this collection of work from this book “Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor,” to get these images in the best forum to motivate change. I’m also focused on developing a website. I don’t think people realize the enormous amount of work it takes after pictures are made to elevate the public’s understanding and get them in front of the policy makers and people who can help make a difference.
We all have a responsibility to our subjects to follow through because it’s not enough to make the photograph. My hope is to have these images displayed in a traveling exhibition and represented online where they can educate and have an impact worldwide to eradicate human suffering. The Dalai Lama who wrote the forward to this book says it best, “Unfairness in the human condition can only be remedied when people everywhere care.”
The Forgotten International: http://www.theforgottenintl.org/
Tedx Tokyo Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3CDOS4GNdQ
Iris Night; Annenberg: http://www.annenbergspaceforphotography.org/events/iris-nights/poy-2010/56
2013 Pulitzer Finalist work: http://www.pulitzer.org/2013_feature_photography_finalist_2
zReportage: "Picking Up the Pieces" at ZUMA Press: http://www.zreportage.com/zReportage.html?num=zrep422
2007 Pulitzer Winning work: http://www.pulitzer.org/works/2007-Feature-Photography
zReportage: "A Mother's Journey" at ZUMA Press: http://www.zreportage.com/zReportage.html?num=zrep160
Living on a Dollar a Day: Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Living-Dollar-Day-Worlds-Edition/dp/1593720564
zReportage "Seeds of Doubt" at ZUMA Press: http://www.zreportage.com/zReportage.html?num=zrep042
The Sacramento Bee: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/03/30/6271405/why-must-this-misery-continue.html
ABC Interview: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/video/photos-reveal-harsh-reality-extreme-poverty-world-23885879
Local KCRA-TV coverage: http://www.kcra.com/news/Award-winning-Sac-photographer-shares-compelling-photos-in-new-book/25707424