Ethical Camera Straps from Kyrgyzstan
Photography Blogger is giving away a brand new camera strap from PhotoCircle, so brand new that they just made it available on their website as this post went live. The straps are the result PhotoCicle’s cooperation with KANCHA, who make design products from natural and locally sourced materials in Kyrgyzstan while ensuring fair and sustainable working conditions for their craftspeople. Together, they support a project for orphans in Kyrgyzstan with parts of the proceeds.
Synergy – that’s when the whole is greater, bigger, faster, better than the sum of its parts. “Sounds good”, we thought – and started a cooperation with another social enterprise whose products have absolutely nothing to do with ours: Photocircle sells fine art photography from all over the world; KANCHA designs accessories made from felt and leather in Kyrgyzstan. However, we have one crucial common denominator: both of us want to tackle ill-informed (and therefore often unethical) mass consumption. Too often, we tend to sideline the subjects behind our consumer products. Yet, in many areas of the Fair Trade movement it became clear that given the choice, customers tend to opt for products that benefit the people who made them. Therefore, we want to do away with the stereotype that making ethical purchasing decisions is something you have to be able to afford. Since both Photocircle and KANCHA donate parts of their proceeds, we can offer fair prices, high quality and social added value at the same time.
Only imagine if part of the profits made from the famous 1984 National Geographic cover of the Afghan girl had gone back in to the young refugee’s struggling community! Or if money made from hundreds of pictures of Myanmar’s crisis-ridden earthquake and flood victims was used to help rebuild people’s lives and homes. That’s what we want to achieve.
Do what you do best
And so we combined our knowledge and skills and did what we do best – only this time, we did it together. Having asked our Photocircle photographers what’s important to them in a camera strap,KANCHA designer Jonas designed a strap that is made entirely from natural resources (if you examine our camera straps carefully, you will find two metal rivets, the only parts that aren’t organic). His design went straight to leather artist Artur, who developed a prototype. The whole thing went to Bishkek and Berlin and then back to Bishkek a number of times, and voilà: here it is, the perfect, stylish, practical and ethical camera strap you have always wanted for your favorite sidekick. Fun fact: Artur is himself a passionate photographer and loved this assignment to bits!
What’s ethical about a camera strap?
It goes without saying that all the criteria that always apply to both Photocircle’s and KANCHA’s products also apply to our camera straps (fair payment, minimizing our ecological footprint, …). However, we wanted to do more than that, and so we decided that parts of the proceeds should go into a project on the ground in Kyrgysztan (as is Photocircle’s philosophy for all our products). And luckily, KANCHA founderTobi had just started working on a project to empower orphans near the Kyrgysz town of Tokmok.
Why orphans, why Tokmok?
Growing up without parents means growing up without the unconditional support of one’s own family. On top of that, in Kyrgyzstan, government support is much more confined than in, let’s say, the USA or Germany. The care provided by orphanages is often limited to the satisfaction of basic needs and ends when orphans reach the age of 16 – 18. This lack of support creates a sad reality in Kyrgysztan: 65% of adolescent orphans end up in prison after they leave the orphanages, due to the mere lack of vision on how to generate an income for themselves. Keeping in mind also the low employment rates in the country, one way out of this is entrepreneurship – and so the Orphan Start Up Camp lets them become entrepreneurs.
In cooperation with a Canadian NGO, Kyrgyz photographer and social entrepreneur Jenish Odigksi has been supporting the region’s orphanages for a long time. Now, he has set up his own farm in a village on the outskirts of Tokmok, where twelve teenagers between 18 and 22 live, work and simultaneously support around 250 children in orphanages with fresh food, paid for with the revenue they’ve created at the farm. Through a workshop held on the farm, Jenish and Tobi now want to encourage the orphans to take responsibility and implement their own ideas – which are available in abundance! A kick-off workshop at the beginning of November showed that the ideas ranged from a bakery to handmade soap and a chicken farm. After the first workshop, they will accompany the kids in designing simple business plans in small groups. In the end, the best group will receive an initial grant to enable them to put their ideas into action.
“Sounds good, but…
… how do I know this thing is really as fantastic as you say?” We’ve got that covered, too: you can win one of our brand new camera straps right here on Photography Blogger (P/B). All you have to do is be signed up to PhotographyBlogger.net Newsletter email list, simple as that. P/B will randomly select a winner on December 7th and contact you via email.
Of course, you can also buy them and support Photocircle and KANCHA in their work: