Philipp Rathmer: How our photography project in Malawi captured young deaf people’s favourite sounds

Posted on June 5, 2015

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I have been working as a photographer for the Hear the World Foundation since 2011 and together we came up with the idea for the Hear Malawi photography project.

Our plan was to give deaf young people in Malawi, who had been given hearing aids by the foundation, the chance to take photos of their favourite sounds.

The children who took part in the project

The children who took part in the project

So I made my way to Malawi in southeast Africa, accompanied by a team from the Hear the World Foundation and carrying with me some digital cameras donated by Fujifilm.

When I arrived, I ran a three-day workshop to teach the young people involved in the project – many of whom had never even held a camera before – the key basic principles of photography.

We then sent the fledgling photographers out on their own photo mission and the results they came back with a few days later were truly inspiring: dogs barking, music, the sound of their own name, the whirring of a sewing machine.

Here are just a few of their photos, below:

It was  so exciting to see which sounds these young people consider most meaningful to them and how they captured them on camera.

The images they produced offer an authentic insight into their rediscovery of the world of sound, as well as reflecting their individual personalities and how they live.

One aspect of the project that was especially important to these young people was that the cameras enabled them to openly interact with the people around them.

This is not something that can be taken for granted, as deaf people in low-income countries like Malawi often live on the fringes of society.

One of the key aims of the project was therefore to give them an opportunity, through photography, to escape from their isolation and build up their self-confidence. And when I recall the pride and joy radiating from the young people’s faces, I know that we definitely achieved that goal.

Find out more about Philipp Rathmer’s photography by clicking here.

The non-profitHear the World Foundation advocates equal opportunities and improved quality of life for deaf people around the world. The foundation focuses particularly on projects that support children who are deaf and who are in need of help. It has been operating in Malawi since 2011 and was heavily involved in setting up the country’s first audiological clinic, which it supports by providing technical expertise, funding and donated hearing aids.

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Posted in: Philipp Rathmer