Women in Sierra Leone are improving their lives through photography, as Laura Davis reports
TWO weeks is how long journalist Lee Karen Stow was expecting to spend on a photography project linking British women with those living in Sierra Leone.
Four years later and she is planning her sixth visit to the West African country, having sold her home to fund her passion.
But moving back in with her parents has been worth it, she says, because of the lives she has managed to help.
Next week she will be visiting Liverpool to launch her exhibition, 42 Women of Sierra Leone, at the International Slavery Museum.
“I never realised it would completely take over my life,” says Stow, who began teaching photography to women in the country’s capital of Freetown in 2007.
Her initial project invited women from Hull, Freetown’s twin city, to create images symbolising the themes of pride, freedom, change and belief to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the British Transatlantic Slavery Bill.
These were turned into greetings cards to be sent to women in Sierra Leone.
However, funding materialised to send Stow to Freetown to run a photography workshop.
“I was hoping for 10 at least and 55 signed up,” says the photographer. “They were waiting outside the door.
“Many of these women had never held a camera before, and I wondered why so many wanted to learn photography.
“They said ‘we want to do anything that will lift us out of poverty – anything we can learn that will change our lives, we’ll do it’.” During her first trip, Stow slept in a hotel and was given an air-conditioned car with a driver. On her second visit, later the same year, she stayed with some of the women and experienced a taste of their lives for herself.