Photo Service

Setting up a sustainable photo service at the Indlovu Centre

The major goal of our project was providing a media service to the community. We wanted to help local residents express themselves through photography, document conditions, and capture key events in community life.  We drafted a proposal to outline the purposes of the photo service, as well as an initial budget.

Photo Shop Service

The Indlovu Photo Shop was created to generate job opportunities in Monwabisi Park and also create a photo service for guests or volunteers visiting the community. More importantly, it provides community members an outlet to express themselves. The shop consists of a digital camera, photo printer, and two or three people to run the business. At the beginning of our work at the Indlovu Project, we trained the co-researchers to give them some basic camera skills. Using the skills they acquired during the early weeks of our project, the co-researchers are ideal for running the centre and will be able to keep the business running in our absence. We also developed a manual [PDF 2MB] for operating the camera and printer in case of difficulties.

Taking photographs in the community can be seen as intrusive if conducted by outside parties. As a service of the photo shop the co-researchers will be available to take volunteers or guests around the community and take pictures for them. After the pictures have been taken, the volunteer or guest will pay to have them printed and/or put on a CD to take home.

Plans were also proposed to expand the photo shop to incorporate services such as weddings, family portraits and school photos.  Under these plans, people could hire the photographers for a fee to take pictures at their wedding and have them printed or put on a CD.  The photographers could also take pictures at local schools and crèches and have the pictures available for viewing and/or purchasing.

Community Photo Boards

While in Cape Town, we began production of several different photo collages to promote community involvement in the Indlovu Project and to exhibit the work that the Indlovu Project does.  These are to be located in the community centre when construction is completed. One of these photo boards is a collage of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) students and the Indlovu workers. This is to display the hard work and efforts of the community members and the project work of the WPI students.  A second photo board includes pictures of families within Monwabisi Park taken on the celebration day and throughout the park.  A final photo board that we planned to implement would allow businesses in Monwabisi Park to advertise their services. We hope these photo boards will help tie the community together and making it feel more unified.  The co-researchers running the photo shop will be the ones posting the photos they take on the boards. These photo boards will continue to grow and remain in the community centre to explain the work of the Indlovu Project.

Analysis and Conclusions

Two co-researchers, Anele and Nodumo proved to be very adept at operating the equipment during training. On the final celebration day, the shop was run for the first time. Anele took the pictures and Nodumo printed them. The community members were very excited to have their pictures taken, and over 200 total pictures were taken. The pictures were distributed and most people took them home. Anele had said that she would be willing to pay up to R30 for a family picture or a graduation picture. Having them offered through the Indlovu Project with a variety of different services should increase interest in the Indlovu Project.


We believe that the photo shop is a valuable community initiative that will benefit the community, the Indlovu Project and the Shaster Foundation. The photo shop should continue to run as long as it is financially feasible and still serves the community well. We also hope that next year’s team will follow up on expanding the photo shop to take portraits of kids in the crèche, and other schools in Monwabisi Park, taking pictures of weddings and other celebrations around the community.

Now that a photography service has been set up, we believe participatory video should be pursued in the future to complement it. Before coming to Cape Town, we decided that co-researchers should help identify possible topics for airing. They would then film and edit the shows themselves. The videos would then be able to be watched in the community centre for a community based discussion. At first, co-researchers were very timid on using a video camera and brainstorming topics. We decided that it was better to explore photography as an alternative if video wasn’t generating a response. As the term went along, co-researchers showed more interest in using the camera and planning out different things to film. It can be a worthwhile endevour if pursued and implemented correctly.