National Geographic photographer Annie Griffiths on breaking the glass ceiling and why visual storytelling is a powerful return on investment
In episode 4 of Women Giving A Bleep, Tanyella Evans interviews Annie Griffiths, one of the first women photographers to work for National Geographic, and a woman that is changing the way we look at social impact. When you first start your social impact venture there are so many areas to invest in it’s hard to know where to start. We think Annie makes a great case for investing in visual storytelling as a way to quickly attract eyes (and donations) to your cause.
Annie is an award-winning photographer who has photographed in nearly 150 countries during her illustrious career. In the podcast episode, she shares her motivation for becoming a photographer, how she broke into the industry, how she balanced having a family with her creative career, and how she used her gender to gain insider access to unique spaces and stories that were not accessible to her male colleagues.
Annie Griffiths | Ripple Effect Images | India
As well as her story of adapting to her environment, a key takeaway for listeners building their own world-changing enterprises is the importance of investing in visual storytelling. “With a lot of aid organizations, it doesn’t occur to them to have a marketing budget. They are going after million dollar grants with really weak presentation materials,” Annie shares. “The reason I started Ripple [Effect Images] is that I realized that aid organizations were usually not very good at telling their own story…it’s a learning curve.”
The real cost of producing a professional film or photographs can be expensive, putting it out of reach for many smaller nonprofits, and so Annie founded her nonprofit Ripple Effect Images in 2010 to solve this challenge. She works with up-and-coming photographers who provide more flexible licensing options to nonprofits, in exchange for working on incredible assignments around the world and knowing that they are “helping the helpers” attract more funds.
“I felt from the start that I had a tremendous advantage being a woman because for starters I had half the human population whose stories weren’t being told. Most photographers were men and there was very little diversity”
Annie Griffiths | Ripple Effect Images | Cambodia
John Stanmeyer | Ripple Effect Images | India
To date, Ripple Effect has produced over 50 films and 45,000 images, raising over $10M for aid organizations through the power of visual media. Annie warns that not having a marketing budget is a mistake and creates a false economy where low investment yields low results. Whilst it’s understandable that many nonprofits cut corners using smartphones and creating mediocre films, she posits that using the right photographers can help you move your donors and audience to action.
Our work at NABU has exemplified firsthand how important visual storytelling is for fundraising efforts. Back in 2013, our Kickstarter campaign video was shot by professional photographer Nathan Johnson who traveled to Haiti with us to capture the mission, and that one piece of media helped us raise our first $100,000 through crowdfunding – all for the cost of a plane ticket.
Lynn Johnson | Ripple Effect Images | Benin
Ami Vitale | Ripple Effect Images | Chad
Nowadays at NABU we are fortunate enough to have access to a network of incredible photographers in the communities where we work. We love supporting local artists to tell their own stories, in their own words. Perhaps that is how Ripple Effect Media could evolve, by identifying and mentoring local photographers to help them capture social impact work in the field? How do you capture the work of your organization?
To support Ripple Effect Images click here. Make sure to subscribe to our Women Giving a Bleep podcast to tune into our next episode, follow our Instagram @nabuorg to be kept in the loop on all things social impact, culture, creativity and community. Share your thoughts in the comment section below, letting us know what inspired you most about Annies journey and her social impact work. And make sure to tune into our next episode, found on any podcast player.