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Visible Communities


How do you make a video for something that doesn't exist? A commercial for a project that hasn't started yet? That was my challenge when I agreed to accompany a member of MIT's Media Lab for two weeks in Rwanda. The Visible Communities research project is looking at how to map previously unmapped communities utilizing smart phones, satellites and the pre-existing social network of rural areas.

Since this was the first preliminary research trip to Rwanda, MIT's goal during the two weeks there was to learn and understand basic assumptions about the people and area to help inform their design process back in the states. There was no solution yet-only a rough idea of what the problem is and how they may approach solving it. The lack of a tactile solution meant I relied on using my footage to reveal the emotional reason why these places should be made visible on a map.

The Photography

In addition to video, I was tasked with taking stills to later be used by MIT in promotional material.

Hopefully these photos express just how gracious the people of Rwanda were in front of the camera.

Solo in Africa

Logistical complexities and an extremely limited budget meant I was the sole crew member on this project both during production and all through post. Camera, sound, editing, and color grading all under my domain. While ultimately rewarding, the singular nature of the shoot and almost 100 hours of footage to sift through proved to be quite a challenge.

However, as part of the research, a number of rural villagers were introduced to smart phones and other tech. Their curiosity when taking their first selfie or seeing their house on Google map's satellites for the first time was definitely one of the most gratifying aspects of the project to film and photograph.

Project Credit List

CLIENT: MIT Media Lab - Social Machines Group


Gear List

MAIN LENSE: Sony GE 24-70mm f/2.8