Through a Lens Brightly: Women, Photography & Change
A Blog Series in Honor of Women’s History Month
Gigi Stoll began photography while working as a fashion model, using a Polaroid camera to snap pictures of friends. After covering the Leu Family Iron at a tattoo convention in Amsterdam, her images were featured in a gallery on New York’s Upper East Side, and a new career was off and running. Stoll’s work has been featured in British Vogue, French Vogue, Japanese Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, Vanity Fair, W Magazine, GQ Japan, Instyle, Visionaire, V Magazine, VMan. She has also worked for Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. to document their corporate social responsibility projects, and for 100cameras.org, in which Leica Cameras sponsored her trip to India and the Russ Foundation. These missions have taken her all over the world, allowing her to experience many different cultures and ways of life. (All the images in this article are ©Gigi Stoll)
PWP: You speak with great emotion about your humanitarian work. Why it is so important to you?
GS: In 2008, I began documenting a pediatric medical mission. They do one mission a year and the doctors/staff volunteer their time. I learned that if one image can bring awareness and help change a child’s life, it is worth everything. After six medical missions, I am addicted. The doctors are the real artists, I just document their work. This led to other clients who saw my images published online and hired me for different humanitarian assignments. I love all the travel and adventure.
PWP: What made you take action as opposed to making a donation?
GS: In 2008, I was returning to NYC after traveling in the Sahara Desert, Morocco and I began one of those long layover conversations with a woman in Casablanca Airport. She was returning to New York on the same flight. She told me she was involved with a group of doctors who wanted to start a pediatric medical mission and they were looking for a photographer. I became official photographer in 2008 with ISMS Operation Kids. I have since traveled once a year to document their work. We have gone to Morocco, Peru, Egypt, and Kenya twice. On March 7th we will go to Guatemala. My work is used for promotions, fundraisers and websites.
PWP: What was your most rewarding experience?
GS: My recent assignment to Myanmar for the Orient-Express Hotels Ltd. I was hired to document their CSR Projects (clinics, orphanages, schools, etc.) We are still going through the final edits. I get to relive the experience each time I edit the images. I fell in love with the people, the children, the temples, the food, the landscape and getting lost in Yangon. A fascinating destination. It was a dream job.
PWP: In many cases, those actively engaged in a cause find that it opens new, often unexpected horizons. How has your humanitarian work enriched you as a person and changed your photography?
GS: It has changed my perspective in a broader sense, by allowing me to experience different worlds and cultures, and by affecting change and/or bringing awareness with photography to people in need. I shipped two 20 pound boxes to India/Russ Foundation this week full of donated shoes, clothes, school books, rain gear, etc.
There are so many ways to help. I really enjoyed the book Half The Sky-it knocked me on my feet to get involved however I could. I micro fund two women in Kenya through Kiva.org. And I love Heifer International. I grew up on a farm in Texas and being able to buy a family a goat or chicken can really change their lives for the better. There is alot of inspiration out there. You just have to look for it.
Links to other articles in Through a Lens Brightly: Women, Photography & Change: