Kristofer Dan-Bergman Partners with Spark Micro Grants for East Africa Portraiture Project

July 6, 2015

By Barbara Goldman

© Kristofer Dan-Bergman

Portraits in Nangim Village, Rawanda for Spark Micro Grants.

Kristofer Dan-Bergman has been helping Global Good Fund for the past few years with portrait photography and documenting there summits in Washington, D.C. and New York. Dan-Bergman is an award winning photographer with top honors from Graphis Photography Annual, Communication Arts, APA, AX3 and many more. Swedish-born but residing in New York for many years, Dan-Bergman is known for his stunning portraiture, whether on location or in the studio. His commercial clients include: Clarins, Tag Heuer, AT&T, pharmaceuticals, Kay Jewelers and many more.

The Global Good Fund is a leadership development enterprise built by and for social entrepreneurs. Theyidentify high‐potential leaders and accelerate their success through a 15‐month virtual Fellowship model. The Fund has strategic partnerships with many other foundations. While working with Global Good Fund, Dan-Bergman took the initiative to suggest to document some of the other organizations’s that partner with them. Carrie Rich, Head of Global Good Fund liked the idea and suggested a few organizations that might be good to profile.

One of them was Spark Micro Grants. Spark Micro Grants is a new model for development for poor rural communities. The communities get to make their own decisions and design, develop and manage social-impact projects that will ultimately benefit their lives and their children’s futures. Projects include new schools, getting electricity and development of better and more productive farming methods.

Dan-Bergman decided to follow up with Spark in Eastern Africa for several reasons. Eastern Africa is an area that has been involved in many wars and genocides over the last few decades. It is only in the last few years that the countries in this region are starting to try and make a comeback from their terrible ordeals. Spark’s mission and their enthusiastic leader Sasha Fisher needed the kind of materials that Dan-Bergman could supply for their latest promotional needs. Spark is present in Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda. Their goal is to help the villages and their people to start believing in themselves, as well as trust each other so that they can make a difference with great strides in their futures.

For the assignment, Dan-Bergman discussed his assignment with Spark to come up with a plan to make most of his trip. It was obvious that Spark needed videos based on interviews by the facilitators to the villages as well as some documentary stills. He also wanted to shoot formal portraits of the people. “It was something I hadn’t seen much of from Africa, and I also thought if the viewer could look at each individual they would better be able to identify with them and feel [for] them. My original plan was to shoot formal portraits and still documentary but Spark said they were in desperate need of video as well,“ explains Dan-Bergman.

© Kristofer Dan-Bergman/Gum P Village, Uganda

The biggest challenges for Dan-Bergman were equipment, time and location as well as switching your head from still documentary to video to formal set up. “I didn’t have an assistant with me so I had to carry several hats and I knew I had to work fast which meant I had to be very focused during the entire trip,” he says. It turned out that he was both mentally and physically prepared for it and was on target with equipment needed. Every time he started approaching a village, he started searching for a spot to shoot his portraits and would figure out very quickly what was available. “I told myself not to second guess myself so the first spot and the first idea I had, I stuck with,” says Dan-Bergman. Once he got to the village, he started shooting documentary stills.

“During his trip, Kristofer traveled to some of the most hard to reach communities in Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi to capture the life and strength of Spark’s partner communities. He traversed small mountains on motorcycles and hiked up muddy slopes with camera equipment on his back in order to reach community meetings on time. His resilient spirit matched that of Spark’s partner communities, making his photographs all the more powerful,” says Katy Lindquist, Spark Micro Communications Manager.

Next was to set up for the video interviews where he would use available light. He set up the camera(s) on tripod(s) and mounted the microphone on a boom with the Zoom recorder. He either used a person that might be available to him to hold the boom or he mounted it on a stand. Next up was checking volume and then finally the clap “… and action.”

Once the interview was done, Dan-Bergman would set up the formal portrait shoot. He used two lights, two stands, light meter, two power packs and ProPhoto slaves. The checklist for this part always included: check that the slaves worked, the battery was fully charged and light measured approximately with his trusty good old Minolta 4 light meter. Equipment for the shoot was minimal and included: a Canon 5D3 and one 5D2 with 3 lenses (24-70 2.8, 70-200 2.8 and a fixed 100 2.8), Lumedyne lights ( two packs of 400 Watt Second and two lights), Senheiser shotgun microphone (external) and a Zoom sound recorder, stands and tripod.

© Kristofer Dan-Bergman/ Spark Micro Grants in Burundi.

© Kristofer Dan-Bergman/ Karembero Village for Spark Micro Grants.

It was hard work, and Dan-Bergman knew it was going to be stressful. He always stayed focused and tried to be prepared for any situation. Once back at home he had to upload the each day’s work, go over his equipment, charge the batteries and repack for the next day. He also did yoga stretches before bedtime and when he got up in the morning. It was crucial to stay fit throughout this trip both for his body and mind. Luckily he has experience from long stretches of ocean sailing and mountain trekking.

“Kristofer’s trip to east Africa has been a highlight of the past year for many on the Spark team. His photographs have been invaluable in bringing to life the Spark process and the work of our communities. His easy going nature and ad hoc lessons in photography also inspired many of Spark’s local staff to be more creative in how they take photographs. We are immensely thankful for the time and work he contributed towards our mission,” adds Communications Manager Lindquist. The portraits and interviews will be used on Spark Micro’s website and in their reports. Dan-Bergman is now working on several exhibits, with one being his East Africa portraiture. He plans to have a gallery event in September 2015 in New York City.

You can see more of Kristofer Dan-Bergman’s portraiture, documentary, films and personal work at his site, and he will be updating PhotoServe on this project and many other exhibitions coming down the line.