Updated: May 29, 2022
Our roving report sat down with Picture People’s co-founders Claudia Modonesi and Nick Danziger to learn more about the charity
1. Why did you decide to take on the leadership of Picture People?
We were working with Picture People for about three years, when in 2019, Nevil Mountford, who founded the charity, proposed we take over the leadership. It didn’t take us long to accept the challenge and since then, it has become a truly fulfilling and enriching experience and a wonderful opportunity to scale our educational training programmes. As you know, we founded together the NGO entitled, 'Cinema, Human Rights and Advocacy’ in 2004 but for various reasons we were limited in terms of funds and project implementation. The opportunity to join Picture People was a perfect fit for us as we have been able to expand our educational programmes, improve our management and leadership skills while also empowering a larger number of filmmakers, activists and advocates.
We have been working together for so many years that I think this is one of the strengths of our joint role together at Picture People - in that we are both truly invested, committed and engaged for the cause and vision we are pursuing.
2. What do you enjoy the most?
CLAUDIA: The best part of my job is about reflecting and designing strategies for growth, leading the organisation with a clear strategic vision, and working with our team and amazing alumni from a wide range of different cultures.
NICK: For me, the exchanges with the workshop participants are very inspiring and motivating. Being in the field and being able to show participants new possibilities and avenues to raise their work and being part of the development is the best part..
3. Describe an episode that particularly touched you while working at Picture People
In 2014, we delivered our first field workshop in Myanmar and we had the pleasure to return every year until 2019 just before the pandemic. During our workshops, we were tremendously lucky to work with so many committed, and eager-to-learn individuals. The event that stands out though is the Myanmar Alumni Reunion which we organised in 2019 in Yangon at the British Council. At this event, the majority of the alumni from the past six years' workshops attended and used the opportunity to exchange ideas and projects while screening their films to the audience at the British Council. It was incredible to see that over the years, so many participants had remained in touch with each other. After the coup d’état of course, everything has changed and we have not had the chance to return. We do try to stay in touch and support our alumni, although many have fled the country and it has been a few months now since our last contact.
4. Since your arrival at PP, how do you think this experience has enriched you personally and professionally?
CLAUDIA: My experience at Picture People has been at times extremely challenging but the obstacles I have overcome have boosted my confidence, my work ethic and given me a lot of gratification. Moreover, having to manage projects with a larger and evolving team including new trustees has triggered my comfort zone which has continued to enable me to develop new skills and expertise.
NICK: When we took over Picture People in 2019, the pandemic came a couple of months later. It was difficult at first and we had to adjust our educational programmes to an online format while developing a more agile strategy. But now, we are far more resilient.
Working with a team has also enabled me to make improvements that were not possible for me to develop on my own. Moreover, teaching in different contexts has helped me to develop a rigorous methodology and a professional critical delivery.
5. What inspires you to work in the third sector?
CLAUDIA: I grew up in a privileged family. I developed a social-political conscience realising that I had a lot compared to many who had nothing. I felt drawn to do something so I started working with international organisations but after a while, I felt I wanted to feel more empowered and therefore, changed my path and entered the third sector.
NICK: What inspires me mostly to work in the third sector is the opportunity to create projects that make a difference in people's life. I believe Picture People has been a fantastic vehicle to amplify people's voices.
6. How has your background enabled you to inspire others?
CLAUDIA: I think Nick's work and his life's choices are what inspires our participants the most. He is not only saying inspiring words but he is an inspiring person.
Looking at my life I can say that I've always felt in between, as I am not an academic and I am not creative but I did film studies, some theatre and I have this creative, imaginative visual goal. I believe this combination of skills and expertise is what makes my path unique and I hope inspires others when I bring this all together to teach human rights, social change and visual storytelling.
NICK: We hope we do inspire others and that we will continue to do so through our projects and by telling people’s stories.
7. What would you say you’ve learned when teaching in these cultural contexts that are so different from our own?
CLAUDIA: The participants in our workshops don’t take these educational opportunities for granted, they are so eager to learn. Their attitude towards learning and commitment is just incredible. But working in these different cultural contexts has definitely challenged my western bias. I realised that I wasn't aware and perhaps not capable of comprehending many of the challenges that our participants experience, so this has become an opportunity for me as well to learn about their social injustices.
NICK: It was the first time for me to teach in these cultural contexts compared to when I was visiting these countries wearing a different professional hat. I realised that to be mindful of different cultural, legal and religious contexts required a different set of skills when trying to impart knowledge compared to the solo experience of narrating my storytelling.
8. Where do you see Picture People in 10 years?
We are a small team implementing an incredible amount of work with limited funding but we hope through our perseverance and impactful programmes, we will become better recognised in the UK and globally for effectively empowering people to tell their stories, using visual media and new technologies. We want to implement a bottom-up approach in which after understanding the needs of a particular country and of its people, we then educate local trainers who will share the knowledge with their communities. The idea is that in time we will no longer be needed.
9. If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
CLAUDIA: Time passes way too quickly. There are beautiful moments that we miss before we even have time to realise and enjoy them so the superpower I wish I could have is to stop time.
NICK: If I had to choose a superpower, I wish I could understand and speak all languages.
10. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
CLAUDIA: There are many places where I would like to go when I have the time and energy but today I always think about my happy place, Greece. A country where I've spent many summers and where I can relax and feel at home.
NICK: I feel very fortunate because I’ve travelled extensively during my life. I’ve never been to the South Pacific or the South Pole. I'd like to visit some of the least populated environments such as Siberia or Alaska.