Confessions of a German Perfectionist

© Claudia Hehr Photography

Banana trees in the village of Kibosho-Umbwe, Tanzania

Expectations are a powerful thing – and will mostly set you up for disappointment. Being a German perfectionist has certainly equipped me with an unhealthy dose of “trying to control the world around me.” Now, given the fact that I have traveled and worked with Artists for World Peace two years ago, one would think I should’ve learned my lesson. But memories fade quickly.

So let me humor you a little and show you what my crazy photographer mind dreamt up in anticipation of our roughly 2.5 weeks in Tanzania:

Expectation: I would shoot an amazing documentary about AFWP’s work in Kibosho while simultaneously capturing award-winning still images.
Reality check: It is downright crazy to think you can shoot a true documentary in a little over 2 weeks with NO budget and NO crew (with the exception of our amazing producer/editor Cathy Jackman and recorder-of-sound Miles Nasta). It is also not humanly possible to give equal focus to stills and moving images…so I had to make peace with the fact that this trip would be mostly about videography for me. I’d like to thank Cynthia Rockwell, our writer and passionate aspiring photographer on the team for stepping up on so many occasions to photograph whatever I didn’t have the time to !

Expectation: I would have plenty of time to reconnect with the locals and play with the children at Good Hope orphanage.
Reality check: Downtime was very rare and it was somewhat of a challenge to stay focused on filming when you really just want to put the camera down and spend some quality time with the kids.

Expectation: I would get plenty of sleep, eat well plus of course stay healthy and strong like a bull.
Reality check: What sleep ? We got up early 90% of the time, stayed up late to back up and review the footage we shot each day. Despite my crazy vitamin regimen, I and almost everyone on the team got sick at some point of the trip. Lessons learned for me: There is a reason why you should take your full course of antibiotics, you CAN live on rice alone and raw garlic is my new secret weapon.

Why am I telling you all this ? I’m not sure, probably to give you an honest peek at what it means to work in a third world country. The one thing I know more than anything – it was so worth it !

It is a truly gratifying experience to work your behind off, pro bono, under less-than-ideal conditions. Despite certain challenges the “documentary team” worked together beautifully and we were able to capture very important footage and photos for the foundation.
The woman who inspired each and every one on our team to give it their all is AFWP’s founder Wendy Black-Nasta. To know her means to want to be involved. At least for me. She has dedicated her life to changing lives around the world, one child at a time. Wendy has taken me on quite a ride since I met her a few years ago…she’s become my “crazy” Jewish mom, my mentor, my biggest fan, my spiritual guide, my best buddy to have hilarious sleepy-drunk conversations with and so much more !

I’m more than honored to be part of her family at AFWP and will always be grateful to her for introducing me to my “second home” in Tanzania. The people of Kibosho continue to have a deep impact on my life and I feel very much at peace when I am there. It is very humbling to witness a community with a lack of need for consumption and “first world problems.” There is an obvious presence of contentment and pure joy of life in the village that makes you question your oh-so-different lifestyle in a city like New York.

Maybe it is the “Hakuna Matata” philosophy and the slow pace we like to call “African time” that I am drawn to – maybe despite or simply because it is so utterly different from my upbringing in Germany.
This trip has pushed my boundaries on many levels – I have grown as a photographer, videographer and person. I have learned to let go of perfectionism and controlling the uncontrollable. Thank you to the rest of the team for helping me get out of my comfort zone and think outside the box sometimes. T
his year’s team of 11 volunteers has turned out to be an incredibly complementary mix of individuals all pushing together to change the world a tiny bit, bringing their unique skills and talents to the table. We laughed, we cried, had meltdowns, got drunk on life and South African wine and had way too much ginger tea…

I cannot wait to do it all over again.

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

Local girls in front of their home.

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

Living conditions for many of the poor villagers – simple wooden huts with dirt floors with little protection from the elements.

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

Local children keeping us company at the health center.

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

Local children keeping us company at the health center.

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

Gilo – a local girl who attends Kindergarten at Good Hope – she stole our heart in a second !

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

Josephine Machuwa, founder of Good Hope Orphanage with one of the new girls Esta, comforting her while she was telling us her story.

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

Neema getting a fire started to heat up water so the children can wash themselves.

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

Delfina washing clothes behind the orphanage.

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

Man on bicycle on a typical “street” in the village.

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

Villager carrying goods from the market.

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

Locals waiting outside of the eye clinic for their turn to get an exam.

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

A woman waiting for her eye exam – you can clearly see cataract forming in her eyes, something I have noticed on many villagers.

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

Janice, one of our local helpers at work checking in and giving numbers out to patients.

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

Roe Dennis pre-examining patients with the help of eye charts at the clinic.

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

Dr. Carol Gordon examining Bahati from Good Hope.

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

Dr. Christian, a local eye doctor came on board and will continue to provide a monthly clinic for villagers plus perform cataract surgeries sponsored by AFWP.

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

Beautiful woman from the village proudly showing me her new eye glasses.

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

A Massai man getting interviewed by us about the impact his new glasses will have on his daily life.

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

The guerilla documentary team hard at work – producer Cathy Jackman interviewing a local nun who runs a small clinic; Miles Nasta taking care of the sound and yours truly operating the camera (and providing some fill light). Photo credit: Kelly Mushi


On our last day in Kibosho I was able to give out some of the shirts from my fundraising efforts which have been generously donated by friends. Photo credit: Cynthia Rockwell

Tanzania 2014 - Artists for World Peace

One of my favorite places in the village where we were filming the two soul sisters – Wendy Black-Nasta, founder of AFWP and Josephine Machuwa, founder of Good Hope.

I hope you enjoyed my story and images…I will continue to add more images on my website and facebook page later on this fall. The footage I shot is now in the caring hands of our editor Cathy Jackman who I am sure will work her magic over the next couple of months, putting it all together.
Asante sana – thank you very much for taking the time to read my blog…

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LensProToGo moving mountains !

It’s crunch time for the Artists for World Peace travel team – we are leaving for Africa in a few days…but before beginning my second journey with this incredible organization, I’d like to introduce another group of awesome people – the guys and gals behind LensProToGo. I have mentioned them in my last blog post – LPTG came on board as the main equipment sponsor for this year’s trip to Tanzania !
I’d love for you to get to know them a little better so I conducted a fun interview with Meg Rodney, Marketing Brains at LPTG.
LensProToGo is a photo/video rental company based in Boston, MA.

Meg, how did you connect with AFWP and Claudia and what made you want to support the cause ?
“We get many many requests every day for support with gear. When we hear about projects that are making a difference in the world, they grab our attention. This project between Artist for World Peace and Claudia was unique in the fact that it was a followup to a project that had already happened and was successful. First, it’s inspiring to see what they were able to do in Round 1. Secondly, who wouldn’t want to be a part of Round 2? The other part that we loved was there was a photo video purpose to the trip as well. Without this medium, few people would understand the difference that was made in Tanzania. The photos and video Claudia created tell the story. You can see the difference that has been made. It’s exciting to think that we have the opportunity to help make another difference happen.”

Tell us a little about what your company does and why you stand out from the crowd.
“We ship gear and lollipops. And we’re good at it. Technically speaking, we are a national photo and video rental company that ships gear directly to your front door so you only need to take 7 steps away from the couch/editing station.
We have everything from cameras and lenses for both photo and video as well as stabilization, lighting, audio gear, underwater housing units and more!”


“What makes us different ? I’ll start out by saying that we aren’t here to take over the world. We see room for multiple rental companies so we don’t secretly plan to dominate anyone’s business. 
We are staffed only by photographers and filmmakers. This is the biggest way that we are different, and do I dare say “better” than the others. Where I’m going is that it allows us to have the best customer service, and our reviews say it too. There isn’t a piece of gear that we purchase that someone in the office doesn’t know how to use. We call all of our first-time customers, introduce ourselves and get a good idea of what they shoot so we know exactly how to accommodate them. We have awesome relationships with our customers. They are more like brothers and sisters than clients.
Another thing that we do differently is based on our shipping methods. First, we include the price of round-trip shipping in the price of the rental. Secondly, we ship all of our gear in Pelican cases. We want to make sure our gear gets to you in one piece and back to us in one piece, not 82… that’s pretty important!


Lastly, every year in November we sell off much of our gear to turn around and restock with new gear. We do this so our gear always looks new and never acts old or used. 
We also have kick ass drawing skills and will draw dinosaurs/robots fighting dinosaurs on our customers’ boxes if they ask… or Darth Vader!


Can you name one of the biggest problems your clients have and how you help them overcome it ?
“Probably the biggest problem overall between photographer and filmmakers is ordering gear that isn’t the best for their shoot. It’s always our job to find out exactly what they are shooting and get them into the gear that will be best for them. Many times this means that we lose money by taking people out of the larger items, but if they don’t have a good experience the first place they’ll look is at us.”

What makes you and LensProToGo happy at the end of the day ?
“Four legged furry friends, guacamole parties and razor scooters. In all seriousness, we love hearing stories of our customer experiences. In fact, we have an entire wall of letters from customers that get shipped back in their orders. It’s a nice reminder, as we are headed out the door at the end of the day, about why we do what we do and why we will be right back at it early the next morning. We slap hands (also known as high fives) in the office when this happens (on a daily basis).”


What’s your favorite piece of equipment right now ?
“Right now we have a few pieces of stand out gear we love. Since it’s summer, we love the Ikelite Underwater Housing Unit. Also, the Sigma ART series lenses that recently came out are FANTASTIC! I personally used one to photograph my new niece and it is super sharp. The 1.4 aperture is very useful too for wedding photographers. Lastly, the Sony A7s camera that can virtually shoot in pitch black darkness (409,600 ISO) has been getting a lot of buzz.”

What do you wish that everyone knew already who comes to you?
“We wish they knew how different we were from other companies. We aren’t show-boaters and never will be, so you really only see the whole picture after you’ve placed a rental with us. We don’t depend on marketing/advertising to grow, we let our customers speak for us.”

And lastly, how do you feel about the Yankees and the Mets :-) ?
We will respectfully decline this question ;) But if you would ever like to come to Boston to see a Patriots game, we’d love to meet up!”


Thank you for a great interview Meg !
Fellow photographers, filmmakers and hobbyists – check out our friends at LPTG and see for yourself why they are awesome. Rent a piece of equipment that you’ve always wanted to try…it’s quick, easy and affordable !
Also – show them some love on Facebook and Twitter (@LensProToGo) if you are happy with their services…

Meg and the rest of the team – thank you so very much for being the main gear sponsor for Artists for World Peace and Claudia Hehr Photography in Tanzania. We love you guys !

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T Minus 19 Days

Happy Weekend my friends !! I found myself in a mountain of photo equipment yesterday, as some rentals have started coming in early and some new gear arrived as well. I took advantage of this and hung out in Central Park with a photographer friend of mine to test out my Konova slider for the very first time. As you can see in the screen grab below, we had a lot of fun.


There is lots do to before our take-off to Tanzania at the end of the month but my To-Do-List is slowly getting smaller.
The Tanzania visa has been approved and is looking pretty in my passport; I suffered through Typhoid and Tetanus shots (ouch) and anti-malaria pills are ordered. My husband surprised me with Icebreaker shirts (see picture) which are amazing for traveling – they are made from merino wool of happy sheep from New Zealand and are wonderful when you want to travel light. This will come in very handy once I start packing – I have yet to solve the riddle of how to bring all of this photo gear to Tanzania…
Next week I will be doing a test shoot with our producer Cathy Jackman so we can get to know each other a little better and figure out a good workflow before we start shooting in Tanzania. I can’t wait ! This is the first time I will be working with a producer and editor – video is still a new world to me compared to photography, which feels like second nature. But I am thrilled to learn more and get out of my comfort zone. Onwards !

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Companies who care

Today I just wanted to take a minute to point out some of the beautiful companies who have stepped up to support my work with Artists for World Peace.
1) Official Gear Sponsor: LensProToGo (I will be talking more about these guys in the next post)
2) Manfrotto
3) CSI Rentals
4) Varavon
5) Fujifilm (see older blog post)


Huge shout out to these companies for providing us with essential photo and video gear for our trip – we couldn’t do it without them. But this wouldn’t be possible without some individuals behind each company who understood the importance of our work and wanted to help. Meg Rodney, Shanna Smith, George Hertz, Tim Choi and Matthew Schmidt – you guys rock our world !!!

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Sold, sold and sold !

Wonderful news: The Teespring campaign was a big success and we have sold 91 out of the initial minimum goal of 75 shirts ! Big thanks to everyone who has purchased a shirt – they are being printed right now and should be shipped out soon. I am also very happy to report that thanks to a few especially generous supporters, I will be able to bring tees to all of our sponsored orphans.

The T-shirts kicked off my fundraising with a bang, but wait, there is more :-)
In order to get me to my total goal, I have also set up a Fundrazr-Website.
FundrazrAs of today, there are 8 days left to contribute – please click on the image for details. Great perks await my generous supporters !!
I appreciate each and everyone of you who has been following my journey so far, supported me by purchasing a shirt or making a donation – or simply has given me words of encouragement or sent some great karma my way.
Let’s continue to move mountains together !


Fuji has done it again !

Today is fantastic day…a big box arrived via FedEx with a whole lot of wonderful in it – 600 sheets of instant film and a Fuji Instax Mini 8. Fujifilm was a sponsor for my trip to Tanzania in 2012 already and they have kindly agreed to be on board again. Bringing an instant camera to Tanzania the first time around was one of the smartest things I have done. It was so beautiful to be able to give the people of Kibosho prints to keep – most of them have never owned a photograph of themselves. And it was impossible to explain why they can’t have that digital picture that lives inside of my DSLR. We had so much fun shaking those instant pictures and waiting for the image to magically appear. That never gets old :-) I am so excited that I will be bringing back more film than ever and a second camera. Big thanks to Matthew at Fuji for making it all happen !


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Tees for Tanzania

Happy Tuesday ! Just a quick update on what’s going on. The Teespring campaign is in full swing – if you haven’t heard, you can now buy a wonderful shirt or hoodie designed by my lovely husband. Look fabulous and support a great cause – it’s a win-win situation !


Buy a shirt today and support a great cause !

For all of you who have one too many T-shirts in their closet already – stay tuned. I will be launching an easy-to-use fundraising website for everyone who’d rather make a financial contribution.  In the meantime you can share the Teespring campaign with your friends.

While everyone was enjoying their beautiful long weekend, the folks at Artists for World Peace in Connecticut were busy collecting donations and pre-packing for Tanzania. They are currently getting ready to load a shipping container with hospital beds, donated by Middlesex Hospital, bicycles from Bikes4Kids, soccer gear from Mission Soccer and so much more ! It is unbelievable how far we’ve come, thanks to all these amazing companies and individuals who are believing in AFWP and the work we do worldwide.

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Tanzania are you ready for us ?

Exciting news – our travel team will return to Tanzania this summer ! The flights are booked and preparations are in full swing. It’s going to be a very different trip this year. We are bringing a team of eye doctors and optometrists who are volunteering their time to set up camp in the new health center and will be able to see hundreds of children and villagers there.
On the documentary side I am very excited to have 2 great women by my side this year: Cathy Jackman, producer and editor and Cynthia Rockwell, writer and editor at Wesleyan Magazine. With their expertise I am sure we will be able to bring home some wonderful stories and create more awareness.
Just to refresh your memory – here is a video/slideshow from our last trip that I put together:

Make sure to turn on HD for a better viewing experience :-)

The other exciting event I wanted to share with my followers in the NY/CT area is the Celebration of Africa that is taking place on May 1st at the Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown, CT.


This year we celebrate Africa. Featured will be African cuisine, an art auction of superb African-inspired work, and live music and dance, including performances by Jocelyn Pleasant and The Manding Troubadours, Abraham Adzenyah and the Wesleyan University West African Ensemble, and Sankofa Kuumba Dance Ensemble.  Also joining us will be Middletown’s mayor, Dan Drew. Mayor Drew will be reading a proclamation declaring May 1st as “Artists for World Peace Day” in the city of Middletown!

Proceeds will go to several ongoing projects in Africa including equipment for the health center, bicycles for the orphans and so much more !

To purchase tickets and find out more about the event please click here:


The show must go on…

Tanzanian women in the village of Kibosho-Umbwe

It’s been a while. I am in the middle of working on a multimedia slideshow while learning Final Cut Pro (a video editing program). Thanks for hanging in there, many of you have asked to see pictures.
A lot has happened. Our world has just been turned upside down by Hurricane Sandy. I’ve been extremely lucky to live in Harlem which is up on high grounds and far away from any water. Others haven’t been. Lower Manhattan just got power back as of last night but many others are still in the dark in Staten Island, New Jersey, the Rockaways and so on. As terrible as Sandy’s impact is, I believe it brought out the best in the people of the Tri-State-Area. Everybody is volunteering, donating and comforting each other. New Yorker’s are tough and although it will take a long time to pick up the pieces, I know we can get through this.
Long before the announcement of Sandy, Artists for World Peace had planned their second annual Broadway event and fundraiser on November 4th. “In an intimate evening of song and dance, some of Broadway’s best and brightest,the ‘cream of the crop … the top of the heap’, pool their talents to support the ongoing work of Artists for World Peace.” In addition we will screen a short video about our trip to Tanzania and we will auction of  2 beautiful 24×36 prints of yours truly (including the image you see in this post). At this point I’d like to thank Jeffrey Kane of LTI Lightside for pulling off the impossible. Jeff not only made the gorgeous prints on fairly short notice, he also donated them to us. Then Sandy happened and Jeff’s company lost power on Monday. The prints were to be mounted this week, which can’t be done without electricity. So Jeff came downtown on his bike yesterday to meet me at LTI, headlamp and flashlight in hand, so I could take the unmounted prints for Sunday’s event.
I think we can all use an evening to take our minds off of Sandy, so please join us tomorrow, Sunday, November 4th. Wendy, all of  AFWP, and myself would love to see you at St. Luke’s Theater.
You can get more information and buy tickets here:

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Witness is learning how to use my DSLR camera while Dorcas and I are posing and Bahati is taking our picture with my little point-and-shoot…The kids just loved to learn all about cameras…

Hello everybody. Sorry for the long silence. It’s been a crazy few weeks. We made it back safe and sound from Tanzania – our team worked hard there, I met so many incredible people, made friends for life and shifted my perspective big time. It’s hard to put in words, but spending time in Africa impacted me to the core.
Coming back I got struck down by a wicked summer flu and was forced to just rest for a week. Thankfully I got sick when I was back home and not in Tanzania. When I felt better I started organizing all the images and video files – a big project ! I just had a great photo editing session with Wendy yesterday and our friend Lisa will start working on sound and video this week as well. I will keep you posted on the progress. Bear with us, it’s a lot of footage and images to go through.
Lastly I will of course start working on the Indiegogo “ThankYou” perks for all of you who have been so generous. I am forever grateful that you made this trip possible.
Assante Sana !!

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