William Vázquez is an advertising, portrait & documentary photographer based in New York, USA.

Photographing for Direct Relief, maternal and child health clinics in Sierra Leone, Africa

I was commisioned by Direct Relief to document their efforts in reducing maternal death for both the mother and child. Direct Relief provides midwife kits to graduates from the School of Midwifery in Makeni, Bombali District, Sierra Leone. The midwife kits provide the tools needed to safely deliver a baby. Tools that are almost impossible to find in Sierra Leone. I was commisioned to document in photography, and video different clinics in rural parts of the country as well as the graduation of the most recent class. Sierra Leone emerged from a brutally violent civil war 10 years earlier, and their infrastructure was decimated. It was one of the more challenging trips I have done with all sorts of issues ranging from lack of electricity, the extreme heat, eating well, bad roads, spotty mobile service, limited internet access, and very basic lodging at times. This is one of the countries where the term "conflict diamonds" originated from. On the up side though the people were amazingly friendly, and welcoming everywhere I went from small villages to the capital city.

These photos are more of my expericnes, and a feeling of the place. As a policy I don't publish any photos that my client can use until they have published first. So I will publish more at a later time. Many thanks to Lindsey Pollaczek the project director from Direct Relief who organized the trip and traveled with me. She organized a great trip and is a super traveler. It was a positive and deeply felt experience.


While we were having lunch under a tree, a boy carrying water and mangos passed by.


At the graduation the local photographers were pretty aggressive on getting their shots. So was I....


Crossing a bridge and just washed laundry drying the in the sun.


A typical village with land being cleared for planting.


A shot of me with way too much gear photo by Lindsey.


We did lots of driving to get to some of the more remote clinics, over 20 hours in total for the week.


A house by the road. Some of the houses are from the colonial period of Sierra Leone.


Everywhere I went I would have an entourage......many curious and cute kids


Typical road in the more rural parts.


More ground being cleared for planting. Slash and burn, not a good thing.


A typical girl selling bananas, and eating a mango.


Sometimes we had to get off the road to get to where we needed to go in Kono, Sierra Leone.


A general store in rural areas.


Everywhere we went we got smiles and waves.


Graduation ceremony complete with marching bands and procession in Makeni, Sierra Leone


Some of the midwife graduates posing for a photo on the football pitch. The graduates played a soccer game....It was great fun to watch


I photographed an expectant mother at her home and she invited us to lunch. Rice with cassava leaves, palm oil, pepper, and a warm 7up. In the photo Dr. Heidi from the Medical Research Center on the left, and Lindsey from Direct Relief on the right. Not everyone in the shot was invited to the lunch...this was our entourage who stayed to watch.


Photographing the expectant mother while being observed.


These girls were way too cute and loved having their photos taken.


It was hot, very hot!


Sometime we drove at night. We tried to avoid that.


In Freetown the weekends are a time where football is played on the beach there must be about 20 matches going on. Keeping ft is a big thing with people jogging everywhere.


Night time in Freetown....The smell and smoke of cooking fires all over the city, make the city very smokey, and its dark in places due to no power. This is the Times Square there is a big jumbo screen playing videos.


Typical roadside businness'


Typical road


Motorbikes are everywhere.


The marching band, and Abdul the trumpet player.


There was also an all girl marching band.


Each midwife team had someone to drive away the bad spirits. She was the best.


More motor bikes.


A goat tied up outside out guest house in Kono


The common area of the guest house, not bad


The bathroom in Kono. Pretty basic


My room in Kono with the requicsite mosqito net but the fan was not working. It was a long and sweaty night.