Heber Vega

Heber Vega

To review; I have seen that many NGOs (Non-Government Organizations aka not-for-profit organizations), especially the smaller ones, have less financial resources to be able to bring a pro photographer to fly into their country, shoot images for them for a few days. The funds just are not there. So I came up with this magical idea of teaching the NGO to “eat their own dog food” as it were. That is – every NGO lives by the old adage that “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day or teach him to fish and feed him for a lifetime.”  So I came up with this brilliant idea to teach NGOs how to fish. I am trying to teach the smaller NGOs (or larger ones if they want) to learn to see their stories, shoot the images and then tell the story through a photo essay that they can post on their own website. This past trip to Iraq was a chance to try this out. I had three teams ready to learn how to do just this.

So the assignment was that each student had to come up with a photo essay by the end of the 5 day course. This was harder than I expected and I learned a lot that I will change the next time I do this. For one, not all the NGOs had their projects in the same location that the class was held. Some had their work many miles away and made it impractical for them to do an assignment that related to one of their projects. So several just picked good stories that they could tell that would give the the practice. Such as Heber Vega with Millennium Relief and Development Iraq.

Heber and his team run an amazing women’s center in Suleymaniye. I wish it had been running while I was there. The building was amazing and the programs seemed well run. But it was closed for several reasons not the least of which was it was winter and the center was not heated. So Heber decided to do his essay on a former Kudish Peshmerga Freedom Fighter he knew in the city. For his first essay I think Heber did an outstanding job. He bit off a huge chunk as he decided to do a essay that used captions. This is not easy to do in Soundslides Pro. But I think he pulled it off. Tell me what you think?

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About The Author

Matt Brandon

Matt is a Malaysia based humanitarian and travel photographer. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by business and organizations around the globe. Matt also on the design board for Think Tank Photo, a camera bag manufacturer. In 2013 Matt founded the On Field Media Project to train the staff of non-profits to use appropriate technology to produce timely as well as quality images.


  1. heber_vega

    Matt, thank you again for helping us out with our work over here.
    Stories are so important for what we do and now we have a better tool to communicate them to the world.
    You are a great person.

  2. michaeldreves


    Powerful and beautiful. As the story moves along I get the sense of how long the Kurdish conflict has been going on and how little interest surrounding countries has in solving the issues.

    It also makes me think about the current events in Iran.

  3. mariomattei

    Heber, I sincerely enjoyed this piece. Make more!

    I think we've connected somewhere before b/c I have your name and email listed as someone who might be interested in joining the visual peacemakers movement. All would be blessed by the images and stories you capture there. We aim to launch the official visualpeacemakers.org on April 15th.

    Re: SS Plus, I've never tried captions like that. In full screen you can see the full text. But there is no line break in the smaller dimension. This is probably an unresolvable issue in SS Plus. You could contact their support forums and add your desires to a wish list for the next version. For now, you'd probably have to use a smaller font and use less text per frame. This could result in more pics moving faster. Too bad the tech set back affects your aesthetic. I have a love – hate relationship with SS Plus.

    Please continue the work and I hope you'll share it through the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers with the rest us.


  4. heber_vega

    Mario, It would be an honor to be part of this wonderful initiative.
    Pls, send me an email to know how I can do that. (email in the credits of the slide)

  5. HotDotDeeDee

    Matt – THANKS for letting Heber showcase our work over here! We're having dinner with Abdul and his family tonight and they'll be so proud of how Heber showed the world this important cause – Freedom from persecution for the Kurds!

  6. Matt Brandon

    Michael – Thanks, but it is all Hebers work. He has a real vision for this. I am proud to be able to showcase this.

  7. michaeldreves

    Yes, and many thanks to Herbers. It's a wonderful experience to watch. It makes me remember and think about the conflicts in the region. Thanks Herbers!!

  8. BBuck1967

    Very cool.

  9. Elizabeth Brown (Betsy)

    Heber, this piece brings reality to Kurdish history. I recently read “Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History” by Susan Meiselas. Your interview and photos of a peshmerga who fought and lived through those terrible years, remembering the losses and his own imprisonment, brought such meaning to what I had read. Thank you.



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