How do you photograph a feeling? An obvious answer might be that you take a picture of someone who is gripped by that feeling, focusing on the details of their facial expressions and body language – the creases by their eyes when they smile, the tension in their clasped hands. But this isn't always the most ethical – or the most effective – approach. "When you're photographing sensitive issues, you don't want to take a picture of someone crying, because it's intrusive and maybe, in that moment, you'd rather be consoling them than picking up your camera," says documentary photographer and Canon Ambassador Laura El-Tantawy. "Then how do you bring that moment they shared with you into an image in another way?"
For Laura, "photography is about intimacy," and her 2023 series for WaterAid and the Wimbledon Foundation, Carrying Life: Motherhood and Water in Malawi, is not short on emotion. International NGO WaterAid commissioned her to make a series of images of women and babies in Malawi's Ntchisi district, an area affected by poor sanitation, lack of hygiene and inadequate access to clean water. WaterAid has a track record of working with photographers who have a strong visual approach, previously commissioning Ethiopian photographer and artist Aïda Muluneh to create a project about water scarcity and the impact it has on women in Africa.