Last week, Jeremy Snell described his most recent trip to me. He spoke about the grueling physical conditions at 1,500 feet underground — in the coal mines of Pakistan. These mines are hand-dug and have little infrastructure for protection. The miners were adorned in their day clothing, chiseling away at the rock in pitch darkness.
“It haunts me a little bit.” Snell said. “It’s just a sobering thing.”
Snell grew up in Beijing, China, traveling with his parents in East Asia and Africa. Before the age of 5, he’d spent time in Thailand, Singapore, and Uganda. Traveling is deeply ingrained in him, eventually delivering him to his mother’s home of Hawaii, where he studied film. His studies and passions have led him to work with such organizations as Charity: Water, Daughters Rising and more.
The now 25-year old photographer, filmmaker, and humanitarian spoke with me while he was in his home of Honolulu between the project in Pakistan and another in Nepal. We shared stories about our times in Africa, our struggles with balancing freelance work and his mission as a photographer of often stigmatized cultures.
What type of photography did you find yourself gravitating toward when your interest in photography and film began?
I experimented with all kinds of photography. I did some fashion, and I did some commercial shoots with agencies. I think for me, nothing really stuck. I saw a lot of other photographers doing the exact same thing, and I just kind of wanted to be different. I generally just didn’t like shooting things that just kind of like felt fake to me. So I think even just when I was shooting things here in Honolulu, I would wander the streets and photograph the homeless people and get to know their stories.
I think, even through just those photographs, that I would post on my and people’s stories, nonprofits started contacting me and talking to me.