Angela Francine Popplewell is the co-founder of 100cameras, an organization we first got to know through mutual friends in the photography world. Years later, this relationship would culminate in the creation of a collaboration bag, which we launched last week. Today, we sit down with co-founder and executive director Angela Popplewell to learn more about 100cameras and her mission to create change through photography, both at home and abroad.
Angela carries the ONA x 100cameras collaboration Prince Street messenger.
A portion of the proceeds from each bag sold online will be donated directly to 100cameras.
ONA: Tell us about what inspired you to start 100cameras.
AP: The founding of 100cameras was entirely a collaborative project, and it has been a journey that continues to challenge and inspire me. What attracted me most to joining the founding team was the community development empowerment piece and the opportunity to teach the importance of storytelling by giving kids the opportunity to do so worldwide.
Prior to starting this model, I had worked in the community development sector in a few countries early on in my twenties and experienced the great hope for what can happen when an individual is empowered to create something that provides for themselves and others. Furthermore, I had experienced over and over again how almost anyone I met just wanted to tell me their story – to share their narratives, filled with pieces about their families, their long days of work (or why they couldn’t get work), their likes and dislikes, where they’ve been, and where they want to go. Every story was important and it felt as though they were sharing it with me in hopes that I would share it with someone else.
It gripped me to realize that those living within a community we would often label “marginalized” or as “living in poverty” have always had these stories to tell, and they have always had voices to share them – they just haven't had the platform to be heard outside of their concentric circles or to participate in the global narrative. This realization forever changed me. To be a part of helping teach kids that their lens for how they see their community is important, and that they can meet important needs (medical, educational, lifeline supplies) by sharing their stories through photography will always be one of the greatest honors of my life.
ONA: What does it mean to you to "have impact” or to be "an agent of change," as your website talks about ?
AP: To me at the heart of it, it means that the we are not the providers or the deliverers of change or impact itself, and instead, the communities and kids we work alongside are directors for the stories that are told and are responsible for the change that takes place. We are merely the participants that join alongside others by bringing an opportunity into a community of individuals – empowering them to experience the ownership and power for creating impact and being the agents of change.
ONA: What sort of project or problem drives you? And what is your dream project?
AP: I am driven by the story of the underdog. In any experience in life, whether it’s personally or professionally, show me an underdog and the problems or obstacles they are up against, and I would automatically want to step in alongside them. This is when my problem solving is at its best and when my drive is at its peak. This brings complications with it, certainly, where I have to then battle an internal savior complex, which when left unaddressed, can become quite destructive to both myself and my work. But when practiced in my healthiest and most balanced self, I am thriving and at my best when I’m on the team of an underdog.
A dream project for 100cameras is that we would be able to successfully equip others to take the empowerment model of 100cameras to a community they care about – breaking through the bandwidth limitations of how many kids can share their stories and create change each year, while also giving others the opportunity to experience the joy that can come with joining alongside a community in creating their own narrative for development.
ONA: Which tools are the most essential items for you? The ones that you use most on a daily basis?
AP: Living in New York, my bag is the substitute for my car, and so I consistently look like the Mary Poppins-bag-lady. Everyday, I carry my computer, notebook (my "brain on paper," as I call it), Sharpie fine-point pens, branded stationary, marketing materials, and anything I would need to morph my attire from the workday to nighttime event-ready, along with a gym outfit to fit in a workout in-between.
ONA: What is the hardest thing about being a founder?
AP: One of the hardest things about being a founder for me is the inside voice that takes great pleasure in reminding me that failure could be lurking around any corner – around any decision, any pivot, or any project. It's this voice that weaves together countless lies to tell me everything relies on me, creating this impossible weight. It's as if the entire mission, the team, the budget, the projects, the partner organization’s every happiness, and the kids’ futures all depend on me.
But I have had to train myself and surround myself with others that remind me that this voice (or any voice, rather) that is rooted in fear is no voice to be entertained at all. It’s a distraction, it does not have my best interests in mind, it is there only to limit and sabotage the organization’s mission, and there is no time for it. This perspective has helped me see failures and missed opportunities as something to learn from.
ONA: In one sentence, what advice would you give to a founder just starting out?
AP: Surround yourself with your A-team of influencing voices that can walk the fine line between constructive criticism and unexplainable optimism, equally challenging you while cheerleading you to persevere boldly and wisely through the daily startup rollercoaster that comes with being a founding entrepreneur.
ONA: How did you hear about us?
AP: I’ve been personally following ONA since since 2012 when I heard about it through a friend, and I carry a great respect for both the beautiful product and the inspiring narrative that the brand represents. And so when the opportunity for a collaboration arose, I was thrilled to produce something good together and couldn’t be more excited and proud of what we’ve created!
CONNECT WITH ANGELA
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All photos of Angela and the collaboration bag taken by Mark Chou.
All other photos courtesy of 100cameras.