Virtual Lives

Raegan Hodge (M.F.A. ’06) scopes the globe to tell humanity’s most gut-wrenching — and inspiring — stories.

Raegan Hodge was on her way to operate a camera on the set of a forgotten reality television show when a former classmate from Georgia State rang. It was Kate Crosby (B.A. ’03, B.F.A. ’08), head of video production at CARE, one of the world’s largest humanitarian aid organizations.

Crosby had an offer: Drop everything and go to Afghanistan for three weeks to record the struggles of Afghani women.

reagan“I said ‘yes’ without even clearing my contract,” Hodge said. “It was easily the most life-changing event of my life.”

On paper, Hodge was there to chronicle the crisis and show how CARE works with its partners to bring relief. But for Hodge, the job had even more purpose: She was meeting some of the most hopeful and resilient people in the world and using her camera to broadcast their amazing, untold stories throughout the world.

In the four years since, Hodge has traveled the globe in search of inspiring stories as she documents disasters to raise awareness and money.

In her latest project, she went to Niger to let three generations of women tell how CARE’s signature program, the village savings and loan association, changed their lives over three decades. The best part? She filmed it in virtual reality (VR) with a $60,000 camera on loan from Nokia.

“Pictures of these kinds of situations start to look alike,” Hodge said. “We need new ways to put outsiders in these people’s shoes, new ways for viewers to empathize with these communities.”

According to Hodge, VR is up to the task. “It reintroduces the human volition,” she said. “It’s not just the photographer’s eye directing your attention. You can look around and see for yourself — all 360 degrees. You feel like you’re part of the group.”

CARE liked this pitch so much it partnered with Facebook to fund the project, debut it online in front of an estimated 10 million people and submit it to the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

“My filmmaking requires me to roll with the punches, think on my feet, find a story and execute it all in just a few days,” Hodge said. “I like being able to engage and react with people on the fly, and this allows me to do just that.”