Cubby Graham: Light for Water | Profoto (US)

Cubby Graham: Light for Water

22 March, 2020

Written by: Allan Weitz

World Water Day is March 22nd, and while that might not be special to many of us, for others, clean water is something they can only dream about. This is the reason Scott Harrison founded charity: water, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries.

Clean tap water is something most people take for granted. The truth of the matter is there are about 785 million people in the world who do not have clean water to drink, cook, or bath with. That’s twice the population of the United States. Globally, this translates into 1-in-10 of us who have no choice but to drink water infested with insects, deadly microbes, and sewage, making disease and premature death a given fact of life. 

Since joining up with charity: water about 7 years ago, activist/photographer Cubby Graham has applied his photographic and storytelling skills to charity: water’s fundraising efforts.

Cubby has long loved photography and has been shooting professionally for years. When he was still in his teens he had an opportunity to travel to Africa to serve alongside a community project with a local orphanage, and he documented the project every step of the way. He was able to share his photographs with those who supported the project, and while doing so he began to recognize the power of storytelling, and how photography can make people take notice of real issues that affect real people in the most basic of ways, clean water being one of them. 

Photographically speaking, Cubby gives a big nod to his Profoto lighting system for helping to get the big picture out there. Early on he recognized the challenge of photographing people outdoors under harsh sunlight. Fortunately, a friend lent him a Profoto B1X a few years back, which turned out to be an upper-case game changer for him. “I loved it. My favorite portraits are ones that are empowering and uplifting, images the people you're photographing are proud of. It should bring out the dignity of the people you photograph, show hope, and inspire everyone, and good lighting helps me achieve those emotional connections.”

Once Cubby introduced lighting into the equation, bright cheery eyes began popping out from the shadows complete with equally eye-catching catchlights. Best of all is that the polished look of Cubby's properly lit photographs further helped illustrate the joy charity: water’s clean water projects have brought to so many people in developing communities.

Cubby makes a habit of capturing and showing photographs with an equally positive, hopeful spin. He doesn’t believe in capturing pictures designed to ‘guilt’ the viewer into giving. “Everyone wants to know that what they do makes a difference. Hopeful and inspiring images help show their impact. They make people feel powerful, not powerless.”

Cubby currently is a part of a small dedicated creative team typically consisting of a filmmaker, a producer, a writer, and himself. Together they travel to visit their local partner organizations in developing countries, most recently in Madagascar and Ethiopia, where they documented the progress and completion of some of the new water projects funded by the charity: water community. 

By necessity the group travels as light as they can without having to compromise their goals. In addition to a pair of Canon DSLRs, a few lenses, a drone, laptop, and related accessories, Cubby’s lighting system for his most recent trips have consisted of a pair of Profoto B10 Plus off-camera flashes, 8 batteries, a Profoto OCF Beauty Dish White for portraits, Profoto Connect-C remote triggers, which he often uses to both adjust and trigger his lighting system using his smartphone, and a light stand.

For Cubby, one of the biggest pluses of Profoto’s B10 Plus has to do with the flash’s size/weight/power ratio. Each B10 Plus is comparable in size to a zoom lens, yet they pack 10x the punch of a traditional speedlight, which makes a world of difference when you have to do battle with the bright, harshly lit environments Cubby and his team have to work under. The size and light weight of the units makes them easy to hand-hold or when necessary, position in tight or hard to access locations. In addition to flash exposures, Cubby’s team makes good use of the B10 Plus’s continuous light mode, which is ideal for the team's indoor video interview needs.

Indoors or out, Cubby finds working with his Profoto off-camera flash system to be a godsend for reasons of simplicity, flexibility, consistency, and reliability, which are desirable attributes when you’re working in remote locales.

To learn more about charity: water and support their work, click here

To see more of Cubby Graham’s wonderful imagery visit his Instagram pages and website


Written by: Allan Weitz

Products used in this story

OCF Beauty Dish White

A portable beauty dish for off-camera flashes