In September 2012 Katie traveled to Nepal for the first time, to document the work of a small organisation that rescues girls – as young as 5 years old – from sex trafficking. The organisation also helps prevent girls from being trafficked in the first place.

A family friend was going over to volunteer and mentioned it to Katie. Katie jokingly asked “Do they need a photographer?”

The answer was yes. This organisation had been running for nearly 4 years, rescued over 200 girls and no photographer had ever offered to tell their story.

So, Katie went. She immediately booked her flights and volunteered her time and talent to document the work being done.

This opportunity came at a time when Katie had been searching for something more in her business and life.

After her collapse from burnout and exhaustion at the end of 2009, Katie went through many years of hating photography. It was her job and she did it with a smile on her face, but despite all her success it was empty. All the travel for months a year, all the weddings … surely there was something more to being a photographer than taking pretty photos of pretty girls in pretty dresses?

That something more became: personal projects that help others.

This year’s theme of “turning the ordinary into the extraordinary” is perfect for Katie. As a regular girl from Toowoomba, she’s almost the last person you’d expect to be doing this type of work. This makes her story very relatable. Katie’s ongoing battle with depression and anxiety makes her story even more powerful again.

This page is an outline of Katie’s ongoing personal project in Nepal. There’s also the work in Cambodia she’s been doing as well.


Katie’s personal project is to work with a small non-profit in Nepal that rescues girls from sex-trafficking. The organisation uses Katie’s images and videos to raise awareness, financial support and to find sponsor’s for the rescued girls.

Katie traveled to Nepal in September 2012 and April 2013. She will be returning again in September 2014 to continue her work.


Inspiration and motivation to consider personal projects that make a difference. They will also relate to Katie’s story and come away thinking, “If she can do it, so can I.”

It will also unlock the potential we have as photographers to change people’s lives through photography. So many photographers don’t actually realise this.

Also, there are thousands of small charities and non-profits that are desperate for their stories to be told.

And there are thousands of photographers looking for personal projects that are meaningful, significant and fulfilling.

Personal projects are vitally important for photographers. Katie wants to encourage photographers to consider personal projects that benefit other people, not just themselves.


If possible, watch this video first. It shows Katie’s first trip to Nepal in September 2012, and it will provide context for the rest of the outline.

The password is: mknepal

The organisation Katie works with specifically helps the Badi people in Nepal.

In the Hindu caste system the Badi people are the lowest of the low. Untouchables.

The women, as well as having to do hard labour – cracking rocks by hand, carrying bricks on their heads – are expected to prostitute themselves to make money to support their family.

This is expected, and culturally accepted, from the age of 12.

In the poorer areas of Nepal the houses are made of clay, mud and cow manure. Most houses have no doors.

One night, a young girl found the team Katie was with. She begged for herself and her sisters to be taken to the safety of the hostels in Kathmandu. Her mother was very sick and she has three sisters.

Girls in her village were being snatched in the middle of the night to be sold into brothels, usually in India.

Due to lack of sponsors, the organisation didn’t have the funds to accept any more girls into the hostels.

Katie made the decision to sponsor the girls on the spot so that they could be safe. The decision was made for Binu – the oldest sister who found the team – to fly to Kathmandu with Katie. Because of her age Binu was the most at risk. Binu’s sisters would follow in a bus later.

A month or so later Katie got a phone call. It turns out one of the girls wasn’t a sister, she was a cousin. And she didn’t make it to the hostels.

Why? Because her father said no.

Why? Because she is pretty and can be a source of income for her family.

Katie was devastated by this, feeling like she had failed the girls.

Another month or so later, Katie received another phone call. A team had returned to the village with an iPad full of Katie’s photos showing the happy girls at the hostels in Kathmandu.

The team showed these photos to Dibya’s father … and he changed his mind.

All four girls were now safe at the hostels in Kathmandu.

On her second trip to Nepal in April 2013 Katie was able to document the arrival of a busload of girls from the area of Rukum.

Rukum is an area of Nepal that is so poor, the people don’t live in houses made from clay, mud and cow manure – they live in caves.

These girls had never left their village, let alone beenon any form of transport. The trip from Rukum to Kathmandu took 18 hours.

When the bus arrived in Kathmandu, Katie photographed each girl individually to capture their “before” condition. It was very confronting to see children in such poor condition.

Their body language and the fear in their eyes tells it all. The white patches on their skin is malnutrition.

Two weeks later, Katie visited the hostel in which the Rukum girls were now living.

Katie again photographed each girl individually and paired the before and after photos together to show girl’s transformation.

Another part of Katie’s work has been to document the school that the rescued girls attend.

The organisation (Educate Nepal) is actually run by a group of retirees.

Katie has also been helping them by building a new website that communicates more effectively.

Most of the work the organisation does is in the area of prevention.

Binu’s story is a prevention story. Fortunately nothing horrific happened to her.

But that doesn’t mean her life was easy. From a young age Binu was required to do hard labour like carrying rocks on her head and cracking rocks down into gravel by hand.

This is Binu’s grandmother. This has been her life since she was Binu’s age. Binu now has the opportunity to live a life that her grandmother could never have dreamed of.

Not all girls are as lucky as Binu.

This is Ruth.

Ruth was sold into an Indian brothel by her own family. She was forced to service up to 60 men a day.

One day Ruth escaped from the brothel and went to the police. The police raped her and took her back to the brothel.

The brothel owner put Ruth in a bathtub and tried to electrocute her.

This is Ruth now. Katie was able to photograph her in September 2012, 8 months after Ruth was rescued from the brothel.


Our industry tends to put photographers on a pedestal for taking pretty photos of pretty girls in pretty dresses in pretty locations. When, in reality, there’s so much more to photography than that … and so many stories that are going untold.

Photography is a gift that we can use to shine a light on these untold stories.

Katie wants every photographer to run a successful business that gives them the time and money to live a remarkable life that makes a difference in the world.

Personal projects are an essential part of growing as a photographer.

What would happen if we used our personal projects to benefit other people rather than just ourselves?

To finish, a quote from Katie … “I don’t go to Nepal to get attention, or because it makes me feel better about myself. I go because it’s the right thing to do.”