Karin Schermbrucker: Mother of Courage.

December 12, 2015 | By Lashara van Heerden

Since Quercus Foundation’s inception, Karin Schermbrucker of Slingshot Media, our lead photographer has been capturing our work along the way. Her unwavering determination to change people’s perceptions through visuals is effortlessly communicated by her own passion for the causes she is committed to.

With Unicef and mothers2mothers (m2m) Shermbrucker has put together a series of photographs called “uMama Onesibindi” which means “Mother of Courage”. These photographs have been shot over a number of years and are celebration of the “grace, and power of women, the unsung heroes of our continent [Africa]” she says.

Siphiwe - KZN, South Africa

Siphiwe – KZN, South Africa. Photo credit: Karin Schermbrucker.

Schermbrucker is a photographer, mother and storyteller. Her pictures reveal the beauty and hardship of humanity through her nomadic journeys. She spends most of her time traveling the African continent with her husband Rob and two children, Emma and Ethan. Together they are dedicated to creating imagery that encourages action. “My hope is to remain passionate about taking pictures that reflect something bigger than myself” she says.

Ethan and Emma on assignment in the Masai Mara with Julius

Ethan and Emma (Karin’s children) on assignment in the Masai Mara with Julius. Photo credit: Karin Schermbrucker

“I see my camera as a bridge, which has the capacity to cross the divide that sometimes exists between people of different cultures, classes, languages and beliefs. I have had my eyes opened in the process…” says Schermbrucker.

Mother. Kenya Photo credit: Karin Schermbrucker

Mother – Kenya. Photo credit: Karin Schermbrucker.

The m2m programme “is so special because women within the community who have first-hand experience of HIV, are able to use their experience and their knowledge to help other mothers walk a similar road” she says.

Schermbrucker goes on to explain that, “The result of this peer-to-peer model is that women feel freedom to open up, and to receive the support they require in order to take courageous steps towards living Positively and ultimately ensuring that their babies are born free of HIV”.

“Each day, 600 children are still infected with HIV. Almost 90% of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa, and most acquire HIV from their mothers during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. It’s unacceptable, and it’s tragic because it’s almost entirely preventable” reports m2m.

Nokuthula Huang - Amsterdam South Africa

Nokuthula Huang – Amsterdam, South Africa. Photo credit: Karin Schermbrucker.

“In every home, and over every shared moment I realized one thing was the same regardless of language or culture. It was courage, each and every woman photographed was undoubtedly courageous despite her circumstances” says Schermbrucker.

This courage can be seen through her powerful imagery, which reflects her own bravery to find and to tell the stories of others through pictures. We believe this is a testament of her on-going commitment and humanitarian efforts.

Karin. 8 months pregnant shooting in arefugee camp in Iraq on border of Syria for Unicef. Ethan born 2 weeks later.

Karin Shermbrucker, 8 months pregnant. Shooting in a refugee camp in Iraq on border of Syria for Unicef. “Ethan born 2 weeks later!!” smiles Schermbrucker.

Through her photographs it is possible to see that she has an eye for capturing the emotion and life story of the people she connects with. “I believe that a photo has the power to change people’s perspectives, to open their eyes – to inspire hope and ultimately move nations, and individuals towards change” she says.

Mother. Uganda

Mother – Uganda. Photo credit: Karin Schermbrucker.

Schermbrucker notes that in order to capture a powerful image ‘it is important to have a ‘relationship’ when “photographing people, often vulnerable women and children”. This is what transforms people’s stories into a great image.

Mothers in Africa

Mothers in Africa. Photo credit: Karin Schermbrucker.


When she was a student Schermbrucker spent six months in Equador volunteering for an NGO. “it was probably one of the hardest, most memorable and ultimately life changing seasons of my life” says Schermbrucker.

It was during this period that the “bug bit” and “it has never stopped itching”. While on this volunteering trip the desire to do, serve and work for “something bigger than myself” began. “I am so thankful for that early volunteering experience and how it came to swing the needle on the compass of my life to a true North” says Schermbrucker.

Karin Shermbrucker on location

Karin Shermbrucker on location.