Our history


The first training initiative takes place in the townships of Johannesburg, South Africa during the FIFA World Cup. The initial idea is to teach 8 historically disadvantaged young South Africans to document what the arrival of football’s biggest festival would actually mean to them and their communities. The arc of the project would be for the learners to recreate a photograph taken by John Cole at the 1988 Free Nelson Mandela Concert at Wembley Stadium, with an image of their own taken at Orlando Stadium, Soweto some 22 years later. One image of 88,000 people baying for the freedom of one man in 1988 would be complemented by a photograph showing a similar crowd celebrating a nation’s freedom in 2010. The initiative was duly named “Wembley to Soweto”.

John Cole's original Wembley picture from 1988
John Cole’s original Wembley picture from 1988
Siybonga Concert Picture
Siybonga Concert Picture


Sixty of the Wembley to Soweto images are exhibited to record attendances at the prestigious gallery@oxo on London’s South Bank.

Three of the South African trainees are afforded the opportunity to come to the UK and launch their work. They sell many of their photographs to fund future courses.

To celebrate their achievements, the trainees are invited to The Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.

Learners from the UK and abroad are invited to photograph the charity gala of the Harry Potter Premiere in London.

The young photographers from Soweto are selected to take photographs for the United Nations.

South African trainee Thapelo Motsumi becomes the youngest-ever student to be accepted on the photo-journalism course at the prestigious Market Theatre Photo Lab in Johannesburg.

Photo by Thapelo


Over 4,000 youngsters in the UK are given the opportunity to interact with W2S photographs as schools and colleges incorporate the project into their teaching programmes.

Thapelo Motsumi is invited to be guest of honour at Newcastle United where an exhibition fills the stadium concourses for the Premier League game against Liverpool. Thapelo also teaches young people from Gateshead and Newcastle, pitch-side at St James’s Park.

One of Thapelo’s photographs is blown-up to 20m in diameter and displayed on the centre circle in front of 55,000 fans and a global audience of 200 million. Thapelo returns home to take up his first full-time job on South Africa’s biggest national newspaper, The Johannesburg Star.

The charity is chosen to launch Cumbria County Council’s ‘Year Of The Child’ 2012 project as well as running a course with young people from Carlisle who have been in care all their lives.

“The Other Side of Gold” project allows youngsters from The UK, France, and Iran to document The London Olympic Games.

2012 Newcastle Utd Exhibition


The charity is chosen as the cause of choice by the producers of the film ‘Mandela’s Children’ at an exclusive Premiere at The Brighton International Festival.

Many of the students have now gained employment, returned to full-time education, or started to teach their contemporaries on new courses.

Several learners are invited to speak on national radio and television.


Trainees from Brazil, UK and South Africa are invited to be the official photographers at all VIP events at the UK Government’s Great Britain House in São Paulo, Brazil during the 2014 World Cup. This includes working closely with The Football Association, as well as photographing the Queen’s official birthday celebration at which the students are formally introduced to HRH Prince Harry.


A long-term collaboration with Arsenal FC begins which leads to courses being initiated throughout the UK.

A partnership with The Premier League runs for four years (2015-2019). One of these initiatives involves all 20 Premier League clubs as the charity trains one young person from each of the 20 clubs’ outreach schemes. These students go on to become the official Community Photographers at the likes of Everton, Manchester City, Chelsea, Leicester City, Burnley, Newcastle United, West Ham United, and Tottenham Hotspur.

The RFU invites students to photograph at the Rugby World Cup in England and Wales.


W2S wins The Media Society’s “Most Influential Charity To Lead By Example” Award and is chosen as the official Charity of Choice for The Hospital Club, Covent Garden. As such, work is undertaken across the whole of the capital, running projects in some of the most disadvantaged areas of London.

The Rio Olympics backs a course with young people from Turano Favela, after which their work is exhibited in their own communities as well as in São Paulo and at the Brazilian Embassy in London.


W2S continues its work with The Premier League, The FA, The ECB and RFU, regularly covering major finals at Wembley Stadium, Lords and Twickenham.

The Guardian chooses to cover the work of W2S students from all over the world and showcases hundreds of their photographs. The news features continue to this day and the learners’ work has regularly reached audiences of 32 million viewers.


Further courses are run in collaboration with The Premier League, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City.

Continuing a long-time collaboration with Street Children United, the charity trains orphans from Moscow as the official photographers at the Moscow Street Child World Cup.


Young photographers from across the globe are invited to work at Lords Cricket Ground during The England Cricket World Cup.

We continue our work with trainees from the UK, South Africa, Brazil, Iraq, Iran, Algeria, Angola, Albania, Russia and France photographing global celebrities – including Dame Judi Dench, Alan Rickman, Idris Elba, Hugh Bonneville, Emily Watson, Richard E. Grant, Adjoa Andoh, David Harewood, Arsene Wenger, Christoph Waltz, Sachin Tendulkar, and Sir Paul McCartney. The Guardian runs several features on this particular programme after which the signed photographs are auctioned to raise further funds for The Foundation.

2020 – 2021

The charity continues to run limited programmes in compliance with all COVID regulations, safeguarding the wellbeing of vulnerable young people.


A large-scale collaboration with camera giant Leica is launched in Los Angeles, teaching historically disadvantaged young people from East LA’s Hispanic communities.

W2S trains refugees from Iraq and Albania in collaboration with The Qatar Foundation, The British Council and SCU at the Qatar World Cup.


Building on the hugely successful collaboration with Leica in 2022 we returned to East Los Angeles, again working with gang-related young people. This project focused on training former W2S students from some of LA’s most disadvantaged communities to become teachers themselves. We now have a new generation of US teachers ready to go to work in 2024, training their contemporaries in San Francisco, Chicago, New York City and Washington DC.

2023 David Westhead in LA
2023 Photographers in LA


The journey continues…