Attempting Social Change Through A New Lens

by Cheryl Duggan
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by Cheryl Duggan 

Photographers Without Borders Magazine Launch and Photography Exhibit. was held at the Black Cat Artspace and open to the public Friday, February 20th, 2015 to Tuesday, February 24, 2015.  The press release came out with the headline – “Social Change Through A New Lens”.
The most important thing is how the images look in print for the second issue of their magazine and the framed prints on the gallery walls.  On the surface they are great photographic compositions.
Another important aspect would be the photographers themselves. I had an interesting discussion with one of the photographers about whether or not these images are actually helping their cause or simply being ignored by the masses.  I walked away from that discussion with the sense that these particular images were indeed helping their individual charitable organizations. Otherwise, I still had this underlying feeling that the masses are numb to such imagery.
Which leads us to the charitable organizations themselves. The names of the charities raise awareness of what individuals and families are struggling with in developing countries. The Water Charity bringing clean water to third world countries. Peruvian Hearts are changing the world one heart at a time.  Casa Guatemala is providing home for abused, abandoned and orphaned children.  Teach A Man to Fish is about teaching capital “L” life skills so that people can fend for and feed themselves.
There are many other causes that Photographers Without Boarders supports.  I can’t personally find any fault with any of the above aspects of the exhibit, people or charities.  I just question the approach of this type of campaign.  Perhaps a different perspective would provide a different visual impact?  For instance, if the populations that were impacted by these charities were given disposable camera’s that could be developed in the field or in batches upon returning the disposables to Western “civilization” that there would be far more effective imagery as a result.
I believe that projects that allegedly take the control of cultural imagery away from its occupants removes a significant portion of their true identity.  This forces them into the position of “Other”, “Primitive” and “Them”.   In my opinion, if you can teach them  to fish, you can teach them to use a camera .  Empower these people by giving them the ultimate control of how they are exposed to the outside world.  Give them the camera so we can see and visually experience  their world through a new lens.

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