Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Credit Where It's Due

A while ago I took PDN to task for not selecting a more racially diversified panel for one of their photo juries.That was not to say that they were intentionally prejudiced; the fact is, they have put forth considerable effort to be more inclusive on various other occasions (as I also mentioned then). I was however trying to draw attention to the fact that in this 21st. century, it should not be a sometime deal, a special occasion deal, some kind of special anniversary or celebration deal- it should simply be... business as usual. Just as assembling a large group of male only judges in this day and age would be considered unconscionable.

So kudos to Photo District News for running an article in their November issue (Helping Communities Speak For Themselves, p47-50, print only) concerning the participation and empowerment of disenfranchised people throughout the world in their own media portrayals and productions. It's an issue that doesn't get a lot of press- mostly because media has traditionally (ie- always) placed and promoted themselves exclusively on one side of the lens and poor, minority, indigenous people (ie- "subject matter") on the other. It's been a totally lopsided equation which until recently has not elicited a lot of (ie- any) attention or analysis, (the one regular and consistent exception being Duckrabbit). So it's good to see PDN present and promote the issue in a more "mainstream" photography publication, highlighting projects mutually initiated by both photographers and the people they photograph in locations worldwide.

 I was particularly intrigued as to how Aaron Huey responded to questions from the community he photographed at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation- specifically when asked what had he accomplished when all was said and done. He could have simply dismissed those critiques and went on to his next project. Instead, he went about the task of figuring out how that community could publicize their own life stories, their own viewpoints, their own first hand, inside accounts. And he did it by securing and utilizing grants, fellowships and organizations such as National Geographic, which eventually led to the establishment of the Pine Ridge Community Storytelling Project which has 220 stories to date.

Photographer Emily Shiffer is a photographer who, along with a number of other artists and organizers, was able to found a campaign called See Potential in the South Side of Chicago that supports a variety of local, community based projects. "I'm always looking for ways to use photographs in a way that's tied to real life and real change. I don't feel that publishing a photograph in a magazine is tied to change. Awareness? Sure. But change? No..."

Hopefully, these projects (along with the several others featured, and more like them) will be increasingly examined, encouraged and supported on a regular basis not by any blog or magazine, but by mainstream, international media which will in turn initiate the sea change in thinking and facilitating necessary to expand and propagate such vital, mutual exchanges between peoples.

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