Friday, October 7, 2011
One of the reasons many photographers pick up a camera is to expose social injustices and confront inequalities. Like Lewis Hine and Sebastião Salgado, we have a desire to raise awareness through imagery. It is a way to use our talents to give back.
To get involved, find a community organization like a youth center, food bank, church, temple, homeless shelter, arts foundation, environmental group. Research the organization, exploring questions like:
Why do organizations like it exist?
Does the organization address a local, national, or an international issue?
What are the organization’s positive effects?
Is there data to support it?
Who helps pay for their existence?
Private donors, Local, state or Federal funding?
Volunteer your time and familiarize yourself with their goals, motivations, members and recipients. You can attend functions, drives and fundraising events to rub shoulders with the right people. The more you understand the organization, the better you will be at documenting it.
After you have developed a relationship with the organization, offer your services. Before you photograph, look at previous documentary photographers for inspiration. Pay attention to things like composition and lighting, and how they turn uninteresting photographs into masterpieces by changing the angle, adding color or a hand. For modern photographs check out these three websites dedicated to social documentary -
Blue Earth Alliance.
My opportunities come through my hometown church where I know many of the church elders, leaders and volunteers. For the past five years, the church has been involved with World Vision. By raising and donating funds to specific World Vision projects, my church has helped build homes in East Africa and the Dominican Republic, and a library, community center, and a six-mile irrigation system in the Dominican Republic. When the church was invited to travel to these locations to see the progress, I volunteered to photograph and capture audio and video. After a few trips, I have a large archive and a wealth of documentation. My church uses my images to raise more money and awareness for these projects and causes.
Members from the church organized an independent dental mission to the border of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. They saw my ability to document the World Vision projects, so invited me to accompany the group. For three days I documented an oral surgeon and her assistants, three nurses, and a physician treat almost 300 people who desperately needed dental attention.
I combined my photographs and interviews to create a documentary (See Below) which has been shown not only to the church, but to large audiences at sponsoring universities, companies and organizations to raise awareness and funds for the next trip. With more money and support, more people can be treated.
Most of us have a long way to go before we achieve what photojournalists like Kristen Ashburn have achieved. Do not let that deter you. Every contribution, no matter how big or small, counts.
Dental Mission 2011: Dominican Republic & Haiti from Leah Cornwell Raymond on Vimeo.
Leah Cornwell Raymond has been Lou Jones Studio's studio manager for four years. She is also an aspiring photographer and dedicated social documentarian, photographing the different facets of Boston and the surrounding areas, and traveling abroad with humanitarian missions. Moving forward she hopes to focus her attentions on philanthropic endeavors, assisting non-profit and NGO’s share their mission with the greater population. WebsiteAll Photos Copyright Leah Cornwell Raymond