You may have noticed I haven’t posted an new entry for a while. Part of this is due to work pressure but a larger part is because I haven’t been out capturing pictures lately and this is primarily a photography blog. Reflecting on this I recognize this is about much more than photography.
Photography has opened up my eyes to the big issues that face us every day. These issues center around inequality and my first experience of this was in Ethiopia where the local people have very little. They taught me you can be very satisfied with life without all the trappings of our western world. Namibia reinforced this view and as I turned my attention to homelessness in my own city, I saw the same very unequal distribution of wealth and with it much more suffering. As I think more about this and wonder why there is more suffering here than I saw in local villages in Africa, I think the answer lies in our societies. In Africa, everyone is in it together with the exception of the tiny minority of the elites. In my city, like any other in the USA, I do wonder whether society really cares, we truly are not all in this together.
This was brought home to me at P:ear, the creative center for homeless youth in Portland. During my first volunteer session, I was talking to a youth as we wandered around the art display which is available for purchase. He noticed the price of $300 for one painting and I can best describe his emotion as one of disgust and puzzlement. He asked why would anyone pay $300 for this picture when that money could do so much more good by providing for people living on the streets. I didn’t have a good answer and in his shoes I am sure I would have asked the same question. What is wrong with this picture??
Anyhow, to round out this post and perhaps become a catalyst for more around this, I recognize I am becoming more absorbed by the social issues my photography has helped me explore than the photography itself. I encountered another question last year at a conference, “Is it enough as a photographer to only share your pictures and create awareness?”. My voice says no, being an observer is only the starting point.