Turning Subjects Into Photographers

There’s a fascinating report by Saeed Taji Farouky on the BBC about fourteen children — seven Israeli, seven Palestinian, all had lost relatives in the conflict — who have been given digital cameras to document their lives.photovoice.jpg

The project, called “Side By Side” was organized by PhotoVoice, a UK-based charity which aims to “bring about positive change for marginalized communities through providing them with photographic training.” The children in the program, which was also run by The Parents Circle – The Families Forum, a Jerusalem-based NGO, have been taking photos for eight months, and received five workshops lasting up to three days each.

According to PhotoVoice’s website, the project’s objectives include enabling the participants to:

● document their daily lives, hopes and dreams through using digital cameras;
● work through grief or anger over losing loved ones through expressing themselves through photography and writing;
● use photography as a basis for personal dialogue and understanding between the young people at the Summer camps;
● impart the young people with a group activity which will give them confidence, a voice and will promote cross-cultural bonds and friendships.

Clearly, anything that makes Israelis and Palestinians work together instead of trying to kill each other is a good thing. Meeting in person might help to break down stereotypes as well as teach new skills and aid communication. The ability of the participants to log into the project’s website, upload images, comment on each other’s pictures and chat about them can only help further.

This isn’t the first time that people who are usually in front of the lens have been given an opportunity to stand behind the camera though. In an earlier post, we talked to Tory Read, who had taught photography to the residents of Five Points in Denver, a poor neighborhood with a worse image. That project went some way towards helping the residents change the way that outsiders saw their community — and the way they felt about it too.

These sorts of projects present a challenge to the participants, who have to learn how to use their cameras and cope with what they learn about themselves and the “other” too. But they also pose a challenge for professional photographers who have to ask themselves what they can bring to a subject’s story that the subject couldn’t bring themselves… if they just had the right equipment.

[tags] photovoice [/tags]

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