How You Can Change the World Through Photography

Dear friend,

As a word of encouragement: realize that your photos have the power to change the world, for the better!

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First of all, realize that your photography is visual sociology. You’re using the camera as your research tool to better understand the world, and then present how you perceive the world to others. With your camera (like Lewis Hine) you will uncover injustice in the world, but also show people what they should appreciate!

With photography, the practical ways you can change the world are this:

  1. You make beautiful photos, which spark joy in the hearts and minds of your viewer.
  2. You make photos which uncover injustice, which can do several things– either make them appreciate their own life more (think of the Dr. Seuss book, ‘How lucky you are!’), or perhaps spark the viewer to actually help out injustice in the world (by donating money, or donating their time to a certain cause).

COMPASSION

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I also think photography can change the world by evoking more compassion in the heart of the viewer.

Compassion is to feel the pain of someone else (com: with // passion: pain). For example, the ‘passion of the christ’ was Jesus dying on the cross.

I think the world would be a much better place if we could feel more compassion for others, and to feel the same pain that others are feeling. Why? This helps us put ourselves in the shoes of others, and we can treat others how we would like to be treated (golden rule of ethics) — or perhaps NOT treat others how we don’t like to be treated (the silver rule of ethics).

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INJUSTICE

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The world is kind of a fucked up place sometimes; cops killing innocent kids (and getting away with it), rape, murder, human slavery (currently branded as ‘human trafficking’, which I think dilutes the atrocity of modern-day human slavery), etc. But with our camera, we have the power to uncover injustice in the world.

For example, Lewis Hine was a sociologist-teacher turned photographer, who was horrified by the exploitation of children workers. He realized that people trusted the camera/picture more than mere words; thus, he put his life on the line to document these atrocities. He was threatened with death by politicians, corporations, etc. And his photos had a HUGE impact in educating the public about the atrocities of child labor, and his photos made a big impact in creating laws to outlaw child labor.


Fostering more open-mindedness to others

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One of the best experiences I had going to Provincetown for a Magnum workshop with David Alan Harvey and Constantine Manos was this: being in a town with a large gay, lesbian, LGBTQ, transgender/cross-dressing population, and opening up my eyes and hearts to them!

Too often we are afraid of others who are different from us. We are essentially scared of their ‘differentness’– something we have probably been socially programmed by our parents/society/news/media.

Another good thing, I did my first workshop in Beirut, Lebanon— and have also attended Gulf Photo Plus several times in Dubai. Americans are so afraid of middle-easterners, and the media has branded Islam as a religion of terrorism.

It’s pretty fucked up; but the good thing was for me to go to these places– I found out that as humans; we are more similar than dissimilar! We all love our families, we care for meaningful social relationships, we all laugh, cry, feel pain and sorrow, like food, drink, and to dance, sing, and express joy and gratitude in life. Photography has the power to help us open our own minds about foreign cultures (especially if we travel), but also when you show photos of ‘other’ people in a loving way; your photos will foster more open-mindedness in the eyes of your viewer!


Change yourself

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Ultimately, I think the real purpose of photography (as a philosophical tool) is to change ourselves.

We should use the camera as a tool of self-analysis. Like the ancient saying goes — true wisdom is knowing yourself.

Use photography as a tool of self-exploration; to better understand how you see the world. Your prejudices, biases, and also what you love and care about.

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And convey that love, feeling of gratitude and joy with others.

SMILE,
ERIC

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Photography Philosophy

Cindy with framed hands. Saigon, 2017

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