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Can Your Photography Change The World?

Copyright Lord Ferguson Can photography change the world?  Whoa now, that’s a very big question with huge room for interpretation, so let’s narrow it down a bit.

Can your photography bring about a positive change for humanity’s sake?  If so, would you care and how would you go about it?  And just how much impact would you need to make you feel the outcome is worth effort?

We’ve had some great posts on DPS recently, including Give to Receive – 5 ways to use your talents to help others and 5 Ways to Use Your Gifts and Reach Your Community, but the subject of ‘can these activities change the world’ has not been brought up.

These questions have been bouncing around in my head for the better part of five years without a clear answer or a way to prove them true or false.  Some people, when given a skill, come around to finding ways to use that skill for the good of others.  Some choose to use their skill only for personal gain.  But I believe the majority of us try to find a middle ground.  We try to find a way to ‘give back’, ‘pay it forward’ or any number of slogans pointing to a philanthropic idea that we can help by applying our gift and still live our ‘normal’ lives.

Some personal backstory on why I ask, “Can Your(My) Photography Change The World?” now (my personal project):  For me, I’ve found my way to a self created project that I believe can use my skill as a photographer to bring about cultural awareness and curiosity in those young and old in my local community.  Known as the People, Places and Patterns Project (http://pppproject.com), I endeavor to travel to various countries, including Nepal, Tanzania, Spain, Kenya and Morocco, gathering photographs, video and cultural tales to bring back & share with over 50 schools, 10 libraries and 20 local community groups in the USA. I’ll be starting in the Greater Puget Sound region of Washington State and slowly expanding out from here, including shows in Utah, Oregon and California.

I have no corporate backing and no directive from any group to go forth and change the world.  And I don’t honestly know if what I’ll be doing will actually change the world.  I have doubts that all this time invested will be for naught.  While at other times I can see clearly how using photography, especially on trips I am already undertaking for personal reasons, can transform travel into a vehicle for better global understanding.

There are a number of other great sites on the internet for those looking to volunteer their talent, such as Photo Philanthropy (http://photophilanthropy.org/) and Help Portrait (http://www.help-portrait.com/).  Will volunteering for any of these organizations change the world?

I’m inclined to believe yes, yes it can.  I firmly believe that photography can bring about a better understanding of the world inside and outside our borders.  And from what I’ve seen in the short time I’ve been on this planet, when people are exposed to a wider view of the world around them, their interaction with that world changes, typically for the better.  I also believe photography can leave a lasting impact on those who receive it, as in Help Portrait’s work.

Those are the conclusions I’ve come to when asking myself, “Can my photography change the world?”  I’ve crafted a project I am passionate about and I feel will make an impact on a large number of folks close to where I live.  It may not be the flashiest or absolute wisest use of my resources, but it is something I can do to use photography to help improve the lives of others.

Now I’m very interested to hear your take on the matter. In the comment section below let me know if you feel your photography can change the world.  I’m genuinely interested to hear dissenting views from mine as well. Feel free to share any special projects you may be undertaking leveraging the power of the photograph to make a positive impact.

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Peter West Carey
Peter West Carey

leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics – A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

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