inspiring actionAn inspiring action is something one thinks of when seeing a good deed done. For some photojournalists, their profession is intended to do just that. In taking thought-provoking, sometimes hard to look at, photos of a war-ravaged country or a starving child, photojournalists are inspiring action through their work for the betterment of the people in the photos.

The Inspiring Actions of Photo Journalists

Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor by author Thomas A. Nazario is a book that features photography by Pulitzer Prize-winner Renee Byer. The photographs capture the lives and struggles of people from 10 different countries living in poverty on less than a dollar a day. Byer worked as a photojournalist for the Sacramento Bee for many years before becoming a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer.

Inspired by the reaction of people viewing her photos for Living on a Dollar a Day before the book and exhibit were published, Byer created the Youbridge-it app. The app allows viewers of her photographs to donate to specific poverty-related causes as soon as they see the people in the photos and are inspired to help.

For Example, Intrahealth International is one of the foundations that viewers can donate to specifically through the Youbridge-it app. This organization provides treatment for women with obstetric fistula in Mali, which accounts for six percent of all maternal deaths every year and is preventable. With the Youbridge-it app, people can simply pull up the app at the exhibit or when looking through the book and donate.

Aside from helping women across the globe with her photography, Byer is “…asking people to imagine that reality as their reality.” Byer believes people are desensitized to photographs of people suffering, another reason why the app is so important and effective.

Her belief in the power of photography has served as a catalyst for change. It happens in real time, as people feel empathy while viewing the pictures; they can donate immediately on the app. Connections like these are essential to inspiring action that creates change by means of photojournalism.

The Dangers and Sacrifices of Photo Journalists

Not only are photojournalists opening doors to the ills of the world but they also often risk their lives in taking these photos. Chief photographer for Agence France-Presse in Kabul Shah Marai was killed in a suicide bombing in April of this year on the job. Marai had been documenting the war and lives devastated by corrupt government rule in Afghanistan since 1998. Over the course of 20 years, 18,000 photos taken by Marai had been published, educating the world on the horrors and realities of people living in war-ravaged Afghanistan.

In countries where media is controlled by corrupt governments, photojournalism speaks truths that inspire those globally to step in. Though Marai and other photojournalists are not necessarily directly linked to any charity organizations, their photos are inspiring action among those that are more fortunate.

Neither charity organizations nor the media would be quite as effective without the photographs of the truth to go along with them. As Byer said, putting oneself in a suffering person’s shoes inspires empathy, and that empathy is what creates change.

There are millions of suffering people in the world, and photojournalists are connecting the gap between us and them. The continued innovation of apps like Youbridge-it and the bravery of the photojournalists behind such projects will help people living in poverty around the world by inspiring action from the more fortunate.

Hope Kelly
Photo: Flickr

Lynsey Addario
With cameras and bravery as their primary tools, photojournalists risk their lives to raise awareness about global suffering, far removed from the headquarters of organizations that award them for their efforts.

Lynsey Addario, a Pulitzer Prize-winning American photojournalist, has dedicated her life to covering conflict, war, and poverty around the world.

Featured in The National Geographic Society’s “Women of Vision” exhibition, Addario is one of 11 female photographers that have been selected to showcase the female version of “National Geographic storytelling.”

Addario has been kidnapped on two separate occasions whilst covering war-torn places – the first of which was in Iraq in 2004, and the second in Libya in 2011.

According to an article co-written by Addario, she and three male journalists were kidnapped in 2011. Addario’s first comment to her colleagues during the ambush that initiated their six-day long ordeal was, “God, I just don’t want to be raped.”

Gender did not stop the soldiers from beating Addario.

These experiences and acknowledgement of gender vulnerability are evident in the photographic collections available on Addario’s website. They range from documenting breast cancer in Uganda, to rape in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the refugees of Syria.

Each photograph is captioned with the names and stories of each subject, highlighting humanity amongst chaos in poverty and conflict-ravaged locations.

Within the patriarchal societies in which she has worked, Addario believes her gender has allowed her access to places and people that her male counterparts would be denied.

The motivation that drives Addario’s work is the importance of telling these stories of suffering to the American public, as well as the daily life that continues against the backdrop of conflict.

With a similar objective, Hazel Thompson, an award-winning British photojournalist, immersed herself in the red-light district of Mumbai for 11 years to produce “Taken.”

“Taken” is an e-book and photo documentary that Thompson hopes will address what she describes as an “emergency” on the streets of India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

By capturing the daily impact of sex-trafficking on young women and children, Thompson has created “a body of evidence” that cannot be denied or ignored by policy makers who, according to Thompson, have historically taken an apathetic approach to the problem.

“Taken” is also an educational opportunity and a prevention tool that Thompson is working to share with children living in poor villages, who are often targeted by sex-traffickers.

The profits from the project are donated to the Taken Campaign for Bombay Teen Challenge, an organization dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of the victims of Mumbai’s sex industry.

“Women of Vision” can be seen at The National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C. October 10, 2013 – March 9, 2014.

The exhibition will go on to be featured at various venues across the U.S. until 2017.

“Taken” by Hazel Thompson is available on ibooks.

– Zoë Dean

Sources: PBS, New York Times, Lynsey Addario, Women News Network, Hazel Thompson
Photo: MacArthur Foundation

American directors Mo Scarpelli and Alexandria Bombach are working on a new documentary about photojournalism in Afghanistan called Frame by Frame. The directors joined Afghan war photographer and Pulitzer Prize winner, Massoud Hossaini, in his home country to document the rise of journalism in a place where taking a photo was once a crime.

A new culture of Afghan reporters and photojournalists has been growing ever since the ban on photography was overturned just over a decade ago. The documentary features the stories of four photographers, including Farzana Wahidy, whose work is uncommon for her gender in Afghanistan.

These four photojournalists and more have made great strides in the documentation of life in Afghanistan, the war, and the issues that are important to them. The necessity of journalism from the source is “to build democracy and independence, to check and limit those in power, to drive social and political change,” according to filmmaker Mo Scarpelli.

Local reporters have access to places and people which rarely welcome international reporters. Freedom of the press has improved since the people have gained the right to take photos and share the realities of day-to-day life with the world, but some are concerned about the future of such freedoms. With international forces leaving the country over the next year, international press will also be exiting. Defense, governance, and journalism will all be exclusively in the hands of the Afghan people, who face the threat of the Taliban reverting the country back to the time when snapping a photo was a crime.

The project was started in 2012, which was funded completely by the filmmakers themselves, one of whom drained her bank account entirely and even sold her car to make it all the way to Afghanistan. Frame by Frame is unfinished as of now, and the directors are relying on donations through Kickstarter to raise the funds needed to send them back to Afghanistan to fill-out footage for the film. Backers who want to see the film to completion have until August 28th to make a a pledge.

– Jennifer Bills

Sources: Humanosphere, Kickstarter, Frame by Frame
Photo: Boston