Photography for Good: PhotoPhilanthropy, Nuru Project, Critical Exposure

 

Highlights from the 2011 Benevolent Media Festival: On Sunday, November 6, Benevolent Media hosted a slideshow and panel discussion with three nonprofit leaders working to inspire social change through photography.

Ernst Fischer believed that “art must show the world as changeable. And help to change it.”

The panelists of the Benevolent Media Festival's Photography for Good event, organized by volunteer Aaron Minnick, took this concept and showcased innovative ways to support both nonprofits and social change through photography. Minnick, the host and curator, adorned the walls of Gold Leaf Studios in Chinatown with some of his own photography, inspired by nature, creating a gallery-like atmosphere as a backdrop to the three presentations and panel discussion by Nancy Farese, JB Reed and Emma Scott.

In front of a packed room of about 45 people, the first two presentations centered on supporting a number of nonprofit organizations. Nancy Farese, founder and executive director of PhotoPhilanthropy.org, promotes connections between photographers and nonprofit organizations. "Nonprofits always need new and fresh images to tell their story," she said. Her organization helps to disseminate and promote photographers' work, which helps to raise awareness about the targeted issue or nonprofit. The website serves as a meeting place where photographers and organizations can come together over projects concerning issues like the arts, human and animal rights, the environment and sustainability. The organization also hosts the annual PhotoPhilanthropy Activist Award, which identifies outstanding work done by photographers in collaboration with nonprofit organizations worldwide and awards prizes ranging from $2,000-$15,000. This year, PhotoPhilanthropy will be honoring professional, amateur, and student photographers and community-based organizations. This year's deadline for professionals and amateurs is November 20; and the student deadline is December 1. Submit your photographs here.

JB Reed, co-founder and CEO of Nuru Project, presented a social enterprise model that benefits nonprofits through the sales of photographic prints. Speaking on behalf of his fellow panelists, Reed said, "We're not just creating media, but we're creating media with a purpose." The proceeds are split three ways to cover some of Nuru Project's operational costs, to support the photographers, and to support one of five specific organizations of the buyer's choosing, including Acumen Fund and Malaria No More. The images in the collection "highlight the struggle of daily life," Reed said, emphasizing the importance of conveying "human dignity." For a moderate sum of money, everyone can own a breathtaking piece of artwork, along with the photographer's handwritten description of the photo, to "breathe life into the physical object," Reed said. Afterall, "that's what people want to connect with - it's an attempt to mimic community interaction," he added.  The prints are available for purchase through NuruProject.org.

The work of Washington, D.C.-based Critical Exposure narrows the scope of photography's benefits to youth empowerment, school reform and social justice. AmeriCorps VISTA member Emma Scott explained how Critical Exposure uses photography as a way for underprivileged youth to gain a voice by studying the medium. Donations through the website go towards obtaining venues to display the students' work, purchasing multimedia equipment, publishing photobooks and providing other operational and creative support. The images that the youth create allow their stories to be told and open up a dialogue on how to affect positive change in their communities and the world. Photographs from one project convinced the community and school officials to improve the library at The Washington Metropolitan High School. As a result of working with Critical Exposure, Scott herself has changed the way she looks through her own camera lens. "I can never take just a nice picture," she said. "I always want it to be saying something and making a change."

While they are different, each of the three approaches demonstrate a unique way to offset strife with art. The images provided by all presenters both uplift and inform. As JB Reed put it, “images move from being a photo to a bridge that takes you out of your own community, country, and personal affiliations.”

Help build that bridge by supporting each of the organizations. Start by visiting them online: