In my first Guest-Post on Der Greif, I argued that many photographic projects serve as historical documents or provide thought-provoking interpretations of social problems, yet fail to achieve any tangible results in making the world a better place. For the next five days, we will look at projects that, in my opinion, do make a difference.
The most obvious way to produce work that has impact on a community is to involve its members in the creative process. There are countless examples of collaborative projects that give voice to people, who would usually appear as subject, not authors of photographic work, be they poor, homeless, disabled or marginalised in any other way.
One of my favourite examples of an initiative that involves a broad range of people from different corners of the world and every walk of life is called Inside Out. A “global participatory project with the potential to change the world”.
Initiated in March 2011 by JR after the French artist received TED prize, as of today, the project has spread over 124 countries and has involved 1,164 taking 234,382 portraits, inspiring action on topics ranging from racial discrimination to climate change. The global open platform »gives everyone the opportunity to share their portrait and make a statement for what they stand for« and »transform messages of personal identity into works of public art«.
I find Inside Out especially interesting, since the positive impact spreads far beyond the ‘therapeutic’ effect that is often a measure of success for participatory projects. Inside Out has addressed a broad range of socio-political issues, with portraits appearing on the roofs of a slum and the Pantheon in Paris, from equator to the North Pole, inspiring members of each community to take action and have their voices heard.
To fully understand the project, I highly recommend watching an hour-long documentary film about it. The story of JR’s collaboration with a group of activists to replace the posters of the former political leaders with portraits of the people of Tunisia after the Arab Spring uprising is incredibly powerful (don’t tell anyone, but it totally brought me to tears!). Regardless of success of each individual campaign, JR’s work starts important dialogues in which voices from every part of the society are heard.
Know any interesting photographic projects that had impact on a community by involving its members into the creative process? Please share!
Read the next article in the series here.