Through Our Own Eyes
In a conversation with Josh Meltzer, he had this to say about his award-winning work with American Hands Aiding Latin American Youth (AHALA) and A Collective for the Rights of Children (CODENI), “I began working with these organizations in 2007 while shooting a story for a paper where I worked in Virginia, where AHALA is based. That week-long project led to a year-long documentary project as a Fulbright Scholar in 2008-2009 covering the families and communities that already receive assistance from CODENI and AHALA and those that the organization is trying to have a positive influence. Part of my work involved teaching an 8-month-long photo workshop for 18 children living and working off the streets. My personal work, and that of the children in the course, culminated with two large public gallery exhibitions and television profiles on the issue of indigenous internal migration in Mexico. Government representatives attended the exhibitions and have been working with CODENI to resolve some of these problems that affect many poorer migrant families in the city including health, education and employment.”
Josh’s work received PhotoPhilanthropy’s Grand Prize for Professional Photographers in 2010 and has continued to positively impact communities in Guadalajara, Mexico and elsewhere. By using his work via multiple mediums, the organizations have been able to extend their reach. Josh’s images have sparked a larger conversation about internal migration within a country, especially Mexico. It’s important to keep this conversation going and to use work like Josh’s to inspire and motivate us into action.
Working with Bhopal
Bhopal is not yet at peace. Twenty-five years after the Union Carbide (UC) industrial disaster, thousands of people, especially children, are still embarked on a journey of sufferance and injustice that began on the night of December the 3rd, 1984. Half a million people were exposed to the 42 tonnes of methyl isocyanate (MIC) released from the plant, while all of the safety systems failed to work due to poor maintenance.
Thousands died in its wake.
The Bhopal Medial Appeal was created to help the victims of the tragedy and counts thousands of patients. It is behind the last open federal action pending before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. It seeks damages for injury, medical monitoring and for the clean-up of water supplies.
Alex Masi, documentary photographer and multimedia journalist, sought to tell the story of the affected communities in Bhopal and how The Bhopal Medical Appeal works to help them. Alex’s powerful images were featured in the New York Times Lens blog, TIME Photos and several blogs. The visual story of The Bhopal Medical Appeal was awarded a Getty Grant for Good in 2011 after winning the 2011 Focus for Humanity NGO Assignment Fellowship.
Alex’s work now has a further reach and is bringing proper attention to the issue at hand. The Bhopal Medical Appeal has worked relentlessly for the people of Bhopal since 1994. We believe that Alex’s work will continue to bring positive attention to the organization and show the world the persistence of the Bhopal community.
Helping Immigrant Youth Find Their Voices
Finding Voice is an innovative literacy and visual arts program dedicated to helping refugee and immigrant youth in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at Catalina Magnet High School develop their literacy and second language skills by photographing, writing, and speaking out about critical social issues in their lives and communities. Since 2007, Finding Voice has served over 400 refugee and immigrant youth.
Founders Julie Kasper and Josh Schachter have worked with students from myriad countries to help them examine through words and photographs where they came from, where they live now, and where they want to go in the future.
The impact on the students has been profound. Course evaluations show they improve literacy skills, critical thinking and self‐confidence. Students who began the project speaking little or no English with strangers finished the year with poise, confidence, and a desire to speak with others about their lives. As one student said, “I like the project because I talk about what is inside me. I hope we will create change in education, immigration and racism. I hope our movies will go around the whole world. If they ask me to do this project again I will do it because it is a big challenge to improve yourself.”
Their work has been exhibited in several Tucson & Arizona galleries, the AZ International Film Festival, and in 22 area bus stops for a year. Due to terrific response by the community and media, Julie and Josh worked with the offices of Senator John McCain, Congressman Raul Grijalva and former City Councilmember Nina Trasoff to expand the impact of the work through an exhibit at the U.S. Senate in Washington, DC. While in DC, six Finding Voice students presented their photographs, stories and immigration policy reform recommendations at a Congressional briefing in the House of Representatives.
Raising Awareness on Cluster Munitions
Stuart Freedman and Handicap International, an international organization specializing in disability, had worked together twice in Sierra Leone before he took this assignment in Lebanon. Stuart’s photographs documented the Battle Area Clearance project and its volunteers as they worked to remove unexploded cluster munitions left from the Israeli-Lebanon War in 2006.
Stuart’s work was eventually published as a high quality photographic imprint (2000 copies) jointly funded by Handicap International and the Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission (ECHO). The books were given to political leaders, diplomats and media representatives during the so-called “Oslo Diplomatic Process,” a series of international disarmament conferences that lead to the signature of the international convention banning cluster munitions, in Oslo, on December 3, 2008.
Additionally, pictures from the book have been widely used in Handicap International documentation, magazines and on the association’s websites. Large banners showing a selection of pictures have been used every year since 2007 for the organization’s “Pyramid of Shoes,” an annual event to raise awareness on cluster munitions and antipersonnel landmines; as well as in Paris in the piazza of the Centre Pompidou (2007) and Bastille Square (2008-2010) in addition to Lyon in Bellecour Square (2007-2010). An image was also used as the cover of the launch of Human Rights Watch’s report Flooding South Lebanon – Israel’s Use of Cluster Munitions in Lebanon.
Place des Nations in Geneva (Switzerland), in front of the UN Headquarters
Conference on Conventional Weapons, Angers (France)
Conference on Humanitarian Demining, French Cultural Centre of Amman (Jordan)
Meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Convention, Vienna (Austria)
International Conference on Cluster Munitions, Platinium Hotel in Tyre (south Lebanon)
Valpr Conference Centre, Lyon (France)
Putting a Human Face on the Coral Triangle
The “coral triangle,” an area of nearly 2.3 million square miles of ocean across all, or parts of, the seas of six countries in the Indo-Pacific, is currently only really known to politicians, marine biologists and industry professionals. James’ role is to put a human face on it and to show the people whose lives are intricately tied to the oceans and depend directly on its continued abundance. James chose to work with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as they understand the humanitarian and cultural side of conservation.
James began the story living with the Bajau Laut, a group of sea nomads who took him in, taught him to speak Indonesian and how to free dive to fifty feet on a single breath of air in order to photograph them hunting with handmade spear guns. The story will continue as the WWF has just pledged to give him a very considerable budget in order to set up a communications department with the sole purpose of continuing to get indigenous voices from the coral triangle into mainstream media and conservation forums. James says it has been great working with a large organization like the WWF as they have very knowledgeable people on board. Going forward, they have the capacity to provide the financial and logistical support that is necessary for a project of this scale.