Participant Photography as social justice – The House is Small but The Welcome is Big
With Americans attention focused on the effects of inflation, global warming and the presidential debates, how does a human problem, a social problem – that of poverty compounded by AIDS – garner the focus of Americans and our influence on global culture today? One answer is powerful participant photography.
“The House is Small but The Welcome is Big” a photography show co-created by one of Hollywood’s more influential producers, Dr. Neal Baer, and a non-profit called Venice Arts, launched this week and weekend in Denver at GALLERY M. Each photograph was taken, not by a paparazzi snap shooter but by orphaned children of Mozambique and women of Cape Town. Their daily struggle with AIDS and poverty is portrayed convincingly.
The P.O.V. of each photograph is that of the children and women behind the lens after “basic” training with amongst other’s, Jim Hubbard – a Pulitzer nominated photographer. What do they see that a Western observer does not? The expected sorrow, tragedy and dire conditions which they live – of course. But the playfulness, the hope and the memories which nurture, empower and extend their lives beyond the “ghettos and shantys” of Africa.
According to Baer and Venice Art’s director, Lynn Warshovsky, “…try to imagine living without electricity, running water, with the stigma of AIDS and then find a possible way out through a camera…” The impact is great. The question though is how to continue the influence of being able to communicate visually when basic needs like having electricity to power a digital camera remain the exception.
The expectation is that at $400 an image framed, sales to concerned and avid collectors will yield a lasting resource and allow Americans to contribute to efforts elsewhere. Initially the Maputo, Mozambique community will directly benefit from the show. The hope, according to Baer, is to extend the same project to other world communities needing their story told.
Pictured on the Wednesday evening gala are Law and Order’s Baer, GALLERY M owners Mason Hayutin and Myrna Hayutin, Venice Arts Warshovsky and Denver Mayor Hickenlooper.