Voting rights, climate change, healthcare, and police brutality — these are just a few of the social justice issues that have come to the fore in recent years. As storytellers, photographers play an integral role in using their work to advocate on behalf of larger communities faced with the dire consequences of systemic oppression. The vast explosion of digital technology to create and distribute images in record time has transformed the ways in which we experience the world. But lasting change is rooted in more than mere impressions; it comes about through carefully considered strategies to create meaningful participation and engagement with the community.
In the new webinar, “Storytelling For Impact: Developing community-focused projects for social change” (April 29–May 5), Magnum Photos presents a series of four panel conversations with industry experts that offer a broad array of approaches to conceptualizing, developing, executing, and evaluating visual storytelling for advocacy and education for sustainable community engagement. Moderator Holly Stuart Hughes, former editor in chief of industry pillar Photo District News, brings together speakers including Magnum photographers Colby Deal, Jim Goldberg, and Rafal Milach along with arts advocates, community leaders, and grant-makers.
“As the editorial market has collapsed, photographers may not have access to the built in audience of a publication but that’s not always an obstacle,” Holly Hughes says. “For a committed photographer, sometimes the editorial assignment process isn’t the best way to effect change. I have seen photographers work in ingenious ways to get their work in front of an audience. Elevating an issue requires multiple perspectives.”
Practical Advice for Advancing Social Change
Since it’s inception, Magnum Photos members have dedicated themselves to using photography as a tool for social change. While Bruce Davidson, Danny Lyon, Eve Arnold and Leonard Freed documented the Civil Rights Movement, Susan Meislas recorded the cycle of domestic violence that leaves so many scarred and Gilles Peress organized “Here is New York” in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11.
Magnum photographer Jim Goldberg has long used his work to advocate for social change. “With Raised by Wolves and Rich and Poor, Jim was doing collaborative work with his subjects before the term ‘social practice’ was even coined,” Hughes says. “Jim has been very thoughtful about making the work available through non-profits serving unhoused and at risk teens as well as reaching parents and engaging them.”
On May 5, Goldberg will be in conversation with Colby Deal, whose wheatpasting community project Houston’s Third Ward pays homage to the people who built this historic neighborhood, and are now faced with the threat of gentrification. Together they will discuss strategies for outreach, assessing impact and effectiveness, and how to meet the needs of partners on every level of the project.
“There’s no handbook of best practices because it varies depending on the audience you want to reach, the needs of the community you’re working with, and the public discourse you’re trying to foster,” Hughes adds. “We’re going to be presenting a broad sampler of case studies and offering inspirational, practical, and logistical advice.”
As a new decade unfolds, we fund ourselves surrounded by issues and concerns, driven to use our talents and resources to surmount the challenges at hand. “There’s so much need, there are so many issues and concerns,” Hughes says. “Who among us doesn’t want to be working to make life a little better in the face of so many problems?”
“Storytelling For Impact: Developing community-focused projects for social change” is organized by Magnum Photos, from April 29 to May 5, 2021.
This event is part of a series of online seminars entitled Book Publishing and Photographic Foundations and offered in a bundle by Magnum Learn, the educational department of Magnum Photos. More information here.