FiftyCrows Blog

Social Change Photography

affect/effect: Photographs That Create Change – Karen Kasmauski: Nurse – A World of Care

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Consider the metaphor of a grain of sand: one grain in a thousand is insignificant, while it can also be unique in shaping everything that it touches. Now apply this idea to photography. Countless photographic images give us a consciousness about what is going on in the world, but our lives are awash with powerful images, most of which fall away by day’s end. A sub-clause to the metaphor: even if that one image (grain of sand) does produce an emotional response, it is rare the feeling that the image elicited will inspire action.

But what happens when one grain of sand (image) gets stuck in your eye so persistently that you must make a move to change the way you feel? The affect/effect: Photographs That Create Change series will feature stories from photographers and friends of photography that share how one image affected an individual to make a profound effect in the world.

Nurse_CoverThe work of Karen Kasmauski is the core of social change photography. Known as the “unofficial” global health photographer for National Geographic, Kasmauski has contributed 26 important stories to the publication on AIDS/HIV, malaria, malnutrition, immunization, reproductive health, overpopulation, and obesity. In her travels and work around the world she has also focused on the value of cultural differences and the role that women play in representing half the population. Most recently, Kasmauski has highlighted the essential work of nurses who provide the majority of human support in the world’s health care system. Her book, Nurse: A World of Care offers images of nurses caring for people in every stage of life. She illuminates how nurses are powerful leaders in many cultures as their care for humans impacts society, the economy, and the environment.

Seeing that Karen Kasmauski is a dynamic force in the world of social change photography, I asked her if she had a story to contribute to the affect/effect: Photographs That Create Change series. Her bottom line response was that she did not believe that one image could create change. Karen believes that it takes all the encompassing elements to catalyze change, from the photographer and the people in the photographs, to the corporate funders and the media sources that distribute the stories and images, to the people that view the images to understand the world around them.

In her venture to honor the nurses of the world, she collaborated with a journalist to gather detailed stories about what they do. In her images, she captures the action and emotion of the nurse and patient in a way that does not over dramatize the situation but conveys a tangible reality. While photographer and non-photographer alike can understand the powerful message of her beautiful yet poignant images, it is the universal nurse who is both affected and effected by these images. Through Karen’s photographs we can gain compassion and respect for the nursing profession and offer conscious support to the people that contribute to our health, our community, our environment, and our economy.

2007-1-3-Hospice Nurse-4_ 00182006-12-22-Ri-Man-1-0177

Here, one nurse offers her thanks to Karen and her visual homage to nurses:

“Being a nurse and being out in the community, [your book] spoke to my heart in an intense, dramatic way. It reminds me of how proud I am to be a part of this profession.

There are two things I truly want to say to you specifically. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this endeavor. It was an honor and a privilege to work with you on this project. Although you told me what the project was, it was difficult for me to grasp just how important and big it was. Secondly, seeing those other nurses from other parts of the world – doing what we do – wherever we are – it is undeniably clear that the common goal is the same….to care carefully for our patients, to be creative in that care when we don’t have everything we need, to be diligent in that care regardless of the depth of it, to be courageous in that care when others can’t (or don’t or won’t) be but most of all it is a reminder of our responsibility to treat people with the utmost dignity, to care for them well and to love them well.”

Vallerie Martin
Community Hospice of Washington, DC

2007-10-30-Kiambiu A---00762006-03_Passage_Jamaica-07_150

Other links to Karen Kasmauski:

National Press Photographers Association article: Having an Impact

NPPA: Best of Photojournalism 2009 Honorable Mention Non-Traditional Photojournalism Publishing

Written by Zara Katz

October 1, 2009 at 10:13 am

One Response

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  1. We respect and embrace this all.. the nurses… all over their world with shared mission. This allows us to see where we cannot be with them and be connected. Thank you for the blog. Vallerie Martin is our precious friend and nurse with Community Hospice in dc. as shown here in her quote. All nurses should write a journal and this is like one for others to see. God bless.. the Knolls in Oklahoma City , Okla..

    Jerry and Dianne Knoll

    October 1, 2009 at 5:01 pm

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