FiftyCrows Blog

Social Change Photography

Affect/Effect: Photographs That Create Change – Phil Borges, A child in a far away photograph is given an education

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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.

PHIL BORGES

In 2007, FiftyCrows presented an exhibition called Women Empowered, a photography project by Phil Borges, who combined images and stories of courageous women from developing countries. Rooted in his astonishment for the high level of gender discrimination around the world, he wanted to offer examples of women “whose bravery and determination allowed them to move from victim to leader, and speak to the universal themes of courage, empowerment and human rights.”

Another incredible project from Phil, entitled Enduring Spirit was created in conjunction with Amnesty International’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Once again, each of his images was accompanied by a short story about the person and what they do in their daily lives. One of Phil’s images, of a six-year-old girl in Ethiopia struck a man named George so deeply that he was compelled to extend his help from around the world. Yet another moving example of how photography can create change in the world through an individual image.

Buzayan story is as follows: She is six-years-old and lives with her mother and three older sisters in a small Ethiopian village. Her father took a job as a policeman in a neighboring town and later abandoned the family for another woman. Even though it is very expensive for her, Buzayan’s mother is committed to keeping all the children in school. When I asked Buzayan about kindergarten, she squealed with delight and started jumping up and down.

When George saw the image of Buzayan in the book titled “Enduring Spirit” he was so moved by the image of Buzayan that he felt he wanted to help her. He contacted us for information on how to reach her but we were only able to give him the name of the village she lived in. George’s health did not allow him to travel but he had a friend who was visiting Ethiopia and was willing to try to find Buzayan. The effort was successful. George was able to make arrangements to help cover the cost of Buzayans education which he did for several years.

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Written by Zara Katz

January 28, 2010 at 5:01 pm

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