Photography as Social Justice
Photography has been a vehicle for social justice since its invention in the 19th century. In particular, documentary photography can deepen our awareness of social and economic inequality. During the month of May, Toronto celebrates the Scotiabank Contact Photography Festival. Toronto Public Library has many excellent resources for those interested in the broader topic of photography, as well as its role in advancing human rights.
"Freedom Now! showcases photographs rarely seen in the mainstream media, which depict the power wielded by black men, women and children in remaking US society through their activism."
The Dust Bowl Through the Lens: How Photography Revealed and Helped Remedy a National Disaster: 'The Dust Bowl was a time of hardship and environmental and economic disaster. FDR's army of photographers took to the roads to document this national crisis. Their pictures spoke a thousand words, and a new form of storytelling — photojournalism — was born."
Reza War + Peace: A Photographer's Journey: "Reza trains his lens not just on war and conflict, but also on friendship and loyalty, family life and love. The book follows Reza's photographic career and is narrated in his own words, focusing our attention on the costs of war and the human condition."
African Photographer J.A. Green: Reimagining the Indigenous and the Colonial: "J. A. Green (1873-1905) was one of the most prolific and accomplished indigenous photographers to be active in West Africa. This beautiful book celebrates Green's photographs and opens a new chapter in the early photographic history of Africa. Soon after photography reached the west coast of Africa in the 1840s, the technology and the resultant images were disseminated widely, appealing to African elites, European residents, and travelers to the region."
Northern Exposures: Photographing and Filming the Canadian North, 1920-45:
"To many, the North is a familiar but inaccessible place. Yet images of the region are within easy reach, in magazine racks, on our coffee tables, and on television, computer, and movie screens. In Northern Exposures, Peter Geller uncovers the history behind these popular conceptions of the Canadian North."
"Shelley Niro is widely known for her ability to explode myths, transgress boundaries and embody the ethos of her matriarchal culture in a wide variety of mediums including photography, installation, film and painting. Niro creates photographic series that emphasize the medium's inherent capacity for narrative and representation. She pushes the limits of photography by incorporating Mohawk imagery, re-appropriating traditional stories such as Skywoman and The Peacemaker, and by focusing on contemporary subjects with wit, irony and campy humour."
Celebration of Resistance: Ontario's Days of Action:
"Since 1996, in more than a dozen cities, labour and community groups have organised some of the largest and most creative demonstrations in recent Canadian history. The Days of Action have been a vital force to dislodge the Tory government of Mike Harris, and its "common-sense revolution." With photographs from all the events, this book celebrates the achievement of large-scale, peaceful, and meaningful protest. Vincenzo Pietropaolo has been documenting social change movements in Canada for years and his keen professional eye brings to this book a wonderful sense of life and humour."
"Sunil Gupta's photographs have done much to raise awareness about —
and overcome the taboos of —
homosexual life throughout the modern world."
Documentaries on DVD
Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning:
"Profiles American photographer Dorothea Lange, who came to the the attention of the world with her photographs documenting the Great Depression, and achieved lasting fame in the post-War years."
The Spectre of Hope:
"Sebastiao Salgado joins John Berger to pore over Salgado's collection 'Migrations'. Six years and 43 countries in the making, the author's collection 'Migrations' contains photographs of people pushed from their homes and traditions to cities and their margins, slums and streets and refugee camps."
Reza Shooting Back:
"Profiles photojournalist Reza Deghati, exiled from his native Iran, best known for his work exploring the plight of civilian victims of war.
As well, Toronto Reference Library Arts Department is sponsoring a display of photographs by photographer Allen Cullen:
"Photographer and disability activist Allan Cullen turns his eye and ours to the intersectionality of homelessness, poverty and disability. Many of the subjects in these moving photographs begin their downward journey due to mental or physical health problems or a tragic accident. Cullen's photography documents current urban social issues and is reflective of his own lived experience and reality." Toronto Reference Library, Arts Dept., 5th Floor. Until May 31st.
Also of interest, "in this Youtube video, photographer and Moving Walls exhibition co-curator Susan Meiselas
discusses documentary photography's potential to connect and move audiences by "expanding the circle of knowledge" about human rights and social justice issues. The video also features a variety of work by photographers supported by the Open Society Institute Documentary Photography Project. The project funds photographers who go beyond documentation, using images to foster civic engagement, organizing, advocacy, outreach, public awareness education, and media attention."