Donald Trump may demonize refugees but it’s impossible to look at a suffering person and not feel compassion.
That’s why photography is so important and why the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies recently hosted a panel of photojournalists and an accompanying photo exhibit.
15 Stories of Hope, Change & Justice examined the impact of photojournalism and creative storytelling on policy.
But when we say policy, what really mean is people. Immigration is a policy; seeing a photo of a child saying goodbye to a deported father is heartbreaking reality.
After the photographers presented the work, a large part of the discussion centered around how to share their photos with the wider world. The set of people willing to go to JHU on a weeknight for a talk on social justice and photography is self-limiting. It was an audience sympathetic to the plight of the dispossessed.
But in an era when people can select their own reality, how do you break through the Fox News bubble? In his work, Salwan Georges depicts a view rarely seen on network news – the Arab community of Dearborn, Michigan. These are Americans who have given their children in service to this country but their stories are rarely told. Salwan had touching photos of imams at work, not just providing religious instruction, but visiting with their congregants and even arranging marriages, a portrayal of the Muslim faith that never reaches conservative media.
Bridging this gap requires reaching out. It means that photographers and advocates must invite not just the familiar universe of liberals but also other groups, such as churches and veterans. None could look at 15 Stories of Hope, Change & Justice and go away unmoved.
The Johns Hopkins photography panel was just the first of several to occur this year, leading up to Focus On the Story, a new photography festival, coming this summer.