I believe there is power in photography. When I document ordinary people doing ordinary things for the Roy Stryker photo project, I do it because I believe it has the power to change the world. Its goal is to “Introduce America to Americans” and show people in different parts of the country what we all look like, and how we all more resemble each other than look different. Maybe not today, it might take years for the project to find its audience, but when it does, it will be full of powerful images that showed we didn’t need to fear our neighbors, the “other side”, they weren’t our enemies, we didn’t need to stand opposed, divided. We were more similar than different.
I know The Wise Photo Project is changing lives. I’ve heard people tell me how much they cherish the portraits of their parents and grandparents. And even the seniors I photograph, how special they feel that I wanted to make their portrait. “At their age.” As if they didn’t qualify due to the fact that they’re older.
The photographs I’ve made for friends and people who I’ve met in my travels, the prints I’ve made and put in frames that have ended up in homes around the world, those have changed the world by allowing people to live with their loved ones while distance separates them. And the photographs of close friends in nearby houses, too, pictures that celebrate who they are and who we are together. That’s an amazing gift to be able to share that work, to have a place to display my photograph in their homes.
Not to discount the commercial photographs that have been used to help businesses grow. Those matter, too. Those businesses employ many people, and together we work to make a profitable business more successful, and I help them accomplish that with photographs.
Or telling stories with my editorial photographs. Stories that communicate who we are, people’s story in the world today.
Street photographs that I make because I find it important to document our human stories, people living the way we do today. Those photographs may not pay any bills, not now anyway, but they are historical documents that may very well be celebrated and appreciated some day. Even if they’re just archived for the way we looked and dressed and were, there’s value in that.
I believe photographs matter. As you can probably tell, they’re my life. I’ve spent my time since youth making photographs. The earliest photographs of me have me standing holding a Kodak Instamatic camera. Once I graduated college, I sought work in television but photography grabbed ahold of me, and I was pulled into a career in photojournalism.
Photography is what I do, it’s what I am. And I believe it has impact. It does good. It changes worlds. It matters. No one can make the photographs I make because no one sees what I see. (The same is true for you, that’s why the world needs your art, whatever it is, otherwise it won’t exist and the world will be worse off without it.)
So, use your power. Mine is photography. What’s yours?