Grantee & Partner News
YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY
December 12, 2013
New Documentary Series Coming in 2014 on Showtime:
This groundbreaking documentary series event explores the human impact of climate change. From the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy to the upheaval caused by drought in the Middle East, YEARS OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY combines the blockbuster storytelling styles of top Hollywood movie makers with serious reporting.
Nelson Mandela’s Under-reported Legacy
December 11, 2013
Grantee News From Ilyse G. Hogue, President, NARAL Pro-Choice America:
Nelson Mandela’s passing has elicited a flood of personal memories and tributes from people he touched across the world. I am one of those people. In elementary school in Dallas in the early 1980s, I was fascinated by the televised images of mock shanty-towns on US college campuses. Questions about the South African divestment campaign started me down a path that opened up a world of social justice and politically inspired change.
In 2003, I visited South Africa during the World Summit on Sustainable Development and spent weeks working alongside local organizers in townships around Johannesburg and learning about the strategies they used to thrive even under the oppressive apartheid regime. Everywhere I went, I was blown away by how powerful the women were. Vocal and forthright, they were often their communities’ spokespeople and leaders.
That experience of strong female leadership owed more than a little to the Constitution of 1996put in place largely by Mandela. In its new Bill of Rights, it listed not only race as impermissible grounds for discrimination, but “gender,” and then “sex,” and then uniquely, it also added “pregnancy.” And in case the meaning of that was not clear, the Bill of Rights went on (emphasis added):
Everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right
a. to make decisions concerning reproduction;
b. to security in and control over their body; and
c. not to be subjected to medical or scientific experiments without their informed consent.
This official recognition that gender equality requires embracing reproductive freedom remains a high-water mark of international law. This important commitment was foreshadowed by a law passed months before the constitution went into effect. The Choice on Termination of Pregnancy law —which replaced one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world with one of the most liberal and humane—allows South African women full autonomy to decide when to terminate a pregnancy in the first trimester, complete with financial assistance if required. (Abortion is also allowed within widely defined exceptions in the second trimester.) With this act, President Nelson Mandela transformed the lives of millions of South African women.
In the Jewish tradition, we have a saying we repeat at every Passover Seder: “dayenu,” or “it would have been enough.” It would have been enough for Nelson Mandela put his life on the line in 1964 in the struggle for racial equality. It would have been enough for Mandela to inspire us through his twenty-seven years in prison. It would have been enough for him to lead successful negotiations with then-President deKlerk to abolish apartheid. But once he had become his country’s first black president, instead of resting on his laurels—or resting, period—he tackled the issue of abortion, which was considered even more controversial in South Africa at the time than it was here. Why would he do this?
In his famous April 20, 1964, “Speech from the Dock,” given just before he was sentenced to life imprisonment, he offered a clue:
I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
The simple answer, then, is that he had more left to do. Mandela acted, as he always had, not out of political calculation but with laser-like moral focus. He knew that for women to have full freedom and equality, we must have autonomy over all issues pertaining to our lives, especially our reproductive destiny.
Mandela’s intimate experience with poverty and oppression showed him that reproductive freedom was intrinsically tied to economic security. Thus, this Nobel Peace Prize winner known worldwide for his pursuit of human equality chose as one of his first acts of elected leadership to cement that fundamental cornerstone of women’s equality into law.
Although a solid, consistent majority of Americans support the protections outlined in Roe v. Wade, well-funded attacks on reproductive freedom are consuming an enormous amount of time and attention in our country. So I was fascinated to see in all the press coverage of Mandela’s death how little was said about his legacy of advancing abortion rights.
It’s been mentioned primarily on women-defined blogs and press, which is important, but not enough. Major network tributes and even mainstream progressive outlets have not seen fit to mention it.
Unsurprisingly, his legacy championing women’s basic freedoms is not lost on extremists in this country hell-bent on taking them away. With their typical tone-deafness, they opine:
“Nelson Mandela has the blood of preborn children on his hands … lots of them,” wrote anti-choice blogger Jill Stanek on Saturday.
“[I]t makes no sense for pro-life Christians to praise Mandela’s example considering what he did with that power once he became president,” wrote Paul Tuns, editor of the Canadian pro-life publication The Interim.
“The organization Keep Life Legal asked the question: “What about apartheid in the womb?”
One of the first things I noticed when I joined NARAL Pro-Choice America as president was how much these extremists depend on their aggressive public vitriol to stigmatize the medical procedure of abortion and silence the majority in this country who understand that reproductive rights are vital to the freedom and self-determination that makes us Americans. The anti-choice lobby trades in hatred and fear to frighten people into avoiding the issue so they can they win by forfeit.
In attacking the moral leadership of one of the world’s most beloved freedom fighters, these zealots have once again gone too far. But their slander is not the only reason we must talk about Mandela’s contributions to women’s freedom. We must go there, because he went there. And because if we want to honor Nelson Mandela’s vision and commitment to a society “in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities,” we only do justice when we loudly recognize that his vision of human dignity included women’s freedom to make their own decisions about when we have children.
Tribute after tribute has unfolded with this chapter deleted, leaving all the successes and gains for South African women invisible. I am not going to bow to that pressure to hold my tongue. I will praise Mandela loudly and proudly for refusing to leave women behind. And if enough of us do so, maybe someday soon all women can be assured the respect and freedom that Mandela fought to bring to the women of South Africa.
Ilyse G. Hogue
We Respected ABQ Women and We Won
December 2, 2013
Grantee News From Strong Families:
In a historic victory, Albuquerque voters defeated an attempt to limit access to abortion by a huge margin last night.
“Today Albuquerque voters respected women—and sent a clear message here and across the country that voters reject callous attempts to take away complex, personal decisions from women, their families, and their faith,” said Adriann Barboa, Respect ABQ Women Steering Committee and Field Director for Strong Families New Mexico. “We won in part because of the strong, diverse local organizations that have pulled together, year after year, to ensure justice for every New Mexico family.”
Adriann’s quote on MSNBC says it all. This win is a testimony to the strength of local organizations that have been building a strong movement for justice in New Mexico for many years. And it’s a testament to the reality that when we lead with our Strong Families frame, including ensuring that women of color are at the decision-making table representing the needs of our families, we win.
The Respect ABQ Women campaign ran a dynamic, effective grassroots campaign that was truly New Mexican: it reflected the lived experiences of our communities and ensured that communities of color, people of faith and young people were deeply engaged in all aspects of the campaign. It built off the principles of our Strong Families work, bringing a proactive and inclusive frame to a challenging campaign.
Strong Families New Mexico, staffed by Forward Together, Strong Families Leadership Team member Young Women United and Strong Families New Mexico partner, New Mexico Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice were leaders in all aspects of the campaign strategy.
‘Food, Inc.’ Non-Profit Award Winner: The Lexicon of Sustainability
Grantee News From Lexicon of Sustainability:
Photographs and the definitions of niche food words are this project’s tools for building communities and educating.
Hopefully, you’ve seen the images: stunning photographs of rooftop farmers, of urban beekeepers, of school gardens, each picture shot through with curling white script. The Lexicon of Sustainability is a singular undertaking—a complex marriage of images and text that strives to define the terms we use to describe our food systems.
Founded in 2009 by husband and wife Douglas Gayeton and Laura Howard-Gayeton, the Lexicon of Sustainability, winner of the Food, Inc. Non-Profit Award, works to engage communities in food issues through photographs. The couple have gone from hosting them on The Lexicon’s website to encouraging fans to curate pop-up gallery shows to pursuing a new, youth-focused endeavor called Project Localize.
But for all of the reach and success The Lexicon has had, Howard-Gayeton says it was her father’s response to her nonprofit work that she’s most proud of.
“Getting my parents engaged in not buying partially hydrogenated crackers and stopping some food habits they’ve had for a long time fell on deaf ears for a decade,” she says. But when she and her husband started The Lexicon, her parents got on board immediately.
“My mom and my dad are now 75 years old,” she says, “and they’re carting these posters around and engaging with all of these people and are very proud to be experts on food systems.”
That’s the wonderful thing about The Lexicon of Sustainability: It takes a wonky exercise in lexicography and turns the definitions for otherwise niche terms into relatable, understandable works of art. Arriving at that point involves far more than shooting the photos and writing on the text.
“Oftentimes, it’s weeks or even months of dialogue with those subjects, going back and forth, so that they’re really happy with what’s distilled from hours and hours and days and weeks of talking,” Howard-Gayeton says of the definitions and other language that appears on the images. “Because often these are very complicated ideas. They have a lot of history to them, a lot of involving moving parts.”
Putting that kind of time and effort into the images for The Lexicon of Sustainability is more than worth it, as they are achieving their intent: to get people talking, to educate, to build communities, to drive change. If it has worked for Howard-Gayeton’s family, she’s certain it can work for others too.
“I know if I can get through to my dad, I can get through to anyone in this country,” she says.
(Photo by Lauren Wade)
On Abortion, the People Are Speaking. Is Anyone Listening?
November 20, 2013
Grantee News From RH Reality Check:
On Tuesday, in a tremendous upset victory, voters in Albuquerque, New Mexico, defeated a proposed 20-week abortion ban by roughly 55 percent to 45 percent. Arguments for the ban were largely based on the medically disproven claim that fetuses feel pain after 20 weeks’ gestation. In public statements, however, proponents of the ban, such as the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List revealed a far darker agenda, one of forcing women to continue a pregnancy and bear a child under virtually any circumstance, even when a fetus is found to have abnormalities incompatible with life.
The original ballot measure was initiated by anti-choice missionaries Tara and Bud Shaver, who after receiving training from Operation Rescue moved to Albuquerque in 2010 with the goal of jump-starting the process of a ballot initiative. Operation Rescue, known for anti-choice terrorist tactics and affiliated with Scott Roeder, the murderer of Dr. George Tiller, targeted Albuquerque in large part because it is home to two providers abortions post 20-weeks gestation and one of a handful of clinics left in the United States that still perform abortions after 24 weeks. By outlawing abortions after 20 weeks, despite almost certain court challenges, anti-choicers hoped not only to close two clinics essential to women urgently in need of health care, but also to spark similar initiatives across the country. More>
November 20, 2013 – 9:24 am
by Jodi Jacobson, Editor in Chief, RH Reality Check
Editor’s note: This article was amended at 12:14 pm on Wednesday, November 20th, to clarify that of the two practices offering abortions post 20-weeks gestation in Albuquerque, only one of those provides abortions up to 27 weeks.
REAL FOOD MEDIA PROJECT LAUNCHES ONLINE FILM COMPETITION
October 10, 2013
Grantee News From Real Food Media:
SAN FRANCISCO — October 10, 2013 — Calling up-and-coming filmmakers; film, communications and food studies students — and anyone hungry for a deeper understanding of the nation’s food system. A new film competition seeking short films about sustainable food and farming — the Real Food Media Contest — opens for entries today at www.realfoodmedia.org.
The contest invites aspiring filmmakers, or teams of food changemakers alongside communicators, to create a 30-second to four-minute films in one of four styles: documentary, advocacy, experimental, or “wildcard.” Entries must be submitted by 9 p.m. EST on February 3, 2014.
A star-studded panel of judges will select the top film — and the public can also vote online beginning Wed., February 12. Winners will be announced on March 4, 2014.
Cash prizes will be given to the best 10 films and the audience choice winner, including a $5,000 grand prize and a chance for a screening at the Food and Farm Film Festival in San Francisco in April 2014.
Contest judges include:
· Padma Lakshmi, cookbook author, actress, model and television host
· Michael Pollan, journalist and author, Omnivore’s Dilemma
· Robert Kenner, Academy Award-nominated director, “Food Inc.”
· Eric Schlosser, journalist and author, Fast Food Nation
· Johanna Blakley, managing director, Norman Lear Center, USC
· Byron Hurt, director and producer, “Soul Food Junkies”
· Alice Waters, Chez Panisse and Chez Panisse Foundation
· Keri Putnam, executive director of the Sundance Institute
· The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation (USA)
· Emily Zweber, organic farmer
For documentaries, an entrant can choose among various options, including profiling a local food hero or showcasing an effective sustainable food project. In the advocacy category, entrants can choose to create a persuasive piece focused on several sustainability themes. In the experimental category, entrants can choose to bring to life the concept “the hands that feed us.” Wildcard entrants can shine a light on sustainable food and farming in any manner they choose— funny, serious, or artsy. For more information on each of the categories, visit www.realfoodmedia.org.
The contest, directed by award-winning author and sustainability advocate Anna Lappé, is an initiative of the Real Food Media Project and an extension of the highly regarded Food MythBusters series, viewable at www.foodmyths.org.
“This contest gives an opportunity for filmmakers to generate powerful storytelling about food, farming, and sustainability,” says Anna Lappé, director of the Real Food Media Project. “The more great minds we have thinking about these issues and producing creative ways to deliver the messages, the better.”
“This contest is a great opportunity to support the food movement and independent filmmaking. The two are a perfect fit,” says Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation and a contest judge.
“There’s incredible interest today in where our food comes from and how it is produced— and this generation has so much to say about it. The contest provides a great platform for original voices that can help make a change by delivering this increasingly important information,” says journalist Michael Pollan, another contest judge.
The Real Food Media Project is a collaborative initiative to spread the story of our food with creative films, an online film contest, a web-based action center, and grassroots events.Visit www.realfoodmedia.org to learn more about the project and to enter the competition.
Mike Brune: Steal This Democracy
Grantee News From Sierra Club:
Steal This Democracy
America’s best idea is in trouble — but I don’t mean our national parks. Yes, the parks are closed, which is inexcusable. It’s not only a crushing disappointment for millions of would-be visitors but also an economic gut punch for neighboring communities — to the tune of $76 million dollars a day. But what’s really under attack is something even older than our national park system: our democracy.
How did we reach a point where a small fraction of one party in one branch of government believes it is entitled to demand everything it wants, or else it will drive our government into the ground? It’s like a firefighter standing on the hose to stop the rest of the company from putting out a blaze until he gets a million-dollar raise — all while the building burns around him.
We didn’t reach this nadir in our democracy by accident. It’s the result of a systematic attack on the basic democratic principles of justice and equality by a handful of people who have no interest in a healthy, functioning democracy. While there is no excuse, there is an explanation — with three major elements.
It starts with the money that has corrupted our Congress. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the floodgates that have allowed a tidal wave of corrupting corporate money into our political system. But where is the money coming from and where is it going?
Not surprisingly, huge amounts are coming from polluter-backed groups, which promoted a dirty fuels agenda by spending more than $270 million on television ads in the last two months of the 2012 election cycle. The Koch brothers alone reportedly spent $400 million on their political operations in the 2012 election — that’s two people spending more in 2012 than the entire McCain campaign did in 2008.
That influx of cash explains why this Congress has taken more than 300 votes attacking clean air and clean water. The same people who are poisoning our democracy are also determined to poison our air and our water. I know, because we are on the ground fighting them every day.
Not only are they churning out a steady stream of bad legislation but they are also making it impossible to pass solid, bipartisan bills — such as the Shaheen-Portman energy efficiency measure — that would benefit everyone. Somehow, they have concluded that if everyone wins, they lose. And all this is happening at a time when 80 percent of Americans agree that political money is preventing our most important challenges from being addressed.
Which brings us to the second cause of this dysfunction. Obstructionists don’t need to worry about what those 80 percent of Americans think, because gerrymandering — the process of redrawing congressional districts to favor a particular political party — has given them “safe” seats.That’s why even though more Americans voted for Democratic candidates to the House of Representatives in 2012, the Republicans won their second-biggest majority in 60 years. And redistricting happens only every 10 years.
Finally, big polluters and other special interests are spending millions to keep anyone who disagrees with them away from the polls and out of office. No sooner did the Supreme Court gut a key part of the Voting Rights Act, than state houses across the country with Republican legislatures pushed through suppressive legislation to keep young people, seniors, students, and people of color away from the polls. It’s no coincidence that those are the same citizens who have voted against them.
These direct challenges to our democracy have led the Sierra Club to team up with the NAACP, Communications Workers of America, and Greenpeace to form The Democracy Initiative. The goal is bring together labor, civil rights, voting rights, environmental, good government, and other like-minded organizations with broad memberships to build a movement to halt the corrupting influence of corporate money in politics, prevent the systemic manipulation and suppression of voters, and address other obstacles to significant reform.
Challenges to our democracy might get even worse. Right now, the Sierra Club and many of our allies are fighting a frightening Supreme Court challenge to campaign finance limits on individual contributions to candidates. And who was it that brought this Supreme Court case on behalf of those who would like to write million dollar checks to buy influence? Shaun McCutcheon — the climate-change-denying CEO of a coal company in Alabama.
Let’s be clear — only about 1,200 people in America last year even came close to reaching the spending limits that McCutcheon wants to see overturned. We’re talking about the one percent of the one percent of the one percent. These campaign-donation limits apply to an amount of people that couldn’t even fill a high school gym. And a good number of them are oil, gas, and coal executives. Those sectors directly contributed $40 million to candidates in 2012. Give them free rein to write whatever size of check they want, and we’ll see that number double, triple, or quadruple.
The faster that money pours in, the quicker the voices of ordinary Americans will be drowned out. We can’t let that happen. And we won’t. They may have millions of dollars, but we have millions of people. And, thanks to efforts like the Democracy Initiative, we are organizing and coming together to make sure our voices are heard. We already know we have common foes — the way to beat them is to recognize that we have common goals.
If we want to see more shutdowns, then we should maintain the status quo. If we want to see more debt crises, then we’d better not rock the boat. If we want more attacks on our air, our water, and our climate, then all we need to do is roll our eyes and turn away in disgust at the political posturing on Capitol Hill. But if we want to restore a democracy that works for Americans and will preserve a healthy planet for future generations, it’s time to stand up and fight back. For our people, for our parks, and for our democracy.
October 5, 2013
Compton Invests in New Fund
September 27, 2013
Grantee News From: Gamechanger Films:
“Gamechanger Films” Launches to Exclusively Finance Women-Directed Feature Films
September 27, 2013, New York, NY – Gamechanger Films, a new company founded by Julie Parker Benello (Afternoon Delight, Pariah, Brooklyn Castle), Dan Cogan (Hell and Back Again, How to Survive a Plague, The Queen of Versailles), Geralyn Dreyfous (Born Into Brothels, The Invisible War, The Square) and Wendy Ettinger (Semper Fi: Always Faithful, The War Room, Eye of God), and led by producer Mynette Louie (Cold Comes the Night, California Solo, Children of Invention), who recently won the 2013 Independent Spirit Piaget Producers Award, launches today as the first for-profit film fund dedicated exclusively to financing narrative features directed by women. Producer Mary Jane Skalski (Very Good Girls, Win Win, The Visitor) will serve as the company’s senior advisor.
Gamechanger aims to shift the gender disparity in the film marketplace by tapping into the enormous existing talent pool of women filmmakers and providing the necessary financing to bring their work to movie-going audiences worldwide.
Women directors have been responsible for some of the most acclaimed and successful films of recent years, from Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty to Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right, and yet it remains difficult for women directors to access capital and secure equity financing for production.
Louie says, “An equal number of women and men graduate from the top film schools, but in the last four years, only 7% of the 250 top-grossing Hollywood films were directed by women — that’s a lower percentage of women than that found among Fortune 500 company boards, philosophy professors or aerospace engineers. Female-helmed projects are mistakenly perceived to lack commercial viability, and narrative film projects rely on a funding structure that is primarily operated by men. Gamechanger aims to increase the number of films by women in the marketplace by offering a dedicated financing option for them.”
Gamechanger will provide production financing and will serve as executive producer on a slate of narrative features. Films eligible for financing may be of any genre, but must be directed or co-directed by a woman. Preference will be given to projects with accomplished producers attached.
The company was founded by industry veterans Julie Parker Benello (Afternoon Delight, Pariah, Brooklyn Castle), Dan Cogan (Hell and Back Again, How to Survive a Plague, The Queen of Versailles), Geralyn Dreyfous (Born Into Brothels, The Invisible War, The Square), and Wendy Ettinger (Semper Fi: Always Faithful, The War Room, Eye of God). Each of the founding members has an extensive background in film finance and production, social advocacy and investor education. Parker Benello and Ettinger are the co- founders of Chicken and Egg Pictures, and Dreyfous and Cogan are the co- founders of Impact Partners.
Producer Mary Jane Skalski (Very Good Girls, Win Win, The Visitor) will serve as the company’s senior advisor. Other members of the company’s advisory board include Ellen Barkin, Susan Bodine, Lisa Cortés, Geena Davis, Madeline Di Nonno, Abigail Disney, Barbara Dobkin, Aleen Keshishian, Marian Koltai-Levine, Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte, John Lyons, Charlotte Mickie, Pat Mitchell, Julia Ormond, John Penotti, Eve Schoukroun, Regina K. Scully, Bart Walker and Jacki Zehner.
Collectively, the group has produced and financed a rich array of films that have won Oscars® and Spirit Awards, and that have enjoyed worldwide distribution along with premieres at festivals including Sundance, Cannes, Berlin and Toronto.
Gamechanger is funded by a group of socially conscious and commercially- minded impact investors. The company aims to cultivate a new community of sophisticated and empowered film financiers, many of them women, by making investor education a component of the investor experience. Gamechanger investors will be invited to an annual conference with fellow investors, meet with Gamechanger filmmakers and industry executives, and take part in regular calls with company executives addressing the progress of films and the landscape of independent film. Gamechanger’s goal is to create a new corps of investors, schooled in the film business, who can form a support structure for a new generation of women filmmakers.
Parker Benello states, “There is a real movement afoot to change the status quo. Gamechanger intends to be part of this movement by helping to fill the financing gap. With Gamechanger, we’re instigating a crucial intervention into the marketplace. Women directors are an undervalued asset, and for us, that represents both a business opportunity and a chance to effectuate equality and social change.”
According to a recent USC-Annenberg study, commissioned by The Sundance Institute and Women in Film Los Angeles, entitled Exploring the Barriers and Opportunities for Independent Women Filmmakers, gender bias in financing is cited as the foremost obstacle to a woman’s career development in film. The study also found that when a woman is in the director’s chair, there is likely to be a higher proportion of women in all other departments.
Gamechanger’s ultimate goal is to contribute to the reduction of gender bias in
both independent and mainstream media by providing women directors with access to financial capital.
Cogan adds, “The best way to get more women in the director’s chair is to demonstrate to the industry that women directors can be just as financially successful as men. With Gamechanger, we will be providing capital to gifted women directors, enabling them to be successful and to demonstrate their ability to make a return for investors. At the same time, we will be educating and developing a new group of independent film investors who are supportive of this mission. With great filmmakers and sophisticated investors aligned towards the same goal, we have a chance to make a big difference in the status of women in the world of film.”
Media Contact: Julia Pacetti, JMP Verdant, firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is the exclusive L.A. Times article announcing the company full story.
Food MythBusters Latest Movie
Grantee News From: Food MythBusters an initiative of the Real Food Media Project:
The Myth of Choice: How Junk-Food Marketers Target Our Kids
How nonprofits can work with professional photographers
September 17, 2013
One of my favorite bits of summer reading had few words and lots of pictures. I wasn’t being lazy…I spent far longer pondering the images from Nina Berman’s outstanding photo essay on rural Pennsylvanians forced to live with the consequences of fracking than I do reading a dense Atlantic Monthly piece. The pictures were haunting in a way that wordier tomes on the evils of rampant oil and gas development have never been. The beautifully lit shot of a farmhouse at night set against a backdrop of nebulous, industrial hell looks like a scene out of science fiction.
We’ve been thinking a lot about imagery at Resource Media since we launched Visual Story Lab, our own guide to using imagery for social change. We advise advocates to become comfortable doing their own photo documentation; sound advice in a day and age when we are all carrying a pretty good camera around with us during all of our waking hours. However, it struck me that Berman’s poignant photos could only have been captured by a professional. I could wander the wilds of Pennsylvania with my iPhone for the rest of my days and never come up with the images that so moved me in this piece. So many of the issues we work on need this caliber of visual treatment.
I decided to contact Berman and get her take on how she views work like this and how NGO’s can approach professional photographers like her. Berman is best known for her books and photo art exhibitions documenting the impact of war and US militarism. She says organizations like Human Rights Watch and Doctors Without Borders (which have employed her agency, NOOR) “get it” that an independent eye can see things that advocates steeped in an issue 24/7 will inherently miss. “Advocates tend to take pictures that are one-dimensional,” Berman says, “Pictures that speak to the choir.” In the case of the Pennsylvania gas fields, it took Berman some time and some scrapped photos to understand what was so unsettling about the scenes she was shooting. Ultimately she realized “People felt trapped. They felt violated and they couldn’t escape. People would say that over and over and that’s what I tried to capture. Anyone, whether they are an environmentalist or not can relate to feeling trapped.”
Berman had some other great advice for NGO’s who want to engage a professional for their images.
- Don’t assume the budget is out of reach. For $5,000 you can often cover travel expenses, prep time and a few days in the field and get some truly memorable images.
- Make sure the photographer you hire cares about the issue you are documenting. Even a good photographer can produce run-of-the-mill images if they see it as just another day at the office.
- Provide good information and spend time briefing the photographer. But don’t micro-manage. No shot sheets. Let the photographer go through his or her own process of discovery. “There has to be some suspension of control,” says Berman. “I need an organizer, not an art director.”
- Use your high quality photos in multiple ways. Most NGO’s just focus on their websites, narrowing the pool of viewers. Photo exhibitions can be great gathering places for sharing information, hosting panels and building your network of supporters.
In our visual storytelling guide, Seeing is Believing, we urge NGO’s to avoid stock photos and visual fluff, which are unemotional and leave people unenthused. Work like Berman’s is the opposite end of the scale…and may be well within your reach.