09 February 2014
Image: Rough Living © Carol Allen Storey
This is my virginal quantum leap into the world of blogging. I read blogs regularly but have never ventured into that platform of social media.
Whilst on assignment as a photo journalist I always keep a meticulously detailed ‘journal’ which reports verbally all of the information I gathered during the day. I work predominantly in developing worlds and therefore it is essential that at the end of the day, I sit with my ‘fixer’ to confirm the facts and the veracity of translations. All of which is especially valuable for captioning images and also an opportunity to expand the narrative beyond the photography. My journal reflects my response to what I am witnessing, the turmoil, my joys and frustrations – and at times, when I am filthy fed up and write a venomous retort with a flow of expletives – I also tend to draw elements I may not have photographed, or as a trigger when I re-read the journal, of what the wider story is about. Unquestionably, there are passages that should be exclusively ‘for my eyes only’, as some comments could have a very unhappy outcome.
My photographic practice specialises in chronicling complex humanitarian and social issues, especially amongst women and children. The images created are intimate, about citizens and issues I deeply care about. My aim is to provide a voice to the disenfranchised, to illuminate their struggles and dignity. I believe photographs may not be capable of doing the moral work for us, but they can trigger the process of social consciousness.
What’s the attraction to philanthropic work?
I am compelled to work in the philanthropic sector because it allows me the privilege to be engaged photographically with issues that I emotionally embrace, with the optimistic aim that the images can lubricate opinion and action for the good as many iconic images historically have achieved.
Philanthropic work profoundly allows the ordinary citizen of the world living with extraordinary circumstances to be ‘seen’ amongst the tidal wave of the celebrity dominated media and to create an epoch visual platform for debate of social, political and environmental issues affecting the human race
A favourite photograph of mine is of a young African boy in tattered rags lovingly embracing a tiny 6 month old baby he has adopted whose mother died of AIDS. Muzamiru is 10 years old, a runaway from a violent father who savagely abused his family. He ran away from the cruelty at age 5. He lives rough with a ‘tribe’ of young boys in the bush. Although the image at first glance depicts the perversity of poverty of innocent children, there is also an intense noble atmosphere of a beautiful child, looking like a young Adonis caring for a baby, which I find both emotive and elegant.
I draw my inspiration from a variety of disparate influences – classical music, especially Mozart’s violin symphonies, speeches of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, paintings of Cezanne, Caravaggio, Edward Hopper … The photographers that have had the greatest influence on my work are: W Eugene Smith, Tom Stoddart, Mary Ellen Mark, Bruce Davidson and Larry Towell. They have created images that have a quiet dignity, possess immense visual poetry, whilst telling powerful stories that engage the viewer compassionately. I never tire of looking at their images and always learn something new with each experience. Lastly, the words of the anthropologist Margaret Mead – “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”