The photos in Picturing Change represent a new kind of social documentary photography, one that hands the power of storytelling to those experiencing issues of oppression. By broadening the art world to fresh voices – and, in this case, visuals – the project attempts to change the perception that art and self-expression is a luxury of the rich, rather than an essential part of a fulfilling life. Furthermore, the photographs are designed to spark honest conversations about poverty that, ideally, will lead to changes in perceptions that drive political will and policymaking.
The participants have used their photographs to more directly create change. Sumitra, for example, noticed a discrepancy between the new electronic scale and the hanging scale the workers have used for years. She used the camera to document the disparate weights, and used it as evidence to show her supervisor a need for better calibration of at least one of the scales.
Those who have viewed the photos say that the visuals have changed the way they think. Friends of our Facebook page have told us that the photos have given them a new perspective on government workers and early childhood education – a few have even made donations to the anganwadis based on what they have seen. Even ICDS supervisors say that the photos have been helpful, since the officers are often overburdened and unable to make frequent visits to the field.
Picturing Change has also been featured on blogs frequented by academics and policymakers, including the Gender and Education blog and the Global Partnership on Education, run by the World Bank. Simply exposing these experts to new points of view has the power to shift decision making in powerful ways.
Mathangi Subramanian and Greeshma Patel, the facilitators of Picturing Change, hope that the project could be a model for other organizations trying to raise awareness about issues of gender, hunger, and poverty. By shifting the power of storytelling to those affected by issues, we open up space for authentic dialogue. As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Visit “Picturing Change” at Thalam Gallery in Domlur, Bangalore, anytime between 11 am – 7 pm until October 12th, 2013.