I had the privilege of attending the Society for Photographic Educators conference this week. I was inspired by so many wonderful artist who graced us with their presence, their work, their stories and their inspiring presentations. As an artist you need to vibe with other artist and feed off of the energy in the room. Two artist standout as I reflect on this weekend. The two artist that are new mentors of mine are Cristina Mittermeir and Zoe Strauss. I knew the work of both of these artists but I'd never been in their presence.
Thursday, March 6, 2014, the unassuming Cristina Mittermeir comes into the hall and opens up her talk by telling us her story. How the objective photographer, taking pictures and documenting an experience got involved. She was becoming attached to the people and stories she was telling. She cared. She cared enough to act. She couldn't take pictures, submit to the magazine and move on. She was moved to act by the images so she created a movement.
Cristina convinced me that the photographer has to care enough to act, our images can't change the world but our images can be a part of the change we want to make. For change to occur the photographer must be a storyteller, a character and an activist.
If we hope to make change with the things we do in life we have to be passionate about them and be willing to speak up. We must be an activist. We have to be that character who is a part of our story. We have to allow the story to affect us, we are to be drawn in and dismiss the antiquated notion of being the objective photographer. If we are honest we are never truly objective.
Cristina also convinced me that we have to form partnerships with organizations that care about and serve them with our art. Cristina said she simply volunteered to use her camera to help tell the stories of these organizations and those they work with. She took their pictures, told their stories and in the process she became part of the story. As artist the people we capture with our camera also capture us if we allow ourselves to enter the story. In this capturing process we can also be freed if we partner with those we look at through the viewfinder. It is through the viewfinder that we actually find-ourselves as we connect with what's on both sides of the camera.
Zoe Strauss is just pure! She connects with those she partners with as she does her work. What I love about Zoe is that she is just down to earth. She is the kind of person you want to sit down and have a beer with. When you hear her tell the stories about the people she connected with as she does her work you can feel the connection. You can feel how she has fallen in love with people. I want to love the people on Sweet Auburn the way Zoe loves the people of Philadelphia and Homestead. Thanks to the Society for Photographic Education for planning a great conference. Where do you need to go? Who do you need to hear? Who can you connect with in your field that will help you hear and see in new ways?