The universal language of photography has incredible strength. It bears witness to change in the world, delivers powerful messages and brings people together. When we think about equity and equality, we need to challenge societal norms by offering different perspectives. But how do we do this? A good place to start lies in creating opportunities of access – to equipment, education and platforms – that can inspire and encourage the young to share their perspectives on the world.
Photography can bridge knowledge disparities by bringing to life the stories of all people. It portrays the minutiae of everyday life just as much as tales of unsung heroes, and this is, perhaps, its most important role in changing misconceptions. For young future leaders, photography circumvents language to present important truths on topics that are both global and personal, such as gender equality, climate action, poverty and health.
Of course, ensuring storytelling is consistently diverse is not as simple as it sounds. We must always consider who is telling the story, who is featured and who is receiving it. To create true diversity, we must reach further than skin colour, sexual or gender identity. It’s about bringing in people with different points of view and experiences of the world to change existing bias. We know that images have enormous power and can both affect and influence which, in turn, has the potential to bring about cultural and behavioural change.
However, imprinting images into minds and sparking emotional responses are only part of a far bigger jigsaw puzzle. To complete it we must look to education and a campaign of awareness in critical issues, as well as creating accessible opportunities for all to voice what matters to them and speak their truth. Naturally, we rely on the things we’ve seen when we try to form an understanding of places in all their historical and cultural depth, especially if we have not visited them and may ever do so. In this context, it stands to reason that people, places, and stories should always be presented with accuracy and authenticity. When we see a third person perspective, we are outsiders looking in. But when personal stories are shared directly, we are witness to emotional complexity, nuance, detail and context that can transport us.