29 September 2013

"Photography Can Change the World" ~ OK, Sure. What Does That Mean?

The extended cover of the 125th anniversary issue of National Geographic.
(Photo: National Geographic).
This is the cover from the 125th Anniversary issue of National Geographic. I posted about it yesterday, and thought I'd follow up. Mostly, that is because I heard this interview on NPR this afternoon as I drove to the gym. The host of "living On Earth" Steve Curwood was speaking with the director of photography at the magazine, Sarah Leen. The following portion of their exchange caught my attention:
CURWOOD: There’s another theme of this special edition, your anniversary edition of National Geographic, and that theme is ‘relate’, and I’d like to call attention to a really striking image of that segment. It's a couple in Afghanistan on their wedding day. The groom is 40, the bride about 11, and the caption says close to half of Afghan girls marry before they’re 18. But I think this has to be a classic case of a picture being worth a thousand words.

LEEN: Yes, Stephanie Sinclair who took that image, she has been working on the issue of child brides all over the world for a number of years. This particular image I find to be almost chilling when you look at it, this adorable little girl trying to imagine her being married to this guy. You say he's 40, but he looks like, older than 40, his beard, and kind of craggy, but this is the custom there. Photography can help you relate and connect to other people and get you (sic!) care about things, and I think once you start getting people to care about things you can get them to get involved and maybe even help change the world, and I think that's definitely one of Stephanie's missions.
I've italicized the interesting claim. I don't want to dispute it. I think Leen is right. What I want to do is ask if we can descend from the platitudes. What does she mean? How can that happen?This anniversary will give the nice folk at National Geographic a huge audience. It is a shame to see them squander the chance to say something meaningful.

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