I’m the kind of person who likes to ask “what if…” I’ve learned that I’m not alone in this and not alone in asking one particular “what if,” one that my friends and I were asking in 2008 …
In light of the tragedies on 9/11 and the fear-based reactions so often caused by worldviews shaped in onslaughts of “shocking” visual media, what if humans instead got consistently exposed to “other” cultures through photography and media themed on dignity, hope, and common humanity? Would the world be a different place?
This idea developed and is now known as “visual peacemaking.” All this year we’ve been moving it from dreams to action. Visualpeacemakers.org will be launching very soon. It’ll be a place to “get exposed” to the world’s peoples. And to get involved in contributing.
With this larger-than-life vision, my closest and most brilliant friends (Logan McAdams, John Machado and Jim Mullins) became co-founders with me in initiating, creating, and recruiting the International Guild of Visual Peacemakers (IGVP).
The vision spread through emails and Skype conversations. Matt Brandon, Nicole Gibson, and David DuChemin were in on the ground-level. It became our dream to form an organization and cross-promotional website that would advance the cause for visual peace and leverage photographers from around the globe to “SHOOT FOR PEACE.”
Not much time passed and we soon invited Gavin Gough, Matt Powell, Ami Vitale, Jeffrey Chapman, and Kerry Lammi into the Guild. These world-class photographers, and do-gooders, immediately clicked with the call to “peacemaking and breaking down stereotypes by displaying the beauty and dignity of various cultures around the world.”
We quickly ran into a wonderful “problem.” Everyone wanted in. We had some strategies in mind for how a small guild could operate, so we created a second, connected strategy. We’re forming a branch of the Guild called the Visual Peacemakers Community, able to grow wide in numbers and deep in impact. These will be members on our site with Peacemaker Profiles, galleries, etc.
Today we’re defining visual peacemakers as photographers/ videographers who especially:
• Document our common humanity
• Display the beauty & dignity of people
• Make an unknown culture known to another.
• Tell stories of hope
• Bring new perspectives where harmful stereotypes exist
Their images foster peace by building bridges of awareness & understanding between ethnic, cultural, & religious identities.
On the website each photographer will have an in-depth profile and portfolio. It’s being developed as a place to create, connect, and catalyze through tools & social media. Resources for photographic growth will be available like ebooks, podcasts, articles, mentoring, portfolio reviews, grants and world workshops. This aspect has really been developing and has been rewarding to see just how much visual peacemakers can and will be equipped to make a difference.
Each and every member will be inviting their friends, co-workers, and family to take part by signing a half-page Charter for Visual Peace that expresses what it means to be a socially conscious viewer of visual media. And here you have the beginning of impact beyond our group of visual communicators.
Without glossing over tragedy and conflict, IGVP is seeking to show more than human hardships. We’re displaying all that is beautiful about us, and all that connects us. Visual Peacemakers treat humanity’s similarities as sacred and our diversities things to be honored. We’ve got a long list of photographers to be notified of the launch. So, though this seems to have been going on for awhile to some of us, for most, it all really begins on launch day!