People make photographs for many different reasons. My 20+ years working with photography have been dedicated to making work and advocating for the work of others that is inspired by a personal commitment and concern for the world around us. Work that through the deliberate involvement and interpretation of the photographer, seeks to raise conversation and affect change on issues that affect us all. The call for submissions to this issue was for 'Concerned Photography' - a term coined for the genre-defining work of engaged photojournalists in the 60's that is now being redefined as technology, the ubiquity of information and images, and the ongoing evolution of the media market mixes and matches news, entertainment, and art.
In the end what we were looking for were works that represent the range of the current state of 'Concerned Photography'. To that end, the call was purposefully vague and brief. And the works submitted ran the spectrum, from journalistic series covering protests or exposés on environmental justice to surreal conceptual work exploring very personal and philosophic ideas. The projects we selected all have in common the basic documentary premise of telling non-fiction stories from real experiences as a way to explore bigger issues. But the similarities end there and the diversity was my challenge as a curator. In the end I focused on the following list of considerations. The seven portfolios included in this issue are those that, to my eye, best answered the most of these questions.
- Is it a story drawn from experience, internalized and interpreted, then honestly told?
- Is it an important, underreported, or unfamiliar story that needs a wider audience?
- Is the approach focused and the message clear, even if questions remain unresolved?
- Do the statement, titles, and/or captions compliment and clarify in their own way, not merely explain, the project?
- Is the issue made relevant and accessible to others through the imagery?
- Does the photographer embrace artistic practices without allowing aesthetic conventions to obfuscate the story?
- Do the images tell or merely show the story?
- Are we moved and do we learn from the work?
Jason Houston is picture editor of Orion magazine, a non-profit, non-commercial periodical exploring the relationships between nature, culture, and place through a diverse array of cultural lenses. Houston has also worked for nearly 20 years photographing social and environmental issues around the world for editorial, NGO, and other mission-driven clients. He serves as a portfolio reviewer and juror for photography events and organizations around the world and regularly presents on the idea of using engaged photography to affect change.
www.orionmagazine.org and www.jasonhouston.com.