Ethiopia · human trafficking · justice · Portraits · social justice · stories

Photography and the role of social justice (part 1)

Those who know me well know that I tend to get involved in a LOT of activities. I have many passions, and have a desire to be involved in a multiple of causes, events, circles, etc. This can look bad sometimes, I realize…and I’ve come to a place of being OK with that. It’s just who I am.

And although my pattern shows that I often go from thing-to-thing, trying to find out what I’m supposed to do next,  a few things have remained constant. Through these off-trails I tend to find myself on, one steady thread throughout, has been my heart for social justice. For me as a follower of Jesus, as a fellow human being with brothers and sisters around the world, I’ve considered it my responsibility to speak up, to stand up, and act on behalf of people who may be in a position of oppression.  I’ve written a little about it in the past (Here and Here) and will hopefully continue to write about it as long as I’m able.  As I’ve become a social worker and professional photographer in the last few years, I’ve been dreaming of ways to merge the two together. It’s so important for me to use the lens to shed light on the truth before us. There is a lot of beauty out there, and a lot of suffering, too. I want to bless people with photographs, and I also want to change the world (even if it’s in a small way, one story at a time). It may sound crazy or foolish to say that a photograph can “change the world”, but I take comfort in something I read today:

“Visionaries…can envision a way of living different to the way we live now. Yet they can’t always get it out in a way that anyone can understand. It’s no surprise most people think so many visionaries are crazy- just listen to what comes out of their mouths…”

One thing we do may not change the world right away, but by sharing what we know, and impacting even one person with something important, that can go a long way. I once heard someone explain this idea by referencing Facebook.  Facebook was at one point, a wacky idea started by two guys. These two guys told others, and they told others, and now if Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest country in the world!!  So in essence, one (or two guys’ idea DID change the world!)

I just started reading a biography on Dorthea Lange, one of the most influential documentary photographers of her time.  Her story is reminding me, and inspiring me to continue pursuing what lingers in my heart as being a reason I’m a photographer. Dorthea used to say,

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see…”


I’m just in the very beginning of her story, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how her camera shaped her own life, as well as the millions of lives who may be changed by the images and stories she captured.  In the mean-time, if you’re looking for more interesting ideas on how photography shapes social change, check out this New York Times article “Images of Emancipation”, and imagine how pictures had the power to change the face of slavery.

I have a photo story I’m excited to share…but will have to wait a little bit longer….so don’t forget to check back!  In the mean-time, please head over to and check out my new website!

And when you’re taking those pictures, think about ‘seeing’ in a new way.


3 thoughts on “Photography and the role of social justice (part 1)

  1. Abby, we are on the same path as you know. I can totally relate to everything you have written here. It is an amazing journey we take. Before I became a photographer I wanted to be a social worker, or work in welfare. It was advised that I don’t do social work until I tried voluntary work in those fields working with many different organisations from material aid, to working with homeless people, young pregnant mums, refugees and much more. I did that for many years and realised that I needed to focus on my photography and incorporate my desire to help others in my work. I hear where you are coming from my friend. I never know where the journey will take me next. Follow your heart Abby. I am loving what you are working on and look forward to seeing how it all looks. I love and support you greatly. Keep in touch xo

    1. Liz, thank you for your encouragement! I appreciate you so much and really admire you as a photographer, a friend, and a world-changer! Can’t wait until we meet again 🙂

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