In the spirit of giving, this is one of the few times during the year that I will shed some light on my values regarding such things.
I do realize people have different viewpoints on charity, non-profits, and other miscellaneous projects that benefit culture. This post is not meant to be sanctimonious. Nobody is perfect and plenty of good people mean well, after all, and you don’t have to be a saint to be a giver. In the interest of sharing ideas, hopefully I can give you some on what you can do, too.
I unfortunately cannot say yes to every volunteer or donation request. I prefer to research those possibilities on my own. But in no particular order, here are areas I’m very passionate and where I’d like my work to be used for positive action, if I ever have the opportunity to do so.
1. Children’s International — I sponsor a child in Honduras. Poverty and not having basic things is more widespread than perhaps some people know.
2. Hunger — It’s quite frankly unacceptable, particularly here in the United States. It’s humbling and makes a lot of daily noise seem petty by comparison.
3. Investigative Journalism — The devaluing of long-form journalism and photojournalism in the digital world benefits nobody. It’s a problem that affects the common good and it’s a non-partisan issue. Everything is contextual, but we can do much better on this.
Quality investigative journalism keeps people from living in ignorance and retreating into insular bubbles. Intelligent people are not immune to this, if in-depth information continues to recede. It’s difficult for long-form news operations to survive in a click-bait and infotainment media economy, but while donations to the Pro Publica’s of the world cannot entirely solve the problem, it does help.
4. The Arts — The NEA has fewer funds than it used to, and does not award grants as much as it once did. I have some mixed feelings about art taxes, while not completely opposed to them, but I will say the funding of arts – as a client, patron, private grant or crowd funder – regardless of popularity or commercial value, is worthwhile.
The arts remind us of our humanity and (local) culture, and that we’re more than just consumers or political means to an end. Art is not just an aesthetic for a new phone design or sunset photo, it’s an expression and means of communication. For others, it’s life changing and perhaps life saving.
Photography and other arts are not a lie, and sometimes it’s the only way to truth. Despite all of the “content” out there it feels like we’re losing creative experimentation, unique artistic expression, and contextual thought. The incentives have become negative. It’s becoming a zero sum, winner-take-all game or a day labor commodity, sometimes meant for the cheap and fleeting sensation of viral aggregation… which has longer odds than winning the lottery. This is manifest and impactful on more things besides artistic endeavor. It does not have to be this way.
This is the time of year I like to slow down and think on the important things in life, what my values are, and how can I best express them with my work, if possible. I hope you can find the time to do the same.