ATLANTA — The role photojournalism and visual storytelling can play in helping eradicate poverty was front and center during an Atlanta Press Club Panel discussion on Tuesday.
More than 30 people turned out to the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce to view a special showing of St. Vincent de Paul’s “Profiles of Poverty” photo exhibit and hear from five of the photographers involved in the project.
“If you look at the way policy decisions are being made across the political spectrums — this is not a political comment, it’s just the reality of what’s happening in society — is we can’t deal with it, so we’re just going to ignore it and hope it goes away,” St. Vincent de Paul CEO and Executive Director John Berry told the crowd. “No, we’re not going to ignore it. We’re going to make sure it is brought out, it’s shown, it’s talked about.”
“If you look at the 50 pictures that are in the exhibit, that story is not one of despair and hopelessness,” Berry said. “It’s not just, ‘here’s this terrible issue’; it’s a story of hope and it’s a story of transformation.”
Freelance photographer John Glenn curated the exhibit on behalf of St. Vincent de Paul and served as the moderator for the panel discussion. He told the audience he became a photographer with the hopes of taking photographs that could bring about change, and “Profiles of Poverty” allows him to use his skills to raise awareness of an important issue such as poverty.
“Photography can make a difference,” Glenn told the audience. “And, if by bringing people’s faces to the forefront, some voices to the forefront through those photos, then it’s all a little bit that will help.”
Poverty remains a major issue in Georgia as it does elsewhere throughout the country. An estimated 1.8 million Georgians — nearly one in five — currently live below the federal poverty level.
“Profiles of Poverty” debuted earlier this year during a three-week-long showing at Colony Square Mall in Midtown Atlanta. The photographers whose photographs make up in the exhibit have been published in The New York Times, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, USA Today, Rolling Stone, Atlanta Magazine, Athens Banner-Herald, Creative Loafing, The Associated Press and other publications.
While everyone in attendance agreed the photo exhibit was a powerful way to raise awareness of the issue of poverty, the panelists agreed on the need for action.
“What I struggle with is here are these photos. We’ve told their stories, but now what?” freelance photographer Renee Brock, a participant in Tuesday’s panel, asked during the discussion. “How do we go from awareness to action?”
“Profiles of Poverty” will next be displayed for several months in the Loudermilk Center in Downtown Atlanta. That display will help keep the issue of poverty and the need for action in front of the city’s business leaders, Berry said.
“If one life was changed, then we’ve accomplished something,” Berry said. “What all of the photographers have done (is) they’ve elevated this issue, they’ve elevated the discussion. … We have to work on how do we then address these issues one life at a time.”