Photography and Social Change panel attracts large crowd

Photo by: Nacho Corbella

From Left: Moderator and School of Communication Visual Journalism Program Director, Dr. Loup Langton; Pablo Corral Vega, Ecuadorian photojournalist and former Knight Center for International Media Resident Professional; Shahidul Alam, Bangladeshi photographer, writer and activist; Ami Vitale,recognized photojournalist; and Maggie Steber, documentary photographer and also a former Knight Center for International Media Resident Professional.



Video by: Jun Zhu

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Posted on October 6, 2008

About 100 people attended the Photography and Social Change panel discussion held by the Knight Center for International Media at the School of Communication, University of Miami. The panelists were acclaimed photojournalists Pablo Corral Vega, Maggie Steber, Shahidul Alam and Ami Vitale.

Corral, an Ecuadorian photojournalist whose work has been published in magazines such as National Geographic and National Geographic Traveler, said openness is essential to making a difference in the world and bringing about social change.

“We have an obligation to engage. This [panel] should be a conversation about the things we can do to make the world a better place,” he said. “We don’t need to change the world. We can’t do it, but we can touch some people, and others can touch us.”

Vitale, best known for her international news and cultural coverage, said one of her main concern with today’s journalism is that there is a lack of diversity in voices and perspectives.  “Stories don’t tell truths. They just expose the untruths,” she said.

Steber who, like Corral, was a Resident Professional with the Knight Center for International Media, has worked as a documentary photographer in more than 57 countries.  She said the job of photojournalists is also to create space for people to be heard.  “The best we can do is to be the blank page to let people write their own stories.”

The panel, moderated by Loup Langton, UM faculty member and Visual Journalism program director, also discussed the implication of taking sides while taking pictures, especially in a foreign country.

Alam, a Bangladeshi photographer, writer and activist, said that when journalists take a camera they become part of the information process.

“We often become the spokesperson of people and entities that have their own agenda,” he said.  “The challenge is to be also the voice of other people.”

Yet, he said there is no formula to decide which side to take. “You don’t assume there is right or wrong.”

All panelists agreed that asking questions is more important than having the answers.

“The camera should not be a weapon,” Corral said.  “It should a bridge. It should start a dialog.”