We Have the Power!

—by Laurie ShoulterKarall for ASPP’s Midwest Chapter.

Willie Hopkins by Jerry Tovo

© Jerry Tovo

I admit that I have way too many friends who have too much time on their hands and forward emails with pictures of glorious sunsets, captioned animals, badly dressed customers at retail stores and impossible (Photoshop) feats of daring. I will also admit that Ron Gould’s Facebook updates from Paris, Tom Jelen’s images from Hawaii and Francois Robert’s summer vacation snaps have kept me from feeling sorry that part of my vacation fund was used for plumbing repairs. And nothing makes me feel better when things are not going to well than to peruse Buzzfeed http://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/pictures-that-will-restore-your-faith-in-humanity. But Buzzfeed got me thinking. Do images restore our faith in humanity; can they change our mood; do photographs have curative powers; can images change hearts and minds? What is the power of photography?

Jerry Tovo, a dear friend and one of the very few photographers who have ever taken a portrait that I am willing to show anyone, started a project almost two years ago. I know this because I wrote about his work in one of my earliest blog postings. I thought his portraits were astounding, both in their beauty and in their poignancy. I also admit that veterans hold a special place in my personal pantheon of people deserving recognition. Jerry, “has put a face on this issue through intimate portraits of the men and women who once served their country and now find themselves living on the streets.” http://www.historyhappenshere.org/archives/7426>

Now, as an eternal optimist, I am so hoping that Jerry’s portraits change the way in which homeless veterans are treated. I also want my voice to be joined by others (another blog posting http://www.smogranch.com/tag/jerry-tovo/ and http://www.voiceplaces.com/st-louis/i-was-a-soldier-photos-by-jerry-tova-1873251-e) I want these images to move people to action but, in order to do so, the voice of these images must be carried forward by more people than me and we might as well use social media. I am not asking for money; this isn’t a Kickstarter project that I have in mind. This is simply an opportunity to take the power of photography and push or pass it forward. So much is written about the fact that photographers have lost their rights, their fees and their livelihoods; I do not disagree. I am unwilling to let the power persuasive capacity of images to be ignored, disregarded or excluded from the conversation, only to be replaced by 140 characters. Or, borrowing heavily from Alice before she leaped down the Rabbit Hole, “and what is the use of a world without pictures or conversations?” I dare you to pass this one on and prove that photography can change the world.