Power of Photography
I have a confession to make – I am a complete news junkie.
New York Times. BBC. GoogleNews. Mashable. Vox. Atlantic. HKFP. SCMP. Facebook. My eyes scan and scroll over the BREAKING NEWS of the day (everyday) and lately, it’s been more and more heartbreaking to read the headlines. It’s like every article has been focused opinions and treatment of the other, the foreigner, the outcast, the migrant, the un-citizen. From Trump’s heartbreaking policies to the refugee crisis in Europe to the vast refugee camps in less reported parts of the world, the world is heavily divided. As coverage reporting trauma, separation, fear, xenophobia, exclusion, conflict, and complex almost unsolvable problems keeps coming in, it overwhelms me, jading me into apathy and helplessness. It’s all too much and just reinforces my hardened outlook on the world, that people are people, evil runs deep, and a social media call-to-arms is a drop in the bucket. The more you move from the talk and “glamour” of social causes and dive deeper into relationships, political structures and bureaucracies that trap people year after year, you start to think… does it even matter?
In my many years of working for social inclusion of refugees and asylum seekers, I’ve come to learn that being a refugee… (for a lack of a better word)… sucks. To be stuck beyond your control in an unwelcoming place. To live in a space of no turning back, but also no easy way forward. To know that the world sees you as an outcast and strips you of your humanity. Last week, we’ve learned that in the midst of this global refugee crisis, children are living and growing up in this reality.
It’s enough for you to want to live in ignorance and stick your head in the sand because of all the noise. However, I was reminded of also another reality, that is often not covered by reporters or major newspapers. I had read this beautiful passage by Rick McKinley in his book, This Beautiful Mess that created pause in my mind:
In the midst of all the tensions of life, the kingdom of God comes crashing in. It usually crashes in quietly, though. Like gravity or high-frequency radio waves, this kingdom doesn’t require our attention or consent in order to exist. It just is. Still, I think you’ll find that we have to learnand deeply wantto see and imagine in new ways. Otherwise we’ll miss it. So many have. Because it is like a treasure buried.”
Here was that little reminder to imagine and see the world in new ways, to pay attention to the quiet and to the small. This reminder that no matter the darkness we create or the darkness that runs rampant in the world today, there is ALWAYS light. You just have to look for it.
I found this new imagination when a group of photographers from Shutter Alliance contacted Barefoot Love in wanting to teach a photography workshop for youth. Working with Branches of Hope, we created and sponsored a Wan Chai Photowalk tailored to connect mentor photographers to youth from asylum seeker and refugee backgrounds living in Hong Kong. The afternoon was spent learning new skills about photography, taking selfies, and most importantly, just hanging out and laughing together as people living in Hong Kong. It didn’t take some complex policy change or millions of dollars of support or a conference, it took 8 people in Hong Kong wanting to hang out with some teenagers, sharing their passion and love. It took a willingness to work with and collaborate with different people from all walks of life. In the midst of the tension, there IS light. There are small, but mighty moments that are transformative and bringing heaven to earth. You just have to look for it.
As always, thank you for your support of Barefoot Love, as we aim to be a bridge, connecting and walking with those most vulnerable in our society.
*For our Chinese readers, here is Shutter Alliance’s account of our Photowalk together and what a photographer learned from her experience.