Think Different

I love the idea of photography being used to tell living stories. I learned about the traveling exhibit, Streets of Afghanistan, a few days ago and got so excited about what it’s doing. Instead of just telling a story through a computer screen, it immerses the audience in a world that resembles Afghanistan, allowing them to experience – and eventually connect with – the country. The combination of art, photography, audio, props and event can be so powerful. Other examples of this synergy that I’ve seen include the Human Rights Watch Burmese prisoners exhibit at Grand Central, and the Solidarites International installation that highlights the importance of clean water.

A photograph on the printed page of a newspaper can perhaps be powerful enough to make some people care about an issue. But in this age where so much is vying for our attention so much of the time, maybe it’s necessary that we take a step forward. The combination of mediums might just be the tool we need.

I first got fascinated with the idea of exhibitions as a platform for social change when I attended the Hillsong conference in Sydney in the summer of 2010, and wandered around inside the This Means Love marquee more than a few times. A few months later, I attended the Passion conference in Atlanta, and was equally impressed by the Do Something Now campaign. Both are sections of the conference dedicated to raising funds for the local and international community, across a wide variety of causes, from trafficking to microfinance.

Hillsong conference. For every donation you made, you would be helping one girl get rescued from sex trafficking and into a safe home. Each butterfly represented that girl.

Passion conference. A wall made out of polaroids to represent our determination to end human trafficking.

Passion conference. People would carry around jerrycans and walk miles around the area to simulate the distance many people in developing countries have to walk to get clean water every day.

Passion conference. The red things you see the distance are bowls strung from a bar. Each bowl represented a sum that you donated to a hunger-alleviation nonprofit.

Over the last year or so, I’ve been trying to put what I’ve learned into practice at Tufts. That’s why Love146 Tufts Chapter puts so much attention to detail, or why I started pushing for more advocacy events in BUILD India. What I’ve managed to do is miniscule in scale in comparison to what could happen in the future, but I’m nevertheless optimistic.

This is the sort of thing I want to see happening more often in the long-term, and especially in Singapore. I’d like to see the corporate and the non-profit world team up, breaking down the stereotypes each industry sees in the other, and in turn focusing their eyes on a common cause. I’d like to see fashion entities, arts festivals, museums and the like adopt this into their corporate social responsibility strategy, knowing that it can benefit them. And likewise, non-profits need to know that creativity does not necessarily mean a waste of funds. If anything, it’s time to think relevant. You need no further proof than charity:water to see the truth of this.

Singapore has been blessed with so much. We can give so much in return.

It matters.




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