Photography for ChangeOctober 30, 2016
Conservation photography is about more than trekking to remote destinations to get the best shot—it’s a powerful, age-old practice of advocating for environmental protection through engaging social and environmental change.
On October 19, Jason Houston, a photojournalist and Senior Fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers, traveled to Wake Forest to discuss his work making photography for change at the intersections of social and environmental issues.
“Statistics don’t do a good job engaging people. They are complicated. They are hard to wrap your head around and conceptualize. They are shocking and scary and superlative, but they don’t make you care,” Houston said.
His solution? Photography.
With his work, Houston seeks to produce stories that explore and inform our relationships with the natural world. Houston’s work has led him to North, Central, and South America, Asia, and Africa on issues ranging from fisheries and food security to forestry and water to endangered species and indigenous rights.
“What really defines my work is that I rarely make photographs of the plants and the animals and the landscapes that most people think of the environment,” Houston said.
Instead, Houston’s work is defined by people, their stories, and the realization that local communities are on the front lines of 21st century conservation efforts.
“From an activist’s perspective, as someone who wants to do more than just raise awareness and who wants to provoke change, if we’re not considering engaging and even empowering the communities that really have the most at stake, then conservation is never going to be successful as it can be,” Houston said.
To accurately portray his subjects, Houston lives simply and works unobtrusively to learn and accurately document their lives, the issues that affect them, and solutions that may help them. By engaging with the subjects long-term (at least two weeks), Houston is able to craft real, authentic narratives that educate the public and guide social and environmental change.
“Jason Houston was very authentic in his photography approach, immersing himself in situations to depict an unbiased view. By using photography, we can learn how to show images of things like climate change and trigger emotional responses from the public,” Denise McGuigan, a Masters in Sustainability student, said.
This event was co-sponsored by the Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability, the Sustainability Graduate Programs and the Undergraduate Environmental Program.
To explore Jason’s most recent projects, visit his website. http://www.jasonhouston.com/