Democracy In Action (by Stuart Herbert)
21 / 06 / 2012
Perhaps the single most famous example of the power of photography to show citizens trying to shape their society is the iconic photo of the unknown protester, standing before the tanks in Tiananmen Square, Beijing on June 5, 1989 (link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tank_Man).
Taken by photographer Jeff Widener of the Associated Press, it came to symbolise the terrible events of that period (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square_protests_of_1989), and is considered one of the most important photographs of the 20th century.
Today, you don’t have to go to far-flung lands – or photograph anything quite so dramatic – to have your own impact on the democratic society that you live in. Nor do you need to be a professional photographer with professional equipment and training.
Citizen photography – ordinary people taking photos of the events around them – is one of the new phenomenoms of the 21st century. Thanks to modern phones and digital compact cameras, just about everyone these days has a camera on them when they’re out and about, and they’re able to share their photos with the whole world in a matter of seconds via services and sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.
The opportunity is there – probably in your own pocket – to use photography to raise awareness of what matters to your local community today.
- Your local council probably has a Twitter account; send them a photo of something that needs their attention and action;
- Your local councillor or Assembly Member is probably online too. An email alone might not get their attention, but an email accompanied by a photograph always paints a stronger picture;
- There might be a local community blog (known as a hyper-local blog) that would welcome your photo and an accompanying story. If there isn’t, you and your neighbours could start one of your own (there is plenty of help available to get you started!);
- And, of course, there’s the Democracy In Action In Wales group on Flickr where you can submit photographs to the competition!
My point is that our democracy is all about taking part in shaping our society for the better. Thanks to the Internet and modern digital cameras, it has never been this easy to get involved.
That’s democracy in action. What’s stopping you from starting today?
Stuart Herbert is an amateur photographer based in Pontypridd, where he works on Merthyr Road in his spare time, a project to capture and explore the dwindling industrial heritage of South Wales. You can find his website here: http://blog.stuartherbert.com/photography.