Why Photos Matter

Marks on paper are freedom; free speech, free press, free pictures.
— Georgia O'Keeffe

According to researchers, 83% of the population of the world live in societies without access to free press or independent media. Lilli unpacks why photographs and telling the stories of these otherwise unseen lives matters.

There are some places on earth that compel creation. There’s a quietness in the air here, vivid in the expansive sky and vastness of nature, that demands exhalation. Yet as you arrive in this small town in the mountains, there is also an air of being watched. Perhaps the other girls don’t notice, caught up in excitement of arriving at the project. Perhaps you are more aware because you are responsible for the group, perhaps you have travelled more, more akin to sensing an unwelcome eye. Perhaps they don’t think anything of the burly men standing around, perhaps they don’t pick up the French conversations you can understand. 

In the end, you aren’t even sure you want to write about this experience. Don’t want to put anyone in the line of trouble; the malicious beauty of censorship. 
It’s a great shame - and a great irony; an attempted stomping out of your time in this remote area, untouched by tourism, which is otherwise an incredible experience, heart warming beyond words.

And like many before you, now that you’ve been, you never want to return. You felt threatened at every turn, not by the beautiful community who welcomed you in their arms, but by thick surveillance that lingered in the chilled mountain air. 
You are interviewed for an article about the project, asked what you learnt from this trip; your answer surprises you as it falls from your tongue thick and fast. « I‘ve become less of a feminist. More of a humanist. An advocate for opportunity and freedom for all, not just women. It stands as a stark reminder of how incredibly equal women are in western communities, of the incredible opportunities we have. Our existence in western societies in 2018 has virtually guaranteed our opportunity to pursue what interests us - and we can be finicky over exact details and a few bad apples, but fuck, we have extraordinary opportunity. I’ve become a staunch humanist. The future shouldn’t be female, it should be equal in opportunity for all. » 
You realise, for the first time in your life, the true value in freedom, in democracy, in free speech. Georgie O’Keeffe puts it best - “Marks on paper are freedom - free speech, free press, free pictures.”  

Lilli B