From being heard to being felt: reflections from a photoactivist

July 14, 2013

“It is one thing to photograph people. It is another to make others care about them by revealing the core of their humanness.” – Paul Strand

We are at the crossroads of a digital revolution and changing media landscape with unprecedented opportunities for catalytic photoactivism!

Images allow us to connect as fellow humans, calling on us to identify our commonalities and feel what it’s like to be in another’s shoes, if only for a moment. Throughout history photographs have won campaigns, changed our opinions on war, transformed policy and informed how we live our daily lives.

What could these guys possibly have in common?

Or these women?

Children, who live in such different lands?

While there’s nothing more worth celebrating than the rituals and regalia, the language and spirit that defines our cultures and makes us different, it seems those things are really quite small when juxtaposed to what makes us alike.

Science has confirmed that all humans share a common ancestry written deep in our bones—99.9 percent of human DNA does not vary from person to person. We all draw from the same universal spring of values and emotions, experience the same joy and anger, hope and tears. We form communities and determine processes for decision-making and leadership. We are mamas who first and foremost want the best for our children and for future generations. We are kids reveling in the simple things, turning our faces to the rain and laughing our way though life. Take a step back and you’ll see a tribe of brothers and sisters all roaming the earth just trying to figure out what it means to be alive. How will we face all the challenges that confront us as a species on this planet we share?

First we must understand them in a universal way that is meaningful to OUR lives.

Why does this matter in pushing your messages beyond being heard to being felt? Because we are emotional beings first. Pictures have a direct line to our gut feelings and hearts, and the power to strike at emotions that move us to action. We see that “this could be me, my home, my kid, my mother…” Instantly we’re a part of the story, and there’s nothing more powerful than that. The very act of storytelling reconnects us, sparking an imaginary and real social fabric we are inclined to tie into. Our personal stories begin to shift from “mine” to a universal “ours.” As a visual storyteller I seek to push audiences to feel through my lens how we are all just living, breathing, hoping, hurting, laughing, naked human beings at the end of the day regardless of sharing space deep in the Amazon rainforest or in the halls of power.


Caroline Bennett is an award-winning photographer and communications strategist working to pioneer a realm of visual journalism that leverages new platforms and cutting edge digital tactics to shake the world awake through high-impact storytelling founded in the truth and dignity of the people represented.