Social justice must be lived and realized in everyday life, it doesn’t necessarily belong in the courtroom. Social justice must be practised by exercising rights we are entitled to and by realizing the broad constitutional values of equality, freedom, and dignity through proactive action that together contributes to collective justice. Which means each one of us is to stand accountable. But, sometimes we need a mirror to show us the face of justice.
How does a photographer fit into this role? Well, a photographer’s role in society is to bring to the shore the world of people, their spaces and time hitherto invisible to the naked eye. The beauty of a photograph lies in its encapsulation of time but it’s purpose beyond that beauty.
Though, a photographer’s role in society has evolved over time, from documentation, reporting and mere facilitation of information to presenting photographs that tell a story to bring about change and to show the unseen. Photographers have fostered initiatives towards conservation, sustainable development goals and sensitized on global issues of human rights violations.
As a child rights activist, I have seen in my everyday work that change in the global ‘post-truth’ society has impacted the nature of global communication in reporting. Pictures supplementing written work, performing the role of ‘giving an account through imagery’ of the event or a particular circumstance is merely sharing of information, whereas the idea of a photograph can extend to substantiating and reinforcing complexities of socio-economic contexts in order to sensitize and mobilize.
For example, the documentation of Bhopal Gas Tragedy by Raghu Rai and Pablo Bartholomew have had a significant role in stirring hearts and turning people’s attention to the horrors of unmonitored commercial and industrial enterprises. Even after 31 years, the photos of Raghu Rai chill our bones in agony and despair for the injustices suffered by the victims of these enterprises.
In an interview, Rai says,“I didn’t want [the moment] to be covered up and buried away because, for me, this expression was so moving and so powerful to tell the whole story of the tragedy.” A campaign for justice for survivors of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy was launched in view of the striking pictures taken at the site of the tragedy.
Photographs are a way of giving back!