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Research: The International Guild of Visual Peacemakers

Posted on by Ben Hodson

As I continue to pursue using creativity to bring around positive change in the world I find myself drawn to like minded creatives.  ON my travels in the middle east and the USA I have come across an organisation called the International Guild of Visual Peace Makers (IGVP).

I am now a member of the IGVP.  Their values and the way they work them out is particularly attractive to me.  I had the opportunity to meet with the director of the guild and joined him on a talk at the University of Warick.  The way they are working out their creativity in the world is simply by trying to use the skills they have to bring peace. They describe themselves as "visual communicators who are devoted to peacemaking and breaking down stereotypes by displaying the beauty and dignity of various cultures around the world."  I am personally interested in the notion of visual peace making as I think it is something that I have been doing.

They asked me to complete an interview here are my answers:

  1. What does visual peacemaking mean to you?

    For me Visual Peace making is using our creativity to bring about positive change in the world. Specifically bringing peace through all visual means, not just photography. My story is bit different to a lot of other visual peacemakers, especially those in the IGVP.  I am an artist, the photography and filmmaking is only part of what I do. Visual Peace making could be done through actually showing art, maybe a documentary, an exhibition of art by a misunderstood community, a series of photographs or even a peice of sculpture or installation art.  This of course embraces the beauty and common humanity of other cultures, but it also may be in finding healing/understanding in our differences and past hurts.

    Visual Peace making is what I dedicate most of my time to, it is what I am passionate about.

  2. What motivates you to be a peacemaker? 

    A lot motivates me to do it, in short: life, people I meet, my family & friends, my experiences and my faith.
    In a longer explanation:  I was born in Brighton, UK into a family with an painter for a mother and a creative entrenpreneur for a father. They inspired me to creativly look for solutions to the worlds issues. I moved around a fair bit as a child and even lived in India for a couple of years. These experiences greatly influenced my outlook on life and how I appreciate and view other cultures.  I have travelled a fair amount in central Europe, Africa, the USA and the Middle East.  It was only a matter of time before my interest of other cultures and places turned into a desire to document them.  This was firstly through painting and later photography, my first exhibition at the age of 16 I exhibited a painting of an african child as part of an Aids awareness project. I am quite a bad and impatient painter and therefore make a fairly good photographer and film maker. 

    I am interested in art’s ability to bring about positive change.  My interests, research and time is caught up with this notion.  I am also interested in ideas of story telling, narrative, place and location.  This is why I went to Iraq.  I went looking to explore the story of the Iraq still unseen, to engage with the lives, questions and challenges the media has been ignoring. Though I wanted to tell their story, I soon realised that I could not do this as well as the Iraqi people themselves. I have subsequently co- curated an exhibition of art work by Iraqi people which is currently touring here in Europe. “Iraq: The Forgotten Story” gives the Iraqi people an opportunity to have their own voice.  In my own work I have tried to show my perspective of the place and I want to convey some of the highs and lows of the experiences in Iraq. I am not a photojournalist, I do not hunt down the headlines or stop myself getting involved.  I am interested in the people, their lives and their stories. I cannot expect people to be affected by what I show them without first allowing my own heart to be broken by what I experienced.

    I am motivated to be a peace maker by a world that needs peace.

  3. Have you ever felt stereotyped?

    Yes for being young, British, white, a Manchester United fan, a skateboarder and an artist (in that order I think).

  4. How does your camera get you to reflect on your world and your life?

    Photography & film making enables me to share my vision of the world and help activily bring about positive change.  However, I also do this through other creative projects including creating, exhibiting and curating visual art in all its forms.

  5. What do you like to photograph best?

    Everything and everyone.  I especially love capturing “decisive moments” and people will always feature heavily in what I photograph.

  6. What technical aspect of photography do you find most challenging?

    Technically, I would say that hardest thing is getting out of bed early to catch the good light.

  7. Is there a particular group you feel is misunderstood or stereotyped that you’d like to document common humanity amongst? 

    There is so many, I find them everywhere I go.  At the moment I cannot get out of my mind; the Kurds, Iraqi’s, Kenyans, Irish immigrants to England, the Welsh, British Muslims to name a few.  I also quite like the idea of doing a project on peacemakers themselves, we’re a weird bunch, I bet people would enjoy seeing our lives as well.

  8. Do you have an idea worth sharing?

    I find Art is prophetic in nature.  It sits at the front-line of change in a society.  If you want to know some of the directions a society will be taking in 5-10 years time, just look at the avant garde of art and the subjects which it engages with.  As artists we are good at pointing at issues and subjects that we think need to be brought to others attention.  I am interested in whether art can do more then just point at the issues and the future.  I will continue to investigate if creative work can actually help to bring about positive changes in the society around it.

Full information on the guild can be found here:

www.visualpeacemakers.org

My profile can be found here:

http://visualpeacemakers.org/profile/715