Capturing Humanity With Every Click
This morning, when you woke up, the first thing that probably greeted you was your phone. To be more specific, it was your social media accounts. What we all have in common right now is a platform to share, connect and kickstart. We have an available audience at our fingertips, but what are we communicating with most of what we upload on social media?
A search on Instagram retrieves over 287 million photos uploaded with the hashtag #selfie, and around a whopping 310 million with the hashtag #me. Don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing wrong with appreciating a good hair day; I believe, however, that there is a need to promote a more meaningful use of imagery on social media. Take some of the most popular social media platforms today — Instagram, Snapchat and Tumblr, for instance.
It is the age of the digital photograph.
Photographs are critical, readily available and a major part of our online presence. The fact that one of the largest technology companies in the world markets just the camera feature for its advertisement campaign speaks volumes for the importance we place on the imagery we showcase to the world.
In April 2015, my friend Aaryaman and I (at age 17) felt that it was time we shifted the lens and decided to found Tasveer (in Hindi: Picture).
Tasveer is a completely student-run venture that offers free photography and cinematography services to any NGO that would like to publicise and document its work through forms of digital media.
Once Aaryaman and I discussed the logistics of the idea, execution — in the start — meant creating a Facebook page and asking a friend who spent most of his free time on Photoshop to make us a logo that looked legitimate. Next, we approached our small network of photographer friends. You know the type I’m talking about — the ones with the swanky DSLRs and absurd amounts of followers on Instagram. They were thrilled and extremely supportive of our idea and word spread quickly, as it usually does when the Internet is involved. We began to see an overwhelming number of students from different cities across India filling our online registration form as well as several initially apprehensive NGOs agreeing to collaborate with us. Seeing the idea take off that quickly and interacting with people who were willing to give us their time, skill and trust served as a positive feedback loop that only encouraged us to grow further.
Today, there are teams of volunteer photographers and cinematographers in four major Indian cities — Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad — solely because of the power of social networking websites and apps, mainly Facebook and WhatsApp. We were also approached by YUVA Unstoppable’s Surat chapter, and although we don’t have a proper team in Surat, a share on our page fulfilled their requirement — which is my point: we take for granted just how easy it is to communicate these days, to completely nullify the effects of distance and send instant messages across. This hit me when I was on four WhatsApp groups with students of varying ages whom I knew nothing of except that they were very good with a camera.
Why were they a part of these groups? Possibly because they could transform their favourite pastime into productive and fulfilling work.
More so now than ever, we see that universities and workplaces require mandatory hours of social work and that most young people associate social work with teaching or donating. But can everyone teach? Does everyone like to teach? Moreover, when it comes to donating, many people are sceptical about ‘where the money goes’.
It’s a win-win situation then, isn’t it? If you were to contribute to community your time and skill?
With up and coming websites like www.connectfor.org that match volunteering opportunities that interest a potential volunteer with a relevant NGO — kind of like the Tinder for social service — one can feel empowered to give back to society regardless of age or financial position. Doing what you love and doing it to change and improve someone else’s life has become a faster endeavour, like most other things in our instant-connection driven world.
Change is not that quick. But you have to start somewhere, don’t you? Drew Dudley once said “I worry sometimes that we spend so much time celebrating amazing things that hardly anybody can do, that we’ve convinced ourselves those are the only things worth celebrating.”
So let go of your “Someday, I’ll do this.” and move on already to your “Hey, I think I’m helping already.” spot.
This little step can be more powerful an action than you believe it to be. Besides, there’s seven days in a week and someday isn’t one of them.
Tasveer gave me a license to meet some insanely inspiring people. Being surrounded by these positive people who truly believed that they could and were making the world a better place made my own approach towards life so much more optimistic. It’s incredibly motivating to see someone who really believes in the work that they do, and put their heart and soul into it. It made me think about a question I was being asked constantly at that time — “What do you want to do after undergrad?” — when it really should have been “Who do you want to be in your life?” These experiences and interactions directed me towards the person I wanted to be, the principles I wanted to possess and the morals I wanted to uphold.
I want you to look at your phones. Today’s the 28th of January 2017 and what you’re holding in your hand is a platform to share, connect and kickstart. An available audience at your literal fingertips. What are you waiting for?
By Riya Behl