PROOF: Media For Social Justice
“Lots of the exhibitions we create, are real peoples voices and testimonies, and I think they’re very powerful and able to touch people in a way that anonymous articles don’t have the power to do.” – Executive Director and Founder of PROOF: Media for Social Justice Leora Kahn
In the past 20 years, the human rights “industry” has exploded according to American university professor, and human rights film enthusiast Dr. Scott Diffrient. With the combination of the internet, social media, and film exploits, people can no longer ignore injustice against humans, despite being thousands of miles away from one another. PROOF: Media for Social Justice has become an integral part of this industry, using visual storytelling to highlight human rights and promote peace building across the globe.
PROOF brings together photographers, photojournalists, academics, activists, and documentarians to create visual exhibitions and educational on-site activities in some of the most troubled nations in the world. PROOF was started in 2006 when Leora Kahn, a highly experienced photo editor who has worked for publications that include Time, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone Magazine, The New Yorker, US News and World Report, decided to use her powerful contacts in the industry to make an impact in the world.
“After moving to New York and doing photo research and editing for many different publications, I wanted to use the power and contacts I had in the photojournalist world to make a difference,” Kahn said in a personal interview in April 2015.
As described on their official website, PROOF’s mission is to make a contribution to both research and scholarship, and to develop educational materials for local and international use. In addition, PROOF also seeks to incite activism and empowerment that promotes social change across the globe.
In order to execute such large-scale projects and promote the content of visual media campaigns, PROOF has to go through a number of sequential steps to push these projects through according to Kahn. “First we establish a curriculum and strategy for how the information is going to be disseminated. Then (based on the country) we have to partner with both local organizations so we have the protection and support we need, and US organizations so we can push education through, and hopefully incite activism in American citizens as well,” she explained. “Next we start doing the research, taking photos, and inquiring the local population to seek out powerful voices who are brave enough to tell their stories,” said Kahn, “and once we have our content, then the conferences, workshops, and training with our partners can begin.”
PROOF has been extremely successful in executing these visual campaigns around the world. An organization that seeks to engage an international audience to promote well being and peace for everyone, regardless of skin color, political beliefs, culture, or location, is something everyone can be a part of. To learn more about PROOF and the specific campaigns they have created through the years, make sure to check out my next article on the subject, “PROOF Part 2: Visual Campaigns that Change the World One Country at a Time”, where I will go into depth about the different campaigns PROOF has created in effort to make social change.