Health in Motion: Telling Stories through Photography

Jocelyn Ban, Production and Design Officer

I’ve never been tested for HIV under the thick, heavy air of a Haitian tent city or spent three hours crossing stingray-infested rivers in the Amazon jungle to receive pre-natal care. It’s likely I will never have to walk for miles along perilous roads in the Andes Mountains to be vaccinated against the virus that causes cervical cancer. My hunch is that anyone who reads this blog won’t have had any of these experiences either, but you don’t have to live through something in order to empathize with those who have and do.

Despite the differences of our cultural and geographic realities, we have the capacity to understand the frustration and fear a mother feels when poverty prevents her from accessing care for her newborn baby. We are able to feel the joy of a teenager who finds solace and safety within their local community. And the magic of photography can bring us one step closer to understanding these moments of vulnerability and resilience.

On November 5th, IPPF/WHR will host our first-ever photography exhibit at New York City’s Gallery Bar to showcase the talent of twelve photographers who help bring our work to life. Their skills provide a powerful tool through which we are able to tell our stories visually and enhance our supporters’ understanding of issues that can feel so removed from our own lives. This gifted group of photographers has documented what our local partners are doing day-in and day-out in places as distinct as Abacao, Dominican Republic and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

These photographers are the kind of people who volunteer to stand in the back of a pick-up truck knowing it will be a three-hour drive over pothole-ridden dirt roads in a vehicle that lacks shocks. They are people who spend time talking to the residents who live in Latin America’s most impoverished slums before they ever think to begin shooting in order to learn who they will be taking pictures of and make them feel at ease.

Why do they go to such lengths? Sure, it might lead to the one opportunity to get “the perfect shot,” but it’s also because they possess a kind of humble audacity that leaves many of us in awe of their courage. They care about the people they’re photographing enough to make a connection with them and follow their lead. They want to give visibility to conditions that too often go unnoticed and provide a platform for voices that are often unheard. IPPF/WHR does the same.

Health care provision in Latin America and the Caribbean is dynamic and diverse. The form it takes depends on the needs of local communities. Services may be provided in clinics, in the back of a medically equipped van, in a church, or under a tent. While waiting to be seen, you may play a game of checkers on a homemade board with bottle caps as pieces, or braid your mom’s hair while sitting in line. These may be simple moments in time that have been frozen in our photography, but what they represent is the bigger story of Health in Motion.

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