Bear witness

A few years ago I was introduced to the Helen Bamber Foundation by their long-time friend Tom Lynham, an 'international wordstormer' who breathes life in to people's stories. I'm grateful to Tom for many things but none more than this because HBF is a really special charity, supporting those who've experienced torture, trafficking and other forms of human rights abuse. They provide a safe space along with a holistic approach to care, viewing art and creativity as a way of helping survivors regain their self confidence and self esteem. 

Two wonderful things happened to me a couple of weeks ago. First of all, en route to a meeting at Burson-Marsteller, the global PR company, I met with HBF's Executive Director, TJ, and new Chair, Gemma, and discovered they wanted me to formalise my involvement with the charity by becoming a trustee - a 'goose bumps moment' if ever there was one! And then, half an hour later, I arrived at Burson-Marsteller to meet with Mike Love and Amanda Pierce, the company's UK Chair and CEO, to be asked if they could use several of my pictures (including the ones in this post) as part of a redecoration of their London HQ. Blimey! Mike and Amanda wanted to recompense me but seeing as we work closely together we all agreed that the best thing would be if they made a donation to a charity. "Did I have one in mind?" "Well, funny you should ask..."

Earlier this week I returned to their - redecorated - offices, saw the pictures hanging on the wall, gave a talk to their people about ministract and HBF and collected a four figure sum for the Foundation - an amount large enough to fund the care of one survivor for a whole year. A very special day indeed.

For a long time I've wondered how I might use my pictures to help people who haven't been as lucky as me. Coincidentally, I'd even mentioned this in an interview for Nathan Wirth's ezine published last week but prepared just before all this happened. I saw the work of people like Jim Mortram and his Small Town Inertia mission (see here and here) and often times wished I was a social documentary photographer who could make a difference through the work I produced. But Jim taught me an important lesson - that we can all find a way of doing something, that the power of the community to make a difference is real and that where there's a will there's a way. 

Thank you TJ and Gemma for showing enough faith in me to make me a trustee and thank you Mike and Amanda for opening a new door. Pictures of buildings might not change the world but if they can provide resources for others who can and do change it every day, then maybe I don't need to dream of being a social documentary photographer anymore! 

Two quotes from Helen Bamber to close:

'The one lesson I learned was to bear witness, never to pass by. It is easy to be a bystander and I vowed never to be one'

'It is my belief that our society will be judged in years to come as to how we treat the dispossessed – those to whom we owe nothing'

(If you want to read about Helen and how special she is, then take a read of this and this, and ghere if you'd like to support their work.)