“Personal Hunger and Felt Need”

By Bill Gentile

MEXICO CITY, 2 May 2010 — A friend of mine, a participant in one of my recent Backpack Journalism Workshops, wrote to thank me for the experience and to probe for ideas on how to keep up not only with the craft — but with something more. Here’s part of what he wrote:

I’m feeling a sense of urgency to get more of my (work) out there. I’d like to know if you could suggest some next steps. What I could really use is a group of people who can regularly view, critique, challenge and encourage each other… My objective is to be part of a storytelling movement. I think I heard you alluding to something like this at several points. To tell stories about people and places I encounter and then hear stories from others doing the same all over the world. Years ago, I was introduced to the work of the great Brazilian educator, Paulo Freire and his idea of conscientization. I’m sure you’re familiar, since your work embodies the principle. I want to create and promote media which tells truth, sparks imagination, and raises consciousness. This is more important now than ever. So much visual storytelling these days seems like drugs. I don’t want to be a drug dealer. I’m not saying this out of any sense of moral superiority, but instead personal hunger and felt need.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve heard voice this same yearning to create, to express, to challenge and to change. Here’s part of what I wrote back to this particular friend:

And I understand your need to participate in this international conversation which is visual communication. I’m trying to do that by hosting and joining various Internet groups, maintaining a web site and blog, teaching and producing as much content as I can. And that last part is crucial: Producing content. As you produce more of the kind of content you want to produce, you’ll find yourself making connections with people who share your interests. You’ll find yourself building content, a commodity (yourself) and a community.

The technology that we now have at our fingertips — digital cameras, computers and the Internet — allow us all to participate in this international dialogue. Too often this unprecedented opportunity (and power) is wasted, but some of us, increasingly conscious of the urgency of so many issues facing us today, are using it more constructively.

With this technology, these new tools, we are a revolution. We can make a difference. So come with us, to view, critique, challenge and encourage.