Interviewed by SHWETA RAJ KANWAR | June 18, 2018
In an age where social media rules a major portion of urban life and where fake news and rumours travel faster than light, some people are trying, in their individual capacities to make the world aware of the sufferings in their surroundings using this very tool combined with their talent and passion to make humans more empathetic towards one another. This is the story of a photographer from Shillong who is using his photography skills to tell stories to the world through a unique concept known as ‘Social Change Photography’.
A social worker by profession, Clinton Massar completed his Masters in social work from Dibrugarh University, Assam and is a freelance photographer with training in basic photography. This has helped him to take up projects and explore more from this field while working with organizations on various kinds of research projects. He does a lot of solo travels and feels strongly about issues related with women, children and youth. Currently leading the AIESEC (International Association of Students in Economic and Commercial Sciences) – Shillong chapter in the state of Meghalaya, he loves travelling and meeting new people and is mostly involved in ‘social change photography’ which is a new concept that brings in the element of ‘photography for social change’ whereby social issues are addressed through photography – like advocating for women’s’ rights, child rights, etc. It is not a very lucrative sector and does not really come in with a hefty income but it’s a passion through which he has been able to make a positive impact- however small or big, in various spheres of life.
“When I was in Mumbai and I was working with the survivors of human trafficking and although I could not take the pictures of these survivors, I came up with an idea where I did a workshop with them and taught them basic photography which prompted them to go around and create their own stories. After this exercise, I sat together with them and tried to understand and analyze why a particular picture was so important to them. I also taught them about picture editing while keeping their originality intact in all of the pictures”, he says while speaking to this writer.
“It was more like a therapeutic session for them where they were given an opportunity to express their views and through their pictures. When you sit with them you travel with them on their journey and are able to share their stories and become part of their experiences”, he adds while speaking at a Women’s Day event in association with North East Network based in Meghalaya.
Throwing more light on his recent projects, he says, “I did a recent project in Guwahati where I worked with an organization called Snehalaya wherein I took pictures of the children who were abandoned or who reside in orphanages. Those pictures were later sent to Germany and were displayed in an exhibition in a sort of ‘Fund-Raising Gala’ event. The money that came in through those pictures were used for fulfilling the basic needs of these children.
I have also worked in Motphran in Shillong with the women of Iewduh market whereby I interviewed them and asked them about their problems.
Hence documenting the problems through pictures bring out a lot of hidden stories that speak to some people and by using this as medium, actions can be taken for their well being. It might not sound very huge but this is my passion and I continue to do it”, Clinton says with a determined grin on his face.
But this passion also comes with a lot of hurdles as he goes on to say, “There are several drawbacks because as it is, ‘social change photography’ is a new concept and it will take time to pick up pace. But we must not undermine the power of storytelling through photography which is more engrossing for the audience and helps to bring out the reality in an effective manner”.
Several things happen around us but all we tend to do is ignore them. Convincing people about the effectiveness of this kind of photography has been a difficult job. But again it is nice to know that organizations like Northeast Network (NEN) and others understand the work I am doing and I am really looking forward to engaging myself and my skills in many such kinds of collaborative works which will have long term repercussions and may also bring about a change in terms of framing policies for the ignored sections of society.
Clinton has collaborated with a number of organizations like Faith Foundation, North East Network (NEN), Kshamata (Mumbai) and with its volunteers in Goa, Medha in Lucknow, Child Aid Network from Germany and Snehalaya in Assam among many others.
Talking about future plans, Clinton rues that although finance becomes a big problem in the kind of work he is pursuing, he wants to continue with what he has been doing while bringing in more young people into the threshold of photography that aims at highlighting social issues.
“I truly believe that if more young people come and become part of this domain, a positive societal change will truly take place. I would love to develop projects on issues like women empowerment, children’s welfare, achieving sustainable development goals and related issues. Using research in photography, collaboration between various social networks, with schools and colleges working under this domain is what I aspire to undertake in future”, he adds.
As an advice to upcoming photographers intending to use their skills in bringing about a social change, Clinton has a word of caution for them- “This is not a commercial line at all, despite the fact that photography can be a really very lucrative activity, ‘social change photography’ requires breaking certain norms, coming out of one’s zone and involving oneself in somebody else’s journey to bring out their story in an effective manner. The most important thing about this is passion- touching lives through photography is a really special thing to me, being the voice for the voiceless is what I aspire to do and I would certainly encourage more young and passionate photographers to use their talents for the service of humanity.”
The links to some of his works can be found here: Clinton Clicks
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com