Picture this: your home is burning – there’s no people or pets in danger – but only a few short minutes stand between all your earthly possessions and total oblivion. You have enough time to save only the most cherished and irreplaceable objects in your life and must choose in an instant.
What would you save?
Maybe you’ll upload a snap of the inferno straight to Instagram – but then I’m guessing you’ll remember that not all your memories are yet in the cloud. You’ll tear in there choking on burning curtains to grab the things that represent your life and family most. I’d be willing to bet they’ll be photos, stored on hard drives or in albums and photobooks.
This year I began experimenting with instant ‘Polaroid-esque’ prints using a camera put out by Fujifilm called an Instax Mini for a couple of very good reasons. Some of those reasons it turns out, happen to fit nicely with a humble little startup charity called Portrait Equality. They have one simple goal: to provide people with family pictures who would otherwise get little opportunity to keep mementos of loved ones. It could be “a child for a father to carry when he goes away to work in the city, or of an aging grandmother so she can be remembered by younger generations.”
The burning house scenario provokes thought on how irreplaceable family photos can be. They can unlock memories long thought forgotten and help bring to mind people we may have lost along the way. But many people who live in developing and remote locations don’t have access to the technology that could allow them to make and keep family photos. Portrait Equality aims to share some love in this direction by offering instant print cameras and film to just about anyone who has travel plans to an appropriate location.
After checking out what Portrait Equality is all about I decided to get involved and have now made two contributions to Portrait Equality from my travel this year. You can read the stories and check out images from Mauritania here and West Sumatra here.
Is Portrait Equality an endeavour that’s going to solve the world’s problems? No. Is it culturally appropriate? Not always. But I can say from experience that it puts smiles on people’s faces to give photos and not just take them.