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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Photography making a difference: tackling issues from probation reform to climate action

A doll wrapped in a lettuce leaf. Jonathan Fisher and George Carrano have led multiple participatory photography initiatives that focus on photography with a deeper meaning. COURTESY//SEEING FOR OURSELVES

High school students from across Suffolk County will be using photography to spread climate change awareness as a part of a participatory photography program in the upcoming school year.

Conducted by longtime friends, directors, filmmakers and authors George Carrano and Johnathan Fisher, this program will open up the climate conversation to a younger generation — one who will grow up to be the most responsible for saving the planet. 

“High school youth are not included in the national conversation about climate change,” Fisher said. “What we’re trying to do is include them in the national conversation about climate change, which we hope will lead to climate change being taken more seriously by a wider variety of Americans.”

The initiative, titled “My Climate Future: High-Schoolers Picture Their World To Come,” will raise awareness and open up the conversation about climate change. Fisher and Carrano have a past of using participatory photography to make positive societal differences with this seemingly-unique method. 

According to Oregon Public Health Institute, participatory photography is “a methodology or tool to engage community members in creatively making change to improve their environments by using photography.” The method encourages community members to deeply consider societal conditions and their repercussions in order to change said conditions. 

“There are a couple of Long Island connections with our practice,” Fisher said. He also noted that they are seeking out Stony Brook University students as interns for the project and those interested in getting involved should contact them.

For Fisher and Carrano, nothing about this program is haphazard or uncharted, as they have studied and utilized this method of social engagement. 

“We successfully conducted a proof-of-concept in Cape Elizabeth, Maine this past spring and are now seeking funding to conduct the program both in Maine and on Long Island,” Fisher said in a documentary about their work titled “In A Whole New Way” (2023). 

This project is being put into motion in Maine, where Fisher lives, and on Long Island, where Carrano lives. 

In the past, Fisher and Carrano have utilized participatory photography in the efforts of raising awareness to hard-hitting topics across New York City.

Starting in 2010, Fisher and Carrano, alongside author and director Chelsea David, launched an effort that encouraged residents of New York City projects to document their daily experiences and debuted the nonprofit organization Seeing for Ourselves. The results were compiled into the novel, “Project Lives.”

New York City man playing music under a bridge. Jonathan Fisher and George Carrano have led multiple participatory photography projects with the goal of social impact. COURTESY//SEEING FOR OURSELVES

Carrano has subsequently devoted his time to equipping and training the marginalized to take back their public narrative through the mechanism of participatory photography,” Senior Publicist Kim Weiss said via email. 

After seeing the success and influence of “Project Lives,” the team decided to apply participatory photography to individuals leaving the correctional system. Recorded in the award-winning 2023 PBS documentary, “In A Whole New Way: Undoing Mass Incarceration By A Path Untraveled,” the project was aimed at probation reform. 

“The focus [of the initiative was] keeping people out of jail and learning about a sorely misunderstood and effective alternative to incarceration,” Weiss said via email.

The Islip Arts Council is hosting a photo gallery starting on Sept. 6 to showcase all of their nonprofit photography, highlighting that each distinctive project surrounds the theme of social and environmental justice and awareness. 

Commenting directly on “My Climate Future: High-Schoolers Picture Their World To Come,” Fisher emphasized the significance of the upcoming project and “amplify[ing students’] voices through this … kind of imagery.” He also recognizes the importance of uplifting young people in their pursuits of addressing the climate crisis.

“People in my generation, who have created the damage in the first place, aren’t going to be around to really pay the price.”

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Sonya Gugliara, News Editor
Sonya is the News Editor of The Statesman. She is third-year journalism major and has been a writer for the paper since the beginning of her freshman year. She has written for the Staten Island Advance. Sonya does not know what else to say about herself.
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