Photographing the American D.R.E.A.M.

Marketing, Age 2. Image © Lupita Murillo Tinnen

THEIR FACES ARE HIDDEN, THEIR BACKS TO THE VIEWER, but every person in photographer Lupita Murillo Tinnen’s portfolio, “American D.R.E.A.M.,” reveals the identities of undocumented students through body language, and their environments: the rooms in which they live and work.

Tinnen, a Fort Worth native and Texas-based photographer, confronts the recently-rejected Development, Relief & Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act in this series. The title of each portrait gives the student’s major and the age they were when they came to the U.S.:

Art, age 18 months. Image © Lupita Murillo Tinnen

Political Science, age 7. Image © Lupita Murillo Tinnen

See more of American D.R.E.A.M. as well as Murillo Tinnen’s other portfolios at her official website.

Everyone Has Hope: Photos by Burmese Refugee Children

Photo by Amos

SIX BURMESE CHILDREN LEARNED PHOTOGRAPHY to document their lives as refugees living in Kuala Lumpur and recently presented their work in the exhibition, Everyone Has Hope, held earlier this month in KL.

The children, aged 13 to 16, trained for three months with students from Taylor’s College to learn photojournalism. The project is presented through Global Changemakers’s “See The World Through Our Eyes” project and organized with support from Amnesty International Malaysia.

After the exhibition, the photography program will continue, says Colin Boyd Shafer, lecturer and Global Issues Conference Advisor for Taylor’s College. “The students still have their cameras and are being encouraged to keep up shooting.”

Photo by Peter J.

Photo by Ma Liani

According to the UNHCR, there are about 40,000 registered Burmese refugees in Malaysia, most of whom are ethnic minorities like the Chin. Many more are undocumented and the total number of refugees may be as high as one million.

The government of Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. Burmese in Malaysia face arrest, detention, and deportation.

View video of the exhibition opening held at the Annexe Gallery in Kuala Lumpur:

The Unseen Faces Behind The News: One Photographer’s Journey

“THE POWER OF IMAGES TO CHALLENGE ONE’S REALITY, and hopefully evoke change” is how Australian photographer Conor Ashleigh describes his work. His photos focus on underreported environmental, political and social issues.

In “The Brick Kilns of Bhaktapur,” Ashleigh documents the exploitation of child labor at a rapidly growing brick production center outside Kathmandu, where children as young as 12 work for less than $2US a day:

Image: © Conor Ashleigh

The story of how coffee is grown and harvested is the subject of Ashleigh’s story, “The Journey of Coffee in Timor-Leste.” In this photo, factory workers sort coffee in Dili:

Image: © Conor Ashleigh

And earlier this year Ashleigh traveled to Al-Arish, the closest city to the the Rafah crossing between southern Gaza and Egypt. Ashleigh’s personal essay, “My Journey to Gaza,” is a thoughtful reflection on his experiences documenting life in-and-around Gaza, including the tunnels:

Image: © Conor Ashleigh

You can view these portfolios, as well as photographs taken in Papua New Guinea, India, and Australia, at Conor Ashleigh’s website. Read an interview with Ashleigh at Green Left Weekly.

Stories of Domestic Slavery: The Photographs of Raphaël Dallaporta


© Raphaël Dallaporta

DOMESTIC SLAVERY, A SERIES OF PHOTOGRAPHS BY RAPHAEL DALLAPORTA with text by Ondine Millot, portrays the harsh and life-threatening journeys of domestic workers who came to France hoping for a decent job, but instead became modern slaves, subjected to long hours of work and physical and mental abuse.

“For four years, from 1994 to 1998, Henriette worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week. She slept on a mat on the floor of the children’s bedroom, getting up during the night to give the baby its bottle. Her food was one box of cornflakes a month and the “permission” to scrape the leftovers off the family’s plates after meals.”

All twelve photos in the series are exterior shots of buildings in Paris—some ordinary; others are the beautiful and elaborate architecture we associate with the City of Light. But once you begin to read the stories of the lives of the women toiling inside these buildings, the windows and closed doors take on a subtle menace.

These are stark images. They are not sensational; in fact, there are no human faces. But their absence doesn’t take away from the photos’ power. They may lead you, the next time you pass a building, to wonder, “who lives inside, and what kind of life do they have?” Domestic Slavery takes it a step further, and asks us to remember the hidden victims of human trafficking, who are around us, right now.

Download and view the photos and text for Domestic Slavery at its official site, or read about the exhibition, currently on view n Geneva at the Imaginaid Gallery.

Social Documentary Photography: 3 Sites Bringing Awareness and Change

Social documentary photography, unlike news photography, strives to bring attention to social causes. The work of these photographers might anger, shock, or inspire action—they are voices speaking through images.

Here are 3 sites where you can see the work of photographers practicing activism through photography:


© Marielle van Uitert/ is a member organization for photographers, NGOs, students, photo editors, and the general public. The site currently features over 200 exhibits, and you can view photos by country or photographer. The works featured are as diverse as the Tea Party in America to urban horses.


The PhotoPhilanthropy‘s tagline is “we champion social change, one photo at a time.” In addition to galleries, the organization hosts programs and provides grants to photographers and nonprofits.

Collective Lens

Collective Lens is a site for individuals and nonprofits to upload their photos and promote a cause or bring awareness to an issue. The site is also developing a gallery of student work and is reaching out to classrooms to promote photojournalism and social change.



Top Tweets for Activists (Week ending July 16)

Welcome to a new feature here at The Activist Writer: starting today, and posting every Friday, is a round-up of the week’s best blog posts and articles for activism and social change.

If there’s a great post or tweet you’d like mentioned, please leave it in the Comments section.

Activism & Social Change

How Photography Can Make A Difference: A Journey through Rwanda
via @zenpeacekeeper

Learning to Listen

Thursday in Black: Why Wear Black?

Witness/First Person

A Letter of Appeal from Dolkar Tso, wife of Karma Samdrup

Freedom of Press & Expression

Côte d’Ivoire: Three online journalists arrested for publishing a leaked report on alleged corruption

Dozens of outspoken, popular blogs shut in China

Current Events

The Genocide Behind Your Smart Phone
via @jonhutson

Congress Considering Taking Katrina Recovery Funds to Pay for BP Spill

Forced Evictions in the Name of Development
@witnessorg and via @eadvocate

Global Water Challenge: a music video to bring awareness

In Sudan, War is Around the Corner
by Dave Eggers

Stoning for Adultery: Still a Reality for Iran

Bagua Peru: One Year On (Indigenous peoples)


Haiti, Six Months Later

Microfinance: The Next Bubble?

Millions Wasted on Shipping Food Aid

Five Ways You Can Change the World Today

Photo © NASA

Write a letter. In this gadget-and-screen oriented world we live in, handwritten messages have been forgotten, but the power of the pen is as strong, and vital, as ever. This blog is about human rights, so my destination for change is Amnesty’s Freedom Writers Network which highlights active appeal cases and even supplies me with a sample letter I can mail.

Whatever it is you are passionate about—animal rights, the environment, housing—there’s a group or individual out there who can make a difference. Find out whose attention you need and then get writing.

Meditate. Meditation is a wonderful practice to clear the mind and bring awareness. With mindfulness, we’re better able to meet what life brings us. We can be more creative and compassionate. And best of all, you already know how to meditate, because you already know how to breathe.

Here’s how: pick a quiet spot, set a timer (10 or 15 minutes to start), then focus on each inhale and exhale. Observe the thoughts that come up, but stay focused on the breathing. Note each thought (e.g., “I am thinking about my job”) and then let it go. Come back to your breathing.

It’s like a power nap, except you’re awake in the here and now.

Stop driving. In his post “How You Can Actually Help With the Gulf Oil Spill“, Everett Bogue advocates giving up your car. Now.

Can’t give it up just yet? How about taking public transport for one day, or biking to work or to the store. Take a car break for a week. Then a whole month. It’s a big change, but especially today, completely necessary.

Don’t buy anything. Here’s a few ways: bring your lunch to work. Have coffee from the machine at the office or make it at home and thermos-it. Don’t forget to pack the apple or peanut butter so you can have a day off from the vending machines.

And skip the online shopping.

Suddenly your wallet got a little fatter and you might even be healthier, too.

Share your knowledge. What are you good at? Math whiz? English major? Hockey? Knitting? There’s someone, or many someones, who can benefit from your skills. Volunteer and share. There’s no greater rush than helping others.

What ways will you practice changing the world today?

Indigenous quilombos people of Brazil face extinction

Image © Ricardo Funari

Ricardo Funari is a Rio de Janeiro-based photojournalist who chronicles stories about indigenous peoples and marginalized communities in Brazil. His photo of the quilombo community (above; click for full image) of Alcántara, Brazil, is part of a new portfolio. Quilombo settlements are rural areas founded by people of African origin.

The quilombo have faced forced resettlement and evictions since the mid-1980s, when their northeastern Atlantic territories were chosen as the site for the Alcántara Space Launch Center. A July 6th story from IPS News explored how the station has altered the quilombos’ way of life.

View Ricardo Funari’s complete porfolio at his website, and learn more about the quilombos from the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions.

The War Project: Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Tell Their Stories

Design and Logo by Chris Bishop

Photojournalist Susannah Breslin has launched The War Project, an independent project profiling Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. The first installment debuted on Tuesday, with the profile of Staff Sgt. Fred Minnick, who is himself a photojournalist and author of Camera Boy: An Army Journalist’s War in Iraq.

The profiles are presented in first person. Minnick’s story is a powerful, emotional recollection:

At first, you know, I wanted to take pictures of car bombs, because that was how the war was being fought. I guess it’s like when you’re a solider, you want to fight. When you’re in that situation, you want to do it. That was my way of adding to the fight.

Then I got there, and I was like, “How in the world could I ever want to photograph this, this devastation, these pools of blood?”

Every one of them were different. The consistencies were the body parts, the smoke. I remember seeing seared brain on the side of a car. And the crowds. There were always so many crowds. The threat level was up extremely high, and they would gather around you and just look at you. There would always be a big crater, blood everywhere. You would see body parts, like a little foot, of a girl.

When I was there, and I was capturing these things, there was always part of me that was trying to figure this shit out. How the hell could we come to this, you know?

Read more about Susannah’s project at her site, The War Project.