The camera follows three men laying down the limp body of a man. His feet are bare with dirty soles, he wears orange shorts and a crumpled shirt. His arms stricken and lifeless. The three men place him on a white cloth, a machete tied to each of their belts. In the distance we see a young boy, skinny, curly hair following the men, staring at the body.
We focus in on the young boy.
The man was his father, murdered in front of him by the men with the machetes. As we focus further on the boy, we see him trying to interpret what he is seeing. Too scared to say anything, too confused to cry. He shuffles his feet and looks to the camera.
The power of the digital camera in the arena of advocacy is that it empowers the witness with the tools to transform what they have just seen into a powerful method for promoting change to seek justice. Today I got wind of a new online portal called The Hub that allows individuals, organizations, groups to upload their videos from around the world for global attention. It is an ambitious project set up by Witness.org to present a forum to help fight human rights violations through community led advocacy using uploaded video as key force. The idea being that anyone anywhere can use video as a launching pad for activism, so that instantly a witness can upload their video to educate and perhaps inform a movement in combating violations. Ten minutes browsing through its library I have seen child soldiers in DR Congo, Burmese protesters under fire, Palestinian farmers getting shot by Israeli settlers, Chinese soldiers firing at Tibetan pilgrims in the Himalayas and even police brutality in L.A.
Still in its beta stage, The Hub intends to expand its user capabilities but there is potential right now for this to make a huge impact:
The Hub is organized into three Main Sections:
SEE IT: This is the source. Users can browse uploaded videos from other users as well as collaborating agencies working together with Witness for content. You may view content by key word search or categories such as "highest rated", "most viewed", "most recent", "by issue", or "by region". An invaluable resource for material that will only be readily available on the web due to reasons obvious.
SHARE IT: Any visitor to The Hub can upload human rights related footage onto the website whether through camera, laptop or mobile phone. There are manuals to guide the user through the stages of uploading and reviewing.
TAKE ACTION: Community is at the core of what The Hub represents. It is a network of people and groups who are urged to create profiles and with every uploaded video are encouraged to provide a synopsis about the context of the content. They are invited to create or join groups, start petitions, organize events and share links with members who share similar concerns on particular issues. This is to make sure videos are not only seen but are used to a higher potential; to actually change things.
For the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Witness.org through this new enterprise asks the question:
In an introductory video people from around the world in many languages describe an image, fleeting footage, a vision that seared its meaning into their memory - one of whom speaks of the young boy with curly hair trying to come to terms with his fathers murder. All these people work to promote human rights in some fashion and were moved to do so by an image or video of reality.
There are many reasons why this blog exists. There are many reasons why I chose to pursue a career in current affairs journalism and documentary filmmaking. In regular filmmaking you get the chance to construct a vision in pursuit of the beautiful image or to spin a great story. To use every trick in the book to elicit a tear from every dry eye watching on. But when you take your eye away from the viewfinder and look around, you see another way. When you do that you get to see reality in all its incendiary ugliness carving out the world around you. Its fascination. Its authenticity and truth. I myself hope to spend my entire life bearing witness and capturing images to inspire others to simply give a fuck. Hearing all these people recount the moment they became aware and sought to advocate, is inspiration enough for me. To pin point in my mind what led me to want to advocate is difficult.
But if there was one image recently, that re-affirmed my belief that images have the power to delve into the soul of the witness and move them to speak for the speechless, it would be this one here:
Spend half an hour on The Hub and know better.