In our modern world so beautifully illustrated in digital images it’s easy to forget the value of the printed photograph. With literally billions of pictures making their way through cyber space every second of every day few of us take the time to preserve those fleeting moments of our lives that are quickly forgotten but can be instantly retrieved with a few mouse clicks on a computer or taps on the touch screen of an iPad. With Facebook and Instagram we catalog and share these captured bits of light and shadow to be transmitted around the planet in the blink of an eye. But little do we realize in many parts of the developing world there are millions of people without the technology to create an enduring memory as simple as a snapshot.
Professional photographer Joni Kabana is working to bring the preservation power of pictures to the remote villages of Ethiopia. Through a program she calls Prints for Prints she’s giving families without the ability to generate electricity the opportunity to hold a small piece of their own history in the palm of their hands. With the help of fellow artists who have donated their work Kabana is raising money through the sale printed photographs to purchase paper, ink and other supplies to create portraits of villagers they can keep for their own or share with family and friends.
Prints by well known photographers such Chris Rauschenberg, Gus Van Sant or Phil Borges, which typically sell for thousands of dollars are available at special events for as little as $50 or on the PrintsForPrints.com web site for $200. All sold at the same price each photograph is priced to be accessible to students or first-time collectors who might never otherwise be able to purchase a quality professional print. The proceeds of each sale will also go to support the efforts a small team of four photographers who will visit Ethiopia to work with local students and train them in the art of taking still pictures.
If you’re having a hard time imagining why photographs might matter to people without safe drinking water or access to affordable healthcare, think about the things that matter to you most. Kabana recalls people rushing into storm ravaged houses in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to rescue their most precious items. Typically they were the family photo albums. As a means to support our fragile memories photographs are perhaps our most reliable tools and as an artist in the profession of creating lasting remembrances through printed images Kabana believes she can help preserve the legacy of community elders or even young children whose likenesses until now have never been documented.
I recently sent a 5-pound box of photo print paper to Kabana as a small donation to assist in her efforts. Accept for a few dozen Christmas card pictures each year I never use the 6 X 4 print packs that come with every new variety assortment of color ink cartridges for my Hewlett Packard printer. It seems such a small thing but in reality there can be no better use of technology than to preserve the smiling face of a beloved child or the wise countenance of a dearly departed grandparent. Prints For Prints is a great idea worth supporting. www.printsforprints.com
The Joy Trip Project is made possible thanks to the generous support of MAKO Surgical Corp.
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