Kelsey Murphy: Photography and Social Justice

girl sitting at head of table with four empty chairs and painting behind her
The 2018 Photography and Social Justice fellows on day one of the June session.

The participants departed last week and in their absence I’m left with more than fifteen hours of recordings that need to be transcribed, over one hundred pages of notes and documents that need to be coded, and a post-busy-schedule restlessness that needs settling. I spent the last month sitting in various rooms around Manhattan with nine photographers from around the world as they learned about how to improve their practice and use their images to tell stories to better promote social justice in their communities.  Over the next two months I will analyze all of the data I’ve created in an attempt to understand the efficacy of social justice photography training programs. When the participants arrived at the beginning of the month, I nervously explained my presence and that I would be observing them for the duration of their program.

A photograph from a project one of the fellows is working on.

Six hundred people applied to the Magnum Foundation’s Photography and Social Justice training program and only nine were accepted. This highly competitive opportunity is essentially a crash course in graduate level media theory and practice. They also had just over two weeks to complete a social justice related project  in New York.

While they all came to New York with an idea of what project they wanted to work on, many of them completely changed their topics once they realized the time and logistical limitations of their original ideas. The rest of their time in New York consisted of theory and production courses. The day before they departed I gave them their final survey and test which will help determine the growth they’ve experienced while in New York.

The 2018 PSJ fellows learning how to properly record audio.

For the rest of the summer, I’ll work to make sense of all the data I’ve created. I have my assumptions but I’ll wait until I’ve properly interpreted to publicly declare anything.

3 thoughts on “Kelsey Murphy: Photography and Social Justice

  1. I look forward to hearing more about this project, especially because it includes more variables because they are based in people. Are you a peer supervisor in your role processing the data this summer? Do you have any method for processing their projects to maintain a clear head? As an RA I’m used to working on a team with people who are very different but have similar goals. I’m interested to see where you think your goals and the fellow goals overlap in your projects!

  2. I cannot wait to hear what these photographers have to say about being a social justice photographer. It seems they will be benefitting from each other as much as the program is benefitting them. How do you intend to aggregate this research?

    1. The sense of camaraderie and community among the participants was incredible. Their bond was immediate and strong. I also can’t wait to see how their work and sense of self as an artist and activist changes over the next few months after everything they were exposed to in June settles. Right now my plan is to write up a process evaluation that will summarize my findings from all of the data I’ve collected.

Comments are closed.