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Live Active Cultures

Use your camera to Picture Peace with Barry Kirsch

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That instinct soon led to the creation of picture-peace.org, which attracted more than 100 members in its first month. On the evening in question, Kirsch had brought his website into the real world at Urban ReThink, where more than 100 people signed up for the service and had avatar portraits taken of themselves holding a “Picture Peace” sign. The avatars will be displayed on the site in black and white until world peace is achieved, at which point they’ll convert to color. (Details are fuzzy on exactly how that milestone will be determined, but I have a feeling they’ve got plenty of time to work that out.)

As Kirsch shared the evening’s successful statistics with me, he emphasized that this project isn’t just about professional photographers. They’re hoping to teach novices to use simple point-and-shoot cameras and “just shoot where you live,” sharing images of their neighborhoods with the world. Kirsch feels that “people want to participate in a global environment,” and says that communication is already “flying back and forth” between members from as far away as Albania and the Middle East.

In our short-attention-span age, people are making time to take and share more photographs than ever before, making it an ideal medium for cross-cultural communication. “Just because people don’t fight doesn’t mean you have peace,” Kirsch says. “Peace needs dialogue and understanding. Photography is just a facilitator. [People] might not understand each other’s language, but they can understand an image.”

“People aren’t asking for the world, they’re just asking for their part in the world,” Kirsch added just before I left. “Who knows where this will go? At least I’m making an effort,” he says, gesturing to the roomful of volunteers and newly registered members. “And so are all these people.”

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