Ordinary, Extraordinary Changemakers Series – Pt. 1

Pavni Guharoy started ImpactLens Photography in 2016. Recognizing that people of color have long been stereotyped by mainstream media, Pavni’s goal is to create positive imagery of communities of color. Here is her interview:

I was actually inhibited for a long time because I was like, my photography isn’t good enough, a lot of people are going to criticize my photography. Then I realized that it’s not about the photography in and of itself. That’s just the medium.

That’s been such a breakthrough in my head. You know what? I’m just going to do it and what’s the worst that will happen? At least on my deathbed I’ll have checked it off my list.

Politically I feel the time is right. I just feel like people are really realizing that they have to speak up. Equal rights for you means eventually equal rights for me in some shape or form.  

I think mainstream media, which is very dominated by white reporters and white photographers, has continued to frame people of color, visually and narratively, in an intentionally negative way.

I almost I feel like there’s a hangover of colonization where the impression is, even before you understand what that person is doing, if you’re black then you must be of a certain income class or if you’re Latino you must be working a certain type of job.

I feel it’s those visual stereotypes that get in the way of truly getting to know someone or respect someone and be kind.

I live in a black city and I’m surrounded by amazing men who are just living their lives the best that they can and they’re doing really great at it. But mainstream media never focuses on those stories. The media always picks up the men that are getting shot, the men that are, you know, breaking into neighborhoods or men that are abandoning their families, men that are lazy and sitting on street corners.

The black men’s photo project I have started this year is specifically trying to defy stereotypes that I think white mainstream media has about black men.

I’m also photographing the LGBT community, trans-women, sex workers. I feel it’s important to show those people as joyful and real people. They’re not living in the shadows of society.

I feel like we visually created this social class system where if you look a certain way, you get treated a certain way.

If you’re gay or you’re dark-skinned or you’re not well dressed or you speak a certain way. I feel like there’s a lot to be done in terms of defying visual stereotypes.

I feel like if we start to look at people differently, we will inevitably start to treat them differently. 

You can follow Pavni and her work here.

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