I was leaving a lunch at TED devoted to leveraging the TED Prize for James Nachtwey , best described as a war photographer. With the prize, he will get help to gain access to a particular venue (which may require diplomacy), and subsequently help to disseminate his photos around the world to reach a broad and ultimately influential public. I happened to be leaving at the same time as Pierre Omidyar, who had (not surprisingly) an idea well worth sharing, which I am doing with permission.
In addition to all the ideas that came up at the lunch (basically, getting Google to donate its front page, getting support from the UN and so forth), said Pierre, why not have a user-generated imitation contest?
Great idea! Most of the rest of this is my own, a user-generated tribute to Pierre's original idea - which is well worth spreading... I hope this idea reflects what he meant.
The contest would have to be designed so that users would not create their own war scenes and photograph them, but rather, find similar examples of distress requiring correction and try to draw the world's attention. Unfortunately, most images and instances of distress - brutality, poverty, torture and the like - are replicated far too often around the world. Nachtwey's model could help other people to see not just what he saw, but similar tragedies in their own backyards. And the user-generated nature of the activity would increase those individuals' involvement.
Take the most famous photographs of horror in recent times - Abu Ghraib. Their impact was due not to their artistry but to their credibility as evidence.Let's take nothing away from Nachtwey's artistry and courage and the attention they can generate, but it's the facts along with the photos that are key.