Social Change & Global Issues Photography Since 1990

For more than 20 years, PhotoSensitive has been capturing powerful images to achieve social goals. On an afternoon in 1990, former Toronto Star photographer Andrew Stawicki dropped in on his friend, Peter Robertson, to let off some steam, and together they concocted a plan to change the world, one photograph at a time.

They believed an excellent photograph has the potential to effect change, to make a difference, to expand a viewer's field of vision. And they wanted Canadian photographers to have an opportunity to take the time, to get to know their subjects, to reveal stories, together, in a way that might make the world a better place.

Within a week, Andrew had recruited a diverse group of professional photographers, and PhotoSensitive was founded.

"Take time to get to know your subjects... to do your best work. Then let's use the pictures to change the world."
- Peter Robertson, PhotoSensitive cofounder.

The idea was to bring together the talent of the group and harness the power of the camera to achieve social goals, and spur people into action. That desire has been achieved many times over in PhotoSensitive's journey, with the help of every contributing photographer and many people and organizations who believe in the work. By working exclusively in black and white, the photographers have created images that allow viewers to concentrate on the image rather than be distracted by colour. Each photographer brings his or her vision to a subject; the sum of these visions is what provides a compelling social comment.

Drawn by the power of the story and the need to share that story, the photographers capture images that have touched many. It is through the collective that one is able to see beyond the headline and examine the reality that lies beneath the surface.

Through the years, PhotoSensitive has expanded on its belief that photos can impact social change and that images have the power to change the world. Projects focused on topics important for the day and topics near to the photographers' hearts. Through it all, several themes grew prominent.

PhotoSensitive Ideals

Raising awareness. Numerous projects have focused on bringing viewers into the world of others. A photo essay on child poverty in 2000 shed light on the truth that this problem was not going away. The essay on Toronto in 2004 intended to open the eyes of the world to the fact that Toronto was not imprisoned by SARS, as much of the global media had come to portray it. Several projects worked to dispel racism and biases against others, most notably Them = Us.

More images for awareness-raising: Images of the Homeless * Images of Diversity * Disability Images * Poverty Images

Giving voice to the voiceless. If a picture is worth a thousand words then some photoessays have spoken volumes even though their subjects may be unable to communicate. Among the essays that gave voice to others were essays on the homeless people on the streets, those receiving aid from charities like the United Way, Community Living and the Ontario Trillium Foundation and images from the tsunami of 2004 and those throughout Asia working to recover.

Further exploration: Photos of the 2004 Tsunami * Photos from Rwanda * First Nations Images

Shedding light on suffering. Documentary photography can show us things we do not want to look. This is not done for shock value, of course, but to inspire viewers to work toward a world where unnecessary pain and sickness are eliminated. Numerous projects have focused on the sick and the dying. These include several projects on AIDS and HIV, children suffering in Toronto's Sick Kids Hospital and thousands suffering from cancer.

More: Cancer Images * Breast Cancer Survivors * Pictures of War

Documenting precious, beleaguered resources. This has been a theme of several projects in recent years and images of conservation have been included in both the Life of Water and the Energy Project.

More related global issues: Nature Photos * Water Images * Environmental Impact Images.

These are just some of the values expressed both implicitly and explicitly in PhotoSensitive projects in our first 20 years. More are sure to follow as we deepen our collection of projects. Drawn by the power of the story and the need to share that story, PhotoSensitive's photographers have captured images that have touched many. It's our hope that through the collective viewers will be be able to see beyond the headlines and find a richer reality that lies beneath the surface.