07
Feb

Preparing For The Philippines

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under News

As you may know, last January I traveled to Liberia with a team from MiiR to document the clean water wells they are funding in areas that don’t have access to safe water.  It was an incredible experience for many reasons, but it also opened my eyes to a much bigger world than the one I live in on a typical day.  A lot has gone on and been discussed in the past year since I went on that trip, and one of the many things I came away with was a newfound excitement and desire to help educate and inspire others to bring about positive change by using the unique gifts we all possess.  I really love the work I get to create as a commercial photographer, and I find myself laughing a lot which is such a blessing.  But because of my experience in Liberia, I have decided that I want to be about something much bigger than myself.  I want my brand to be something people not only associate with creative photography and portraits, but also with a love for justice and for others.  I am still processing what this all means, and how it will play out, but one thing I know is that I would like to be involved in at least one campaign per year where I can help tell a story that needs to be heard.  I want to be a voice for the voiceless, and help those who can’t help themselves. Even though my efforts have been focused on overseas projects so far, I believe there are stories and challenges right here in Seattle that need to be brought to our attention as well.  I think there is something to be said about traveling overseas, and getting out of ones comfort zone though.  It is good to experience new challenges and different cultures, but I hope to also find stories to be involved with in the States at some point also.  Unfortunately, the story I am going to document in the Philippines is also a serious problem right here in Seattle.

That being said, at the end of the month, I will be traveling to the Philippines with an organization called Arts Aftercare.  It is a nonprofit bringing the arts to survivors of slavery, which was started by my college friends Curtis and Grace Romjue.  The purpose of the trip is to train care workers in a new art therapy curriculum which will be introduced to survivors of sexual slavery.  I will be photographing survivors, youth advocates, and trying to tell the story of what life is like for people who are trapped in slavery, as well as those who have been freed.  Thankfully, I will be traveling with my good friend and filmmaker Eric Becker who will be telling the same story through video.  It will be a collaborative effort, and I am really excited to start working on this so we can shine a light in the dark places of the world.  I was shocked to recently find out that modern day slavery is a bigger problem today than slavery has ever been in the history of the world.  What’s even worse is that not only are many of the slaves children, but they are forced into sex 10 to 20 times a day.

A friend of mine emailed me me a video this morning about a girl who had been sold by her mother into sexual slavery.  I could only watch about 2 minutes of it before I turned it off.  This sucks.  I hate reading about this stuff, and it is beyond sad.  What is wrong with people? is the question I find myself repeating over and over.  I leave in less than a month, and I thought I should start writing about my thoughts as this assignment approaches.  My hope is that some of you will be inspired to take action, and in turn tell your personal network about the work that needs to be done.  I also feel like I need to do what I can to prepare myself for what I will be confronted with.  As my wife reminded me today, I tend to cover my ears and walk out of the room when I hear her nurse friends talking about something that makes me queazy.  I guess if I am being honest, I like to be comfortable, and I don’t like to be burdened.  Not really the best way to live life, as nobody ever said life was meant to be comfortable.  I also feel like you never know what is possible until you put something out there.

I know there are many of you who are already involved in fighting modern day slavery through organizations like International Justice Mission and others.  My hope is that by sharing this, some of you may feel inclined to help fight for justice by giving of your unique gifts.  Maybe you are a medical worker, a writer, a teacher…  The possibilities are endless.  We are also still looking for funding for a portion of this trip, so there is also a financial need at this point.  If you are interested in becoming involved, you can write me (john@keatleyphoto.com) or Curtis Romjue (curtis@artsaftercare.org / www.artsaftercare.org).  You can donate through the Arts Aftercare donation page and mention this trip in the comment field aftercare.org/donate.  If you have any experience with social justice, or working around such a heavy situation, I would love to hear from you.  It’s going to be a difficult trip, and I know I am going to need help and encouragement.

Thanks for reading.  I hope to share more about this soon.

22
Apr

Lisa Ling

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Celebrity

Lisa Ling portrait by John Keatley

This has been a difficult year for many people.  I personally have been pinching pennies, and admittedly, things have been pretty slow at Keatley Photo as well.  But looking for a bright side to all that is going on, the downturn has offered me a chance to slow down, and think about things in a new way.  Not that I want it to be this slow for too long…  Of the photo shoots I have had in the last few months, several of them have shared a theme of social justice and thinking outside of oneself.  For so long, our country has told us to take as much as we can, and live it up, ignoring many of the problems that exist right outside our comfortable homes.  Working with, and thinking about some of these themes and issues has made a big impact on me, and is slowly changing my heart.

Photographing Lisa Ling, was one of the experiences that has made a mark on me.  She is someone who is making a difference in the world, and because of her national platform, she is able to reach a wide audience and inform many people about issues that we can no longer ignore.  Animal rights and cruelty is a hot topic these days.  I am hopeful that because of people like Lisa, and the tools that many of us have on the Internet, we can make a difference and take steps to make changes to the way that animals are treated, both domestically and industrially.  Not everyone is able to adopt an animal, or even donate to a cause for animal rights.  But we can all at least be informed, and speak out against issues such as this.

The State of Washington has recently had several raids on puppy mills, which really opened my eyes to the cruel treatment of dogs.  Lisa Ling also made a short documentary about the cruel business of puppy mills which was aired on Oprah (watch here).

Animal cruelty is obviously one of many issues that need to be addressed, but I hope that as a country, we might start to be more open and aware of the needs around us.  Lisa spoke to a group of students before I photographed her, and it was exciting to hear some of the students talking to each other as they were leaving the event.  Many of them seemed moved and challenged by her talk, and I hope that many of them will strive to make positive changes in their communities, and in the world.

Below are links to several videos and articles about puppy mills if you want to find out more.

Main Line Animal Rescue
Seattle PI video report about a puppy mill raid earlier this year (here).
PETA undercover video about puppy mills (here).
Seattle Times articles about puppy mill raids this year (here) and (here).