Photographs have been used to document political and social movements and to voice political points of view since the earliest days of photography. In their hay day, for example, the picture magazines like Life and Look were not only great showcases of photojournalistic talent, but they brought things like poverty, injustice and human suffering home to the living room. The photographs that our great photojournalists devoted their careers to creating were our windows on the good, the bad and the ugly of modern society.
You don't, however, have to be a professional journalist or travel to a war zone to make a political statement with your camera. In fact, you'll find potential subjects for political commentary in virtually every community. A well-captured shot of the local WWII or Vietnam memorial is not only great photo subject, but it will be welcomed by your local paper or community website. A photograph of people being fed at a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving will transform your snapshots to a higher and more serious level of photography. And sometimes potential political subjects just jump out and surprise you. I found this sea of endless flags on hillside in Turners Falls, Massachusetts while on a weekend ramble. Each flag was placed there in memory of a fallen soldier in Iraq. I was devastated--brought to tears--by the site of 3,000 flags on that hillside. I spent an hour wandering the hill, thinking about what the flags meant and shooting dozens of angles. Sad to say that today that number of flags is close to doubling.
The photos that you take can change lives, they can move people's hearts and they can help raise awareness. Don't be afraid to use your camera as a political tool. The photograph, like the pen, is often mightier than the sword.