Thursday, June 28, 2007

6 billion Others

Recently someone sent me a link to 6billionothers created by Yann Arthus-Bertrand. I know his earlier book The Earth from the Air well. It struck an immediate chord with me. Here was someone who could look down on the planet and see the same emotional patchwork that I saw as I looked out of countless airplane windows. Arthus-Bertrand’s latest project explores another important emotional idea - storytelling. 6billionothers is an amazing archive of stories told by people all over the world. Best of all, these stories come to us in full sight, sound and motion. We can watch as these people share their thoughts, experiences, dreams and stories.

Arthus-Bertrand and his team visited 65 countries, interviewed 6,000 people, and produced 450 hours of video portraits. The results are inspirational, often heart wrenching, and always compelling. I will keep returning to this site to follow this growing mosaic of human experience. Here are some revealing statements from the people interviewed on the subjects of dreams, family and happiness.

“For everyone to have enough food, receive medical care and have a decent home. That's the good life. When you have everything and your neighbor has nothing, you aren't happy in life.”

"Man is made to develop love towards others and family is where he can have his first try. There's no interest in just living for oneself. It's like being a black bulb. You bring light to no one."
-Moscow, Russia

"There is a secret in music. If you have a problem, once you start listening to music, you'll feel the happiness deep down in your heart."
-South Africa


Susan956 said...

This is my meat and drink and why I chose autoethnography (reflexive narrative of self within culture) for my PhD. It is evocative and very demanding on self.

However, let's not talk like storytelling is anything new. In my field there are academics who pay immediate respect to all those [indigenous] cultures who came before and who were the parents of storytelling, and then others who treat storytelling as if [white] western culture discovered it's gift.

Storytelling is an ancient craft that is now being recognised in western society for its revelations and its evocation. For giving us first hand information. We celebrate the magic of the phrasing and the imagery people draw upon to express.

My question for others here is..
'where to' from these narratives such as those we have here?

If we look at interpretation, meaning, knowing, evolution as, itself, evolution, 'where to' with these narratives?

Is it enough that they are as they are? If it is enough for the now, will it be enough for the future? Should we (it is important to) work with them and evolve them?

Susan956 said... my last sentence the insert in brackets should have been phrased as a question, vis. "Is it important to"..

Piotr Jakubowski said...

I was born and raised in Indonesia, and that comment from the Indonesian made me remember what it was like to live there. It also reminded me of how thankful I was to be growing up in a country where the disparity between the rich and the poor is so great that I felt priviledged (and still do) to be living the life that I am.

It's interesting to me how people fail to listen. And it's people such as Arthus-Bertrand who provide the channel for people who would otherwise go unheard, to express their emotions. And this breaks down such great barriers, because irregardless of age, race or gender, we are opened up to a world where we can fathom that a human is nothing more and nothing less than a human; whether they are living the high life in New York City, or hunting in the jungles of Borneo.

In the past, I have followed the works of photographers as storytellers through their images (I love the work of James Nachtwey and the VII Photo agency. Their work is just so powerful). It's great to see somebody using the power of variety of media to open the minds of people who wouldn't have the chance to explore these corners of the world themselves.

Susan - in response to your question, if I understood it correctly, is that these narratives are essential in preserving our respective cultures. It's quite a shame that with the development of technology, less stories are being passed down from generation to generation. These stories are important in cultural preservation, as it provides a base through which people with similarities can relate to each other, and understand each other. It also helps maintain heritage and emphasizes the importance of traditions.

Susan956 said...

piotr.. Thank you for the response.

I look at narratives from various perspectives. In this current instance why Kevin chose what he chose is as potentially revelatory as the excerpts themselves.

I agree that stories preserve culture and history. They are artifacts of heritage.

My question was leading more to posing 'where to go' with the types of narratives Kevin listed today.

Is it enough that these are shared or are there greater paths and potentials that exist from the garnering of narratives.

Certainly, as Kevin alluded, narratives can give rise to the sense of commonly shared experience and human connectivity that defies the artificial barriers/borders we consciously and subconsciously establish.

Conversely, narratives can highlight the broad differences of the human condition and say the value states of different groups in society.

What I wanted to highlight however are the potentials for therapeutic alliances. Autoethnography, because of its strong reflexive emphasis, looks to gives rise to these.

Susan956 said...

Given that artistic expression is universal, might I share this website inspired by Consul's (one of KRConnects community members) sister Monique. I am fascinated by such installation work and the site is quite a joy to explore:

J said...

Hello Kevin,

I haven't been to your blog in a couple days and as I return I find another beautiful post.

On the subject of story telling and it's importance in our evolution as human beings I wanted to just say a couple of things if I may.

I was born in a very tiny village in West Africa and I can still remember the first stories that my grand mothers told me as a toddler. As I grew up the legends of great warriors, the myth of our ancient sword in the stone and our golden stool have stayed with me. Stories and legends are powerful they can motivate and influence in deeply profound ways.
In all cultures, the themes are repeated, the concepts of good and evil, stories of struggle into greatness and also the stories that teach us about the importance of our spirituality.
I'm really glad that you made this post, it's another example of why you are a lovemark to so many of us who are interested in the history and future of brands.
I am re-reading a couple of fantastic books at the moment, John O'Donohue Anam Cara and Divine Beauty-looking at the beauty of the world and celtic spirituality. Both of those books have an almost fairy tale beauty about them and they have literally changed my life and my perspective on human relationships. They teach you about humility and kindness and the wonder of giving love to others. Hope you are very well..keep it coming

Josephine Fay
The Little Bakeshop Ltd

Piotr Jakubowski said...

Speaking of therapeutic alliances, I was involved in a project that had everything to do with this concept. As you know, the tsunami hit Indonesia and other countries in December 2004 and it was devastating. One of the biggest tragedies was te lack of counseling and therapeutic resources for the hundreds of thousands of displaced survivors, especially the children. One of the ideas that was generated with this was to create a letter exchange between children at my international high school and displaced children in North Sumatra. After a collection of these letters had been made, they were published in a book, "Letters from Aceh", and I participated in the photography (and nailed the cover of the book). . Although the book had limited release it was great to see such a project come to light, and to show the people who had seemingly lost all hope, that they are not alone and that people truly care about them. The proceeds of the book went to rebuilding schools.

This is one way that I believe that narratives can be utilized to raise awareness. Another more creative way was a book created in Indonesia (forgot the title), in which street children were given cameras and asked to photograph their daily lives. The photography wasn't National Geographic quality, but the idea that the children were proactively involved in telling their own story was wonderful.

What kind of channels would you suggest?

Susan956 said...

piotr.. A great cover picture. I will be upfront and say I have done a little research on you and you have a portfolio of significantly evocative and aesthetic images. I see quite a career ahead of you when you are achieving and interacting as you are already at this stage of life. I quite admire your drive and energy. You'd have a lot to teach me about taking a good shot to match an evocative moment. I can often propel the image in my mind but lose the translation to the camera.

You have posed very good examples of forms of therapeutic alliances.
The book itself will form other alliances as it connects out with the world. It will provide inspiration for some, hope for others, it may restore faith, it may become the impetus for similar activity in other fields.

Therapeutic alliances also occur in narrative works done on say cancer patients and then their palliative workers. I've read some magnificent pieces on how respite workers came to improve their craft simply by knowing more about what their patient group really needed and what they found helpful and what was terrifying and hard to grapple with.

This is connectivity with evolving, positive outcomes - emerging from richer often very specific understandings expressed FROM and BY the source.

The transferability is cross topic and theme of course.

In a world that is striving for a breakthrough in acceptance and tolerance of religious/political views, narratives can be used to identify common themes and common concerns and can speak to issues from a heartfelt position. If I wanted to appeal to you on some basis Piotr (and I am meaning appeal on a socio-cultural/political issue) better that I may use the words of your own countrymen/women to tweak your interest and attention than views of my own countrymen and women.