2015 ANNUAL REPORT
George Carrano Chelsea Davis Jonathan Fisher
In 2015, Seeing for Ourselves made an international impact.
Project Lives: New York Public Housing Residents Photograph Their World was published to international acclaim, helping to change the environment for funding public housing.
NYC was so taken with Project Lives that it encouraged us to run a similar program, leading to a similar book, on behalf of New Yorkers on probation. And other approaches began to come in.
All of this has encouraged us to strengthen the governance of our 501(c)(3) non-profit, enlisting help to produce audited financial statements, developing a formal Board, and issuing this very annual report.
We look forward to making even more of a difference in 2016.
"An incredibly moving book."
Photographer book signing
"Stunning photographs....A fascinating book."
--NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO
Project Lives: New York Public Housing Residents Photograph Their World was published by powerHouse Books on April 7. The product of our three year effort training and equipping housing project tenants to document their lives, the book went on to earn acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic while garnering support from key city, state, and national political figures. The new image of public housing created in the minds of the tens of millions exposed to the photographs featured in print, online, radio, and TV coverage helped create a fertile grounding for the renewed city and state funding of the NYC projects.
Museum of the City of New York exhibit
Successful exhibits were staged in April-May at the powerHouse Arena in DUMBO, Brooklyn, where the book was launched; in May-June at artSpace Patchogue; and in August-September at fotofoto Gallery in Huntington, while Project Lives is being featured in the "Affordable New York" exhibition of the Museum of the City of New York, beginning in September and running until February 2016. And then Hunter College came calling.
NYC has asked us to do for the city's criminal justice system what Project Lives has accomplished for its public housing. We would equip and train probationers to document their lives, leading to the book Supervised Lives: New Yorkers on Probation Photograph Their World. We would provide an open career path to participants through global exposure of their work, while instilling a new empathy in the nation for those caught up in the criminal justice system, allowing probation to be viewed as an alternative to mass incarceration.
NYC probation centers
7.3M Under Correctional Supervision
NYC probation dept letter of support
And so we began to solicit funding from foundations interested in helping NYC, supporting the arts, reforming justice -- or all three.
Feelers were received from the Toledo Museum of Art, a global leader in visual literacy programming, and which has begun its own fundraising campaign for a joint effort with local middle schools and Seeing for Ourselves; and from the Patchogue Arts Council, operating in a locale that has experienced tension between Latino and white youth. Each organization sees our practice as potentially a help to their efforts.
Our partners on Project Lives included Kodak, Dell Computers, and Duggal Visual Solutions. Sigma will be donating cameras for Supervised Lives.
Meanwhile, we have participated as NYC Thought Leaders in the start up of Make Them Visible Foundation, aiming to become the United Way on behalf of America's homeless, while joining in as its sister organization, the NYC Rescue Mission, provided a Thanksgiving feast to the city's homeless population.
Twitter and Facebook outreach is on par for a non-profit's first year. A good sign: growth continues even though Project Lives was published in April.
Coverage of Project Lives came from every channel. And each review was positive, with all reproducing the photographs.
Audited financial statements in progress
In 2015, we at Seeing for Ourselves volunteered our own labor, which dominated Revenue and Expenses. We otherwise essentially used 2014 investment of capital to promote Project Lives, while also scoping out Supervised Lives.
LOOKING TO 2016
We at Seeing for Ourselves look forward to an even more eventful 2016.
Project Lives will be spotlighted in conjunction with Affordable Housing in New York (a new book edited by Nicholas Dagen Bloom and Matthew Gordon Lasner) by the East Harlem Gallery of Hunter College in February.
We hope to find a Member of Congress to stage an ad hoc hearing about the federal responsibility for public housing, where Project Lives photographers and their works can be showcased. The unique visual argument of the book has fans among Republicans as well as Democrats, so such a hearing could well bear fruit in the form of more adequate support.
And we look forward to pursuing initiatives in Toledo, Patchogue, and other locales that discover the power of participatory photography to change society.