We, as global citizens, do not seem to understand our similarities and that is a shame. In fact, it is beyond a shame because it often leads to confusion, discomfort, hate, and sometimes violence. And yet, we are all so much the same.
The world is covered with an extensive spectrum of good and bad at all times, yet we only see a small slice of each: the sensational - that which sells advertising - that which grabs the general public attention. It is imperative, however, that we see what is real, not necessarily what will sell. In that light, the best-known iteration of EPHAS was born in 2010.
EPHAS was and is an opportunity for the otherwise voiceless to transcend literacy through photography and share their stories. We do it because that which connects us is inherently spectacular and deserves to be seen.
After making promotional videos for six years, it was apparent to founder G. Ryan Ansin that he, a young, white man with a video camera and an inquisitive nature, was not the best person to develop and tell other people's stories. No matter how much time he would spend within a community he remained an outsider. He realized over time that it was in the hands of the individuals to tell their own stories - not a professional.
At fifteen, when filming at a rehabilitation center in Hanoi, Vietnam, Ansin captured the story of a five-year-old landmine victim who was practicing walking with her new prosthetic. She held onto a series of bars, stabilizing herself, looking sharply at Ansin - cold and focused. Ansin could not get her to interact until he flipped the screen around so she saw her own cross face that immediately melted to confused. After inspecting the screen for a minute or more she smiled widely. A nurse ran over to Ansin who thought he had done something wrong. The nurse told him that this was the first time the girl had ever seen an image of herself. That is why we do it.
Seven years later, EPHAS began operation in Leer, South Sudan - the newest country of the world at the time. After a series of three-day workshops, Ansin, along with board member Alex Magnin, conducted an interview with two participants. They shared with him that they had never seen an image of themselves - now they have a history. Their photographs were not only a point of pride to take back to their family and friends, but a starting point to their lives at the same time that their country was seeing its beginning. To tell a story - in its entirety from the perspective of those experiencing the realities of life - is why we do it.
In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Hurricane Thomas was on its way. The cholera epidemic had begun. Ansin had flights planned and a worried family telling him to reschedule. Instead, Haiti programs proliferated. During the hurricanes, Haitian families took care of each other, held one-another through the night, removed metal dangerous metal pieces from the exterior, and photos were taken. Outsiders concerned about Haiti could watch nightly news shots from helicopters or EPHAS images from inside the tents. EPHAS images displayed reality that no one else could capture. This is why we do it.
Once the muzungas leave, reality ensues.
After building out the model, it was used around the globe for different reasons. Photographers were patients, students, former child soldiers, and victims of domestic abuse. The versatility begged a larger scale option. So, we have opened up our methodology for organizations, groups, and individuals alike to utilize as they would like.