Ten years ago in 2011, I started the No Evil Project using photography to challenge stereotypes and help people find commonality with others despite their differences. We’ve photographed people at festivals, photographed people at colleges, photographed people at schools, and photographed people at many other organizations. We’ve photographed over 9,000(!) people from 38 countries.
Except now, we haven’t had a photo shoot since October 2019.
Due to COVID-19, the festivals we participate in haven’t happened, and most colleges, schools, and businesses haven’t been in-person, or if they are, they aren’t having events that get people together. And I’m willing to bet that getting your photos taken during a company-wide group video chat, is probably quite the opposite of your idea of a fun time. Not to mention the photo quality of the average webcam makes professional photographers cry.
But even though our main method of running the project was impossible, continuing our mission was not.
For starters, if we couldn’t take the photos, we encouraged people to continue to take selfies for Breathe No Evil. Many people shared how they were helping others during the pandemic, and in April and May, this culminated in an exhibit at the Fitchburg Art Museum Community Gallery.
We also saw many people isolated in 2020, and wanted to bring people together in our own special No Evil Project way. So along with Amy Ebbeson, we created No Evil Project Conversations that was the next step to our photography program. Now, rather than only being able read about people that were different from you through what they wrote with their photos, we brought them together online so they could tell their stories, have conversations, and learn from each other.
Our work caught the eye of the forming Pakachoag Center, and while many organizations are scaling back during the pandemic, we’ve now been given dedicated office space outside my house. Our amazing supporters quickly stepped up and helped with furniture and studio lighting for the new space. Through the Center, we will also have shared meeting, programming, and exhibit space to further our mission.
And we now have our own mini photo studio... so we can photograph people whenever we’d like.
I would like to think that after ten years of doing the project, we’d be out of a job, but clearly there is much more work to do. While the pandemic has created fear and conflict, it has also encouraged compassion and brought people together. More widespread awareness of racial inequities in the past year have also seemed to make a wider range of people comfortable talking about differences, and the more we can challenge stereotypes and bring a variety of people together, the better we’ll be at solving the problems we face. This is our mission.
Thank you again to everyone who’s taken masked selfies, been part of conversations, our donors, sponsors, volunteers, and our board for your support in all ways and being a part of this movement. Let’s see what we can do!