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Behind the Scenes : Q&A with Brett Brownell (World Wide Moment)

Brett "Benji" Brownell is a 29-year-old filmmaker/photographer based in Chesapeake, Virginia. After film school at USC he spent much of his time making music videos and documentaries about touring bands. Currently he's helping produce a documentary for the band Jack's Mannequin and directing videos for the bands Vedera and Copeland. Along with his friend Jacob Marshall, he started "World Wide Moment", a photography project that aims to gather people around the world for a simultaneous moment of peace. The next WWM will be happening soon, and everyone is encouraged to participate! Read on to get to know more about Benji and the World Wide Moment, and the details on how you can join.

Brett “Benji” Brownell is a 29-year-old filmmaker/photographer based in Chesapeake, Virginia. After film school at USC he spent much of his time making music videos and documentaries about touring bands. Currently he’s helping produce a documentary for the band Jack’s Mannequin and directing videos for the bands Vedera and Copeland. Along with his friend Jacob Marshall, he started “World Wide Moment”, a photography project that aims to gather people around the world for a simultaneous moment of peace. The next WWM will be happening soon, and everyone is encouraged to participate! Read on to get to know more about Benji and the World Wide Moment, and the details on how you can join.

The photo above is Benji’s favorite photo. Early in 2008 he was awarded the opportunity to film two documentaries in Guatemala (one about the coffee industry and one about Habitat For Humanity). This was taken on the last day of a Habitat For Humanity build in a small village outside of Retalhuleu. He handed the local kids his camera, showed them how to use it, and let them run loose. It seemed to be the highlight of their day. It was certainly the highlight of Benji’s life. (A note to Yankees fans: Yes, he is a Red Sox fan, but more so the hat bears his initials!)

Hi, Benji! Can you tell us more about the World Wide Moment?
I would love to. World Wide Moment is a worldwide photographic experiment which invites people from all corners of the globe to unite for a revolutionary moment of peace. The concept is very simple. At a specific moment (08.08.08@08:08+08GMT) we are inviting people to simultaneously take a photograph while observing of a moment of peace.

The experiment is meant to 1) prove that peace between all people and nations is possible, if even for a moment 2) create a beautiful collection of simultaneous photographs and stories from all over the world. We want World Wide Moment to be a way for people in Tennessee to find a connection to people in Iraq, for people in Japan to find a connection to people in Uganda and so on with everyone everywhere. With the Internet allowing us to connect to each other, and photography allowing us all to make art with the click of a button, we hope this will be an inspiring way for people to connect and unite in the name of peace and art.

The moment we have chosen was voted on by previous WWM participants. Other possible options were September 11th and The U.N.’s International Day of Peace (September 21). But since the year is ’08 and August is the 8th month, our voters decided on 08.08.08. Thus we have 08.08.08@08:08+08GMT. August 8th, 2008 @ 08:08AM in the +08GMT time zone. This time zone corresponds with most of China and Western Australia and serendipitously coincides with the start of the Olympics as well. So while the moment is August 8th @ 8:08AM in China, it is August 7th at 5:08 in Los Angeles, and so on. Here is a link to help you find your corresponding time: http://timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html?year=2008&month=8&day=8&hour=8&min=8&sec=0&p1=33&p2=179.
Or go to our website, look at our list of cities and times, and find a city in your timezone: http://www.worldwidemoment.org

What inspired you to start this project?
Simply put: The Human Essence Photography Group of Los Angeles. In 2002, after graduating USC I was living in Hollywood trying to hustle my way into the entertainment industry. Feeling the overwhelming burden of selfishness I took some time to volunteer for an organization called P.A.T.H. (People Assisting The Homeless). While volunteering there I met a lady named Karen Glass who was photographing the grand opening of P.A.T.H.’s newest housing center. She too was a volunteer and invited me to join the Human Essence Photography Group which donated their time and services to different events around town. Not only was I excited to see an ABC executive volunteering her time, but I was excited to work with a new set of camera enthusiasts.

So each week the ten-person group met to discuss our weekly assignments and share photographs. One week, after sharing my photographs from a Thanksgiving food-drive, I suggested an idea to the group. “What if next week we all take a photograph at the same moment?” They loved the idea, and we decided on 11:00AM on a Saturday morning. It was not known as World Wide Moment at the time. I guess it could have been known as Los Angeles Wide Moment. But it didn’t have an official name at the time.

I decided to take my photograph outside of a Home Depot where dozens of men were waiting in the parking lot looking for work. I found this daily job-hunt noble, sad, and necessary. I thought it would make for an interesting collection of photographs if I captured these men trying to create opportunity, while someone else captured the luxurious lives of Beverly Hills, while someone else captured the serenity of Malibu Beach, and so on. We assembled the photography group the following week and showcased our photographs. Some people had forgotten to take a picture, but those who remembered said they felt a very unique connection to their subjects and the other photographers. Everyone agreed they wanted to try the experiment again with even more people participating next time. But unfortunately there never was a next time because the group disseminated soon after.

However, the idea stuck with me for many years. And in May 2007 (12:34_5.6.7) with the help of the Internet and the band Mae, whom I document, the first official World Wide Moment was held. 62 people in 7 countries participated. The response was great, and after a few other “practice” runs we are now ready for a full-scale World Wide Moment. Our Facebook group has 3,000 friends, we have a now have dedicated website, and we also have endorsements from wonderful groups like the Lomographic Society, Invisible Children, and The Australian Photographic Society.

Photos and world peace – how is this related?
Great question. Astorya Entertainment, the company I started with my production partner Jacob Marshall, was founded with the idea that everyone’s story is unique and worthy of being told, and that we all have the ability to be art. For Jacob, he becomes art when he makes music. For me, I feel that I become art when I make a photograph. So not only did I want World Wide Moment to be about giving people the opportunity to simultaneously participate in the art form that I love, but I wanted to use this experiment for a purpose. The first few times we held World Wide Moment in 2007 were exciting and enjoyable for participants, but there was no central theme or cause or motivation. So this time, we figured, what better story to tell than how we can make art by making peace.

What’s the main goal behind WWM?
The main goal behind World Wide Moment is to have as many people around the world, and at least one person from every country, to take a photograph and participate in a moment of peace at 08.08.08@08:08+08GMT. So far we have people from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Estonia, England, and Saudi Arabia pledged to participate. So we still have many many more countries to reach out to. But ultimately we want this experiment to inspire people, excite them, make them feel connected, and continue into the future. We plan to exhibit the photographs on our website, publish a charitable book, and to have a touring gallery exhibit of the photographs and stories as well.

How do we participate?
Everyone everywhere is welcome to participate. Any age, any gender, any nationality. You don’t need to be a professional photographer. You just need a camera. And you just need to make sure you take a picture for peace at your corresponding time: http://timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html?year=2008&month=8&day=8&hour=8&min=8&sec=0&p1=33&p2=179

Then, once the Moment has passed submit your photo and a short 1,000 character story about your moment to our website: http://www.worldwidemoment.org

Please make your photo as high resolution as possible.

Any future plans for WWM?
For sure. We hope to exhibit the photos and stories on our website and in galleries around the world, and we hope to publish a charity book of the photographs as well. This is the 6th time we have held a WWM experiment. But we hope it will not be the last. Each time has had more and more support. So we hope in the future this will become a regular event hosted by people and countries all over the world.

Any messages, and related links that you’d like to promote?

http://www.dearjackmovie.com
- A documentary I helped produce about musician and Leukemia survivor Andrew McMahon of the bands Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin.

http://www.whatismae.com
- Rock music group Mae, a great band and long-time supporters of World Wide Moment.

http://www.flickr.com/chinako
- My favorite photographer Chinako Miyamoto and her “Polaroid Per Day” series.

http://www.brettakabenji.blogspot.com
- My daily blog since January 1, 2008. Filled with photos, stories, and online therapy sessions.

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to share this idea with Lomography members, supporters, and activists. Thanks for taking the time to learn about World Wide Moment and spread the word. Please email us with any questions or comments – worldwidemoment@gmail.com

Check out some photos from previous World Wide Moments in the gallery.

Photo Credits: 1)New York: Kassie (Klhoj); 2)Toronto: Dawn Kay; 3)Virginia: Brett Brownell; 4)Italy: Rod Blackhurst; 5)Texas: Melissa Sanson; 6)Estonia: Liisa Udevald; 7)Florida: Andrea Clavijo; 8)New Zealand: Rose!; 9) Michigan: Annie-Lynne Koceja; 10)California: Chinako Miyamoto

written by shhquiet

2 comments

  1. mephisto19

    mephisto19

    amazing project and i think i will join
    it's my grandfather's birthday and it had been my grandgrandmother's, too...

    about 6 years ago · report as spam
  2. 45vaile

    count me in it's on my birthday too :)
    about 6 years ago · report as spam