In times we collectively feel helpless and often hopeless, we are desperately looking for ways to do our part. Especially, when being told that all we can do to help is staying home, it can be tough to accept our hands are tied. As photographers, we are lucky to still have a creative outlet and tool to make use of within our own walls. While paid work for photographers is down to zero across the country, LomoAmigos Benjamin Lieber and Eric Soucy decided that this doesn't have to stop them from creating. And they knew they weren't alone with the desire to do something. In fact, over 100 photographers from all over the world, were happy to join their project Not Me, Us a collaborative global artistic effort for change, raising money to support tipped, service, and gig workers whose incomes have been impacted by COVID-19
"Not Me, Us" is a collaborative photo book project raising money to support workers affected by the pandemic. Can you tell us a bit more about the thought behind the project and how it came together?
BL: The project started with Eric and I wanting to work together on something to benefit people in need. We didn’t really know what that would be yet, and things started unfolding with COVID around the world. We initially had discussed doing a split photo book just between the two of us but we quickly realized that there were many artists around the world who felt the same towards this situation and that this project and idea could be so much bigger than anyone of us alone. It all fell into place once that came through.
As photographers yourself, how has the current health crisis affected you? Creatively and/or economically, up to you how you’d like to answer this.
ES: As a photographer, this crisis has affected me both economically and creatively in a number of ways. First of all the sad truth is that there is zero work during this time for most people who work in photography. I have been out of work for a month now because of this and it looks like it’ll be another month or two before production picks back up. However, this crisis has also allowed me to document a very historical moment through a creative lens. I have been able to go for walks with my camera around one of the most hard-hit cities in the world and capture images that will forever tell the story of this crisis in New York City.
We’re currently living in a strange and scary world, a lot of artists seem to be struggling to feel motivated to keep creating. You can read a lot of "Does it even matter?" thoughts online. How do you feel about the importance of creating art during this trying time?
BL: I don’t want to discredit anyone’s coping mechanisms through a global pandemic. None of us have ever gone through this before, so it goes without saying that we all have the liberty to get through this on our own terms. With that being said, speaking for myself, making art, connecting with others, singing and writing and documenting is how I cope. When something is swept from under me, I cope by finding a new avenue, a new outlet, a new way to make it possible. This project has been really interesting for me personally because it’s sole importance is on togetherness. It’s so much bigger than anyone of us, and embracing that amidst a collapse was extremely motivating.
Not Me, Us features over one hundred photographers from all over the world. How did you go about your curation?
BL: Basically, it just started with Eric and I reached out to everyone that we know that likes to take pictures. We didn’t feel there should be any sort of exclusivity with the project. One of my favorite aspects of this book is how diverse the work is; there’s so many different styles and eyes here, and something to learn from each of them. Eric and I just extended the project to any and everyone we knew, which then kinda spiderwebbed from there, involving new people that neither of us knew; and eventually, we had a big community of people all with the same collective idea.
100% of the proceeds from the project are going to “One Fair Wage”. Why did you choose this organization and besides providing financial help, what other goals are you hoping to achieve with the project?
BL: Eric and I did a lot of research when figuring out where we wanted to donate the sales of the project to. It was interesting because as we were putting this project together (in record time must I add). The world was being hit by COVID, and these organizations to help people were literally being created on the spot, as we were researching them. The collective efforts here stretch far beyond even just everyone involved in making this book. The thousands of people that scrambled to put together grassroots organizations at the first chirp of “global pandemic” deserve the awards here. Eric and I found One Fair Wage through Bernie Sanders’ campaign site. If you don’t know, Bernie has redirected 100% of his campaign fundraising to Coronavirus recourse-related organizations. Eric and I, and all the artists in this book, wholeheartedly believe in Bernie’s campaign and the good that his team is working so hard to do to get the world through this disaster. One of the organizations the Sanders campaign donates to is OFW, so we checked them out. They essentially are providing paychecks to anyone in the tipped, gig, or service industry who have been fired because of the government’s restrictions on public gatherings/businesses being open. This felt close to home for the project because in a way all the artists involved in this book have been affected in this regard to some degree through this pandemic.
The theme for all the artists was Not Me, Us, the results are very diverse. Any submissions that surprised you personally or any you’d like to highlight?
ES: The results were certainly diverse which really led to a beautiful layout overall. First of all, I really appreciated how people tried to choose beautiful and inspiring images for the book. At a time when people are living in fear; it’s certainly nice to have something beautiful to get lost in. There were a few submissions that really stood out to me by the nature of their meaning. There were some submissions where artists submitted photos of their family or loved ones and I think that really reflects the emotion and sincerity that underlies this book. Artists like Brett Ballachino, Rebecca Lader, Ryan Graham, and Dieter Unrath all chose to submit images of people they hold so close to their hearts.
Any final words to our community?
BL: Lomography makes an incredible film that both Eric and I, and many artists in this book love to use! Not only that but as a company, they make really conscious efforts to nurture a community of creative, caring and talented people and I’m thankful for their existence and belief in this project. Please check out the book here and donate if you can. Physicals are $30, and we have digital-only versions available for only $10 as well if that’s more feasible. Thank you for reading and enjoy the art, stay safe!
ES: I really appreciate what Lomography does for the photography community. Lomography has single-handedly made its company feel like a family that is always trying to inspire and create positive artwork. Lomography also helps out a lot of smaller artists who are just getting their name’s out there. This project is rooted in the community and the belief that we can all help one another. Please order a book knowing that 100% of your money is going to someone who’s making life and death decisions between food and bills.