As an organization, we feel that the public needs to understand why we choose to support what we do. At this point, we would like to explain why we’ve chosen to fund the new Women’s Initiative. Aphrodite Tsairis, co-founder of the Alexia Foundation, explains in the following brief interview how the Alexia Foundation Women’s Initiative came to be and why it is important.
Alexia Foundation: Why did the Alexia Foundation decide to develop the Women’s Initiative? How did the idea begin? Are there certain images or projects that moved you to start this new initiative?
Aphrodite Tsairis: The marginalizing of American women has not been solved by any means as our 22 year archives which showcase stories of the struggles of wives of prison inmates shown by Tory Read; women in the drug culture by Katie Orlinsky and Ramon Cuen; self esteem issues for high school female students by Juliette Lynch; the relationship between alcohol and college women by Amanda Berg; and the lives of Muslim women in American society by Jessa Buchalter
Our international stories have shown issues women face throughout the world: Iran, India, China, the Congo, Latin America and Guinea-Bissau.
In time, it became clear to us at the Alexia Foundation that not enough was being done to stop the abusive marginalizing of half of the world’s population. Little or no progress was being made to better the lives of women or to protect them from the rampant abuse brought about by cultural mores, as documented by Walter Astrada; war, by Oxana Opniko; sexual wartime violence, by Melanie Blanding; educational inequality, by Liu Xin; cultural mores, by Bharat Choudary; and lack of reproductive rights by Angela Jimenez. We felt it was time to join other like minded-organizations and do our part in pushing this agenda forward.
Alexia Foundation: Why is in depth documentary photojournalism important?
Aphrodite Tsairis: Documentary photojournalism has the singular ability of making people feel, react and remember an image. From that point, there will be viewers motivated to act and this brings change.
Our photographers excel at depicting the human condition in the most eloquent, provocative and game-changing way. They are good shooters but more importantly, they are engagers in society. Who can turn away from Ami Vitale’s tear-stained face of a genital-mutilated child or the strident chord struck by Stephanie Sinclair’s child bride or the horror of the raped women of war-ravaged Congo?
Alexia Foundation: Why does the first part of the initiative call for documentation in the US?
It is patently unfair for us to point fingers at other world cultures without examining the ills of our own society.
Aphrodite Tsairis: As the leader of the free world, the US has a unique role. With our democratic heritage, it behooves us to set the global standard for the women of the world. It is patently unfair for us to point fingers at other world cultures without examining the ills of our own society. Moreover, as an American Foundation, it is our resolve to be perceived by the international community as working for the common good of all. The Alexia Foundation understands that diversity is a strength not a weakness.
It is important to note that with this grant, we do not know what the award-winning proposal will be documenting. When we see the words violence against women, one automatically thinks of domestic violence. However, as Aphrodite’s listing of the many Alexia Foundation projects that inspired this grant, violence against women takes innumerable forms – from domestic abuse, to forced abortions, to unequal opportunities, to sexual slavery, to human trafficking. Board Chair Richard Krim pointed out that the role of the photojournalist is to uncover the issue and explain to the board why this theme needs to be explored.
The deadline for the grant is August 15, only 16 days away. We look forward to receiving your applications and learning about what needs to be documented, so that illumination of the issue might help effect change.