Faces of Dignity: Reflections on People and Places

Organization Name:
Open Hand Studios
City & State:
Describe your creative piece – what is it and what has it been used for, and why is it innovative?
Faces of Dignity: Reflections on People and Places is a full-color, 120-page book of creative photography, cross-cultural vignettes, and lessons learned that explores poverty issues by revealing the strength, courage, and nobility of people from around the globe. Written, designed, and published by Open Hand Studios, the book takes a second look at the wealth of understanding, experiences, and insight into humanity that’s often missed when thinking about developing communities in stereotypical, economic terms. Faces of Dignity takes an innovative, multi-format approach to cultural education. The book is the foundation of a larger program that includes an accompanying traveling photographic exhibition, speaking engagements, and a corresponding web presence. Adobe software is key to all of our Faces projects: We rely on Photoshop, Acrobat, Flash, and Dreamweaver to go directly from our digital lenses to sending out the final work for publication—whether in print or on the web.
What issue or problem were you working to address with this piece?
Scholars estimate that up to half of the world’s cultural diversity will be lost in our lifetime alone, and lack of education about cultures and heritage is a crucial factor in perpetuating this tragedy. Faces of Dignity seeks to create long term cultural literacy through an all ages, richly visual, and narrative approach that enables Western audiences understand the experiences of peoples with whom we rarely come in contact. In this way Faces helps develop a two-way connection central both to preventing cultural loss and helping remote communities maintain their voices in our world today. More broadly, Open Hand Studios is a Chicago-based nonprofit that partners with academics, the public, and communities across the world on creative media projects and educational museum exhibits that preserve cultural heritage. Our projects help remote communities protect, celebrate, and share their cultures, while our local partners reinvest proceeds from our work to meet urgent community needs.
How has your submission successfully impacted your organization’s ability to solve this issue/problem?
Faces of Dignity has become a cornerstone of Open Hand’s educational strategy, which is a major part of our mission to preserve cultural heritage. By using strong visuals and creative narratives, both the book and photographic exhibit focus a complex issue into more familiar, engaging terms. The impact has been immediate, and continues to grow. Hundreds of books have sold since its launch in late 2009, and it’s been picked up by several independent and academic bookstores. Faces-related events not only have helped us engage school kids, college students, and adults from Wyoming to Michigan, but have generated an over 15% increase in newsletter circulation. Finally, Faces of Dignity has provided a substantial economic return. 100% of the book’s net income and related donations fund our innovative heritage and development projects, for example raising almost half the costs needed for our Chipaya, Bolivia, project—one of the communities explored in the book. Faces is art that empowers.
Creative Submission - Files