Look at a map of Afghanistan and you will see an appendage of land that juts out from the northeast corner. This is the Wakhan Corridor and it’s bordered by Tajikistan, China and Pakistan. The corridor is about 200 miles long, wedged between the Pamir Mountains to the north and the Karakoram range to the south.
It’s a harsh environment. To stay warm, villagers collect yak dung for fuel to burn during the long, cold months of winter. I visited the Wakhan a handful of times to photograph these remote schools and the children learning there, while working as a photographer for Central Asia Institute.
CAI provides education for girls and boys in remote regions of Central Asia. They work to promote peace through literacy and education. My purpose was to document their work and the impact it has on the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan. It can be difficult to convey to Westerners just how different life is in these remote places. But photography is a powerful medium that can help bridge those gaps.
Learn more at centralasiainstitute.org
Mountain Outlaw: How can an image affect social change?
Gayle Kabaker: I think an image grabs people’s attention, and makes them feel something. If it’s a strong image it could produce a strong feeling that might get them to do something they might not have otherwise done.
MO: What is the cause or organization you currently feel most passionate about?
GK: Ahh. So many causes right now. Women’s rights are always at the top of my list. Everything from healthcare—abortion rights—[to] equal pay. Cancer and animal rights are also big for me. I am planning to get involved somehow in a visual campaign about getting out to vote.
MO: What is your advice for other photographers/artists who wish to create meaningful work?
GK: I once went to an abortion rights fundraiser and the speaker talked about [the emergency contraceptive] Plan B, which at the time I’d never heard of. (This was many years ago.) I came home and e-mailed many of my women friends and asked if they knew what Plan B was. Many did not. I contacted the CEO of a local women’s health organization whom I’d met at the fundraiser and offered to help in any way I could with a visual ad campaign promoting Plan B, as I felt it was so important. My offer was pro bono but it turned into more paying work for this organization.
I’d say the most important thing is to paint and create from your heart. If it comes from an authentic place, then it has a good chance of connecting with other people.
If you want to support a cause you really believe in, you could try writing to them. But I find that often organizations don’t respond to the offer of free art. So it’s a matter of having visibility—doing work that is meaningful and establishing yourself as an artist who does meaningful work.
See more of her work at gkabaker.com
"If it comes from an authentic place, then it has a good chance of connecting with other people."
Most of my artwork tends to be introspective in nature, exploring inner landscapes of the human experience. But lately, I’ve felt the need to expand beyond my personal story and use my artwork as a platform for activism. I believe we all have a sacred duty as individuals walking this spectacular earth to make concerted efforts to protect it—and the rights of our fellow human beings walking alongside us.
My Resistance Series features people that make this country great, individuals—both past and present—who have shaped our cultural landscape through their steadfast resistance to oppression. Renowned civil rights activists
Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour are two of the national co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington, where more than 1 million gathered in Washington, D.C., joined by another 4 million worldwide, to march in support of the movement’s mission to “stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families—recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”
Ten percent of all sales go the American Civil Liberties Union. sheiladunnart.com
I’ve spent a whole adult lifetime photographing rivers, and Kootenai Falls in northern Montana is among the most astonishing hydrological phenomena I have seen. It tumbles through an ornate complex of ledges and drop-offs, swirling from pool to plunge, pushing with a force that’s dramatic to behold.
Undammed rivers of this size, and with such impressive gradient, have become rare, as 80,000 large dams have been built in the United States. And this very site was imminently threatened in the 1970s by a hydroelectric dam proposal. The federal permit was contested by local tribes, who regard the falls as sacred ground, and by conservation groups. Ultimately the dam was stopped.
I’m deeply motivated to photograph sites such as this because their sublime beauty remains unknown to most people. These places must be cherished, not only by the Native Americans who recognize spiritual values when they see them, but by all of us.
Tim Palmer is the author and photographer of Wild and Scenic Rivers: An American Legacy, and 25 other books. See his work at timpalmer.org
Former Marine Aaron Howell returned home from Afghanistan as a double, above-the-knee amputee and missing parts of both of his hands. He eventually learned to kayak with Team River Runner while recovering at Walter Reed Medical Center. It’s proven to be a transformational experience for Howell, who says that his time on the water has freed him from his disability, in a way, by allowing his mind to focus on the action and the challenge of the sport.
This past September, Howell kayaked 226 miles through the Grand Canyon with two other veterans, Lonnie Bedwell, a blind Navy veteran-turned-whitewater kayaker, and pro kayaker and 101st Army Airborne Division veteran Russell Davies. Together they navigated the Colorado River’s largest rapids and hiked its steep side canyons while reflecting upon the integral role rivers have played in their recovery.
As a veteran myself—in 2004 I deployed to Iraq with the 1-163rd Infantry Battalion, a Montana Army National Guard unit based out of Missoula—I am inspired by the resilience demonstrated by my brothers-in-arms who overcome combat injuries through outdoor activities.
I am currently editing the short film my team and I shot about the Grand Canyon experience, which is set for a spring 2018 release. My hope is that people will be encouraged by these powerful stories of resilience. That’s what compelled me to start Big Cedar Media four years ago— the opportunity to showcase the human condition through stories that inspire and motivate.
Learn more at bigcedarmedia.com
In the spring of 2016, my brother and I traveled to Tuvalu, a sparsely populated country in the South Pacific. Over the course of our time there, we spent many an afternoon swimming, fishing and exploring with the local youth.
We also conversed with the children about what climate change means to them and were struck by the positivity and creativity they brought to our conversations. By and large, children are not motivated by greed. They are not motivated by politics. They are not fear mongers. They are not selfish. Overwhelmingly, they are guided by joy, compassion, a sense of fairness and honesty—the same ideals I believe we must look to as we work together to change the course of our current climate trajectory.
Featuring stories and images from the outer islands of Tuvalu, Children of Climate Change is the first installment in a long-term film and photo project that seeks to stimulate conversation and inspire positive action by amplifying voices and sharing stories of the youth on the front lines of climate change.
As a visual storyteller you have a gift, and with that gift a great responsibility to the world. Use that gift wisely, compassionately and strive to do good.
See more of his work at forestwoodward.com