Ashley Woods – Making Peace through Photography

Ashley Woods

Making Peace Curator Ashley Woods shares why he’s using the power of photography to capture peace and reach out to a broad audience. 

Tell me how you got started. My entire family is from a military background, so I was steeped in that environment growing up and saw how much damage it could bring about. A few years ago, I was invited to curate an exhibit for the International Committee of the Red Cross on the Nuclear Dilemma in conjunction with the UN Cyber School Bus and supported by Mayors 4 Peace, The International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility and the International Peace Bureau. That 2008 show was a great success with 18,500 visitors in 4 weeks! Then we took it to the Guernica Peace Museum for 9 months where we had 30,000 visitors.

IPB then asked me to do something for the 100th anniversary of their receiving the Nobel Peace Prize (1910 – 2010). They wanted me to do a historical look back at the IPB… and I said NO WAY!  Instead I proposed to use photography (since I have experience working with the photojournalism agencies Magnum and VII—which focus mainly on war photography) to explain what Peace is all about… as I myself didn’t know.  I soon found out that there isn’t even consensus within the peace movement on what peace is… There’s Peace and Sustainable Development, Peace and Human Rights, Peace and Justice, Peace and Gender etc. For the general public, peace is simply the absence of war or LOVE or Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll.

I saw the potential for a good communications tool in an exhibit, so that’s how I came up with “Making Peace.” Through the exhibit we address two questions: “What it is peace?” and “Who makes peace?” Together, those lead to “How do I get involved?”

Making Peace - Colin and AshleyWhat interests you most about what you’re doing now? Reaching out to a young audience using photography and using photography for positive change. I also really like the educational aspect. The Making Peace exhibit is traveling around the world and reaching a mass audience not just the peace movement…

What’s been your biggest accomplishment? Having the exhibition at the Nobel Museum in Stockholm and having it lined up to show at upcoming Nobel Summits in Cape Town, South Africa (2014) and Atlanta, USA (2015). But really my greatest accomplishment is to have reached out to a total estimated audience of 155,000 from 2010 to 2013 in 3 showings of the exhibit and the possibility of 1million or more visitors by 2015 (25 million exposed through media, TV etc…)

Biggest challenge? Making sure the exhibit stays with the times… 2010 is not the same as 2015, so I’m constantly thinking about how Making Peace can evolve and stay current.

Who or what inspires you? Sure, listening to a Nobel Peace Laureate like Jody Williams or Mairead Maguire is awe inspiring but ordinary people who contribute to peace in creative ways are those who really inspire me. For example, I met this couple who was making pins that they gave away to others so they could use them as a fundraiser. The more creative the more inspiring…

Why is peace sexy to you? What does “Peace is Sexy” evoke for you? I have a feeling of admiration and attraction for someone who inspires others… especially in the realm of peace and positive change. I find that extremely sexy and provocative. Peace is not for softies; it takes great deal of courage to talk and be peace.

Young people are searching more and more for stronger and more extreme sensations. It’s the “Red Bull Generation.” Thanks to TV, we have all seen what extreme violence is all about. Now it is time to see what extreme and sustainable peace can bring us. Have you ever kissed or made love after watching a violent movie?

What is a simple thing you do to create peace? What is something you do everyday? I try to reach-out to someone and create a new relationship each and every day. Building a strong peace network is the answer to making lasting peace.

How would you like Peace is Sexy to make a difference in what you are up to? Connect me to others.

Where would you like to see your passion go in the next 10 years? 20 years? 100 years? I want my admiration for others to grow. I want Making Peace to inspire others, to make a difference however small. I want have Making Peace travel around the world. If you’re interested in bringing the exhibit to your city, please contact us!

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