What continued to take the crew forward was the energy and vision of Andrew Stawicki and his ability to capitalize on friendships and connections. As Andrew once put it, "I know my strength is people. I can take a beautiful picture of a chair, but I prefer to photograph people. And the people I meet along the way sometimes become friends, and friendships can lead to great things."
This was certainly the case with Beyond The Wave. Andrew had met David Toycen, the CEO and president of World Vision Canada, years before, at a photo shoot. Fast-forward to 2005, a year after the Asian tsunami of 2004. Andrew wanted to visit people who had survived-to document the still-evident devastation as well as signs of recovery and survival. He met with Dave, who, along with CARE Canada, offered advice and financial support for this project. Both agencies would again help with a subsequent PhotoSensitive project, AIDS: Picture Change (2005). Dave believes in PhotoSensitive's ability to effect social change through the power of their pictures.
"Not only is the scale of human need across the globe unimaginably vast, but in our frenetic North American lives, it's hard to find the time or energy to really pay attention to the devastating effects of disease and disaster. Somehow, these images silence all the noise. They're haunting, evocative, arresting. Whether they document life after the Asian tsunami or the impact of HIV/AIDS on children and families, they show the courage and resilience of the human spirit. They provoke us to action on behalf of those who are most vulnerable.
"Photos like these help us sense our interconnectedness. PhotoSensitive brings global issues like poverty in Aceh, Indonesia, home to people in places like Toronto. World Vision so appreciates the work of these talented photographers, because what they do is actually part of the solution," said Dave.
One of the founding photographers of PhotoSensitive, Stan Behal, was sent to see life-beyond-the-wave in some coastal communities of Sri Lanka.
"It was incredibly hard for me to get my head around the devastation. This horrendous force of nature had killed more than 150,000 people and wiped entire villages off the map. Dropped into that environment, it was impossible not to be personally affected. And, remember, the quantum suffering and destruction and injury of the tsunami came on top of what was-and still is-a country with ongoing conflict and civil war.
"Yet, we heard heroic stories of courage and hope, of lives saved and children rescued. I thought I'd hit the ground running and visit hospitals and clinics, looking for survivors, but, of course, there was no infrastructure left. So I just went into the countryside. I met people with deep emotional scars, and tried to capture their spirit of survival against the backdrop of the scarred landscape of their villages. And I left with a series of memories," said Stan.
Telling stories people may not want to hear
Beyond the Wave left Tony Hauser thinking about why PhotoSensitive photographers go to such lengths to tell a story, often one people might not want to hear.
"There is a fine balance to what we do. My own sister said, 'Oh, Tony, why are you going to Sri Lanka months after the tsunami-people have heard and seen enough about it. Maybe it's time to move on.' But that's just it. We have to keep reminding people, especially the young, about what's going on.
"I get very attached to the people I meet on these shoots. I get emails forever from some of them. And you're not supposed to get attached: that's lesson number one in journalism school! But I find I do, and maybe it makes me understand better what it is to be them and live in their circumstances. And then, you leave and let them be, but take their story with you.
"In Sri Lanka, I met a family who had lost seven children, all swept away by the tsunami. You feel like crying. But we are there to take pictures. They do not want to see our tears. They want compassion. They want people to understand. But they do not want, nor do they deserve to see, our tears. Our power is to bring the pictures home. And that is why we keep at it," said Tony.