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27 June 2014

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Excellent piece John. Highlights so well that huge gulf between recording objectively and actively helping. If you want to 'give back' something to your subjects, it is so fraught with difficulty.

You can so easily be condemned for being an aesthete and caring more about the form and structure of your images (and Park's are stunning), but this just shows that you can go further, can choose to do something more tangible for your subjects, but in so doing upset a different, and more vulnerable group of people. (I'm aware that having a favela bulldozed is more than just 'upsetting').

If you subscribe the old cliche that "I want my pictures to change the world" you could see this as an epic failure. But if you look to the more personal response that is at its heart, it can be seen as a huge success. It changed Parks and it changed Flavio too. Two lives inexorably connected and the trajectory of their shared (and individual) experiences taking an altogether different course.

I was tempted whilst reading this to be critical, small sneaky thoughts of "what a waste of time, it was bound to end in failure". But I chased them away. It did not fail. If we judge such acts simply by their immediate outcomes we miss the point. The most important act in this was Park's reaching out his hand, simply because he could (and a nation doing likewise because they were moved to) and in so doing a life was saved. And Flavio's legacy, his children and his children's children and what good things they may do is what flows out from this, and shapes so many other unguessed at futures.

Little moments like these in the tumbling chaos of history simply underline how complicated it is to be human, and how difficult it often is to do good things. It reminds me that once again of the importance of photography, and how it can be a catalyst for change, but that the nature of that change is the responsibility of more than just the protagonists and involves all of us.

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