We are more alike than we know.
This is the driving force behind my photography. Over the last twenty years, I have photographed over two dozen countries - some places of heartbreaking conflict, others places of mind-blowing beauty and most something in-between.
Through my work, I celebrate the glory of the ordinary, the tenderness of our shared humanity and the vitality of the planet we call home. Whether dodging motorbikes in Vietnam or bouncing along the highway in rural Morocco, it's always with a camera in-hand, searching for the story to be told.
At home in the United States, my work extends to video where I produce emotionally-powerful content that changes hearts and minds. My video work has influenced some of the most significant debates in the U.S. from gun violence to health care, but as with my photography, it's always grounded in the universal stories we all share.
Stories like how toddlers everywhere love to “help,” how mothers rock their babies in Bethlehem just as they do in Tel Aviv and how we all yearn for a world that feels a little more like home.
Photographers Without Borders spoke with Liz about her upcoming trip to document the incredible work being done by Vacha for women empowerment.
What makes you passionate about helping Vacha?
I’ve been an advocate on a lot of important issues, but nothing as close to my heart as the empowerment of women and girls. From an early age, women received a lot of messages about all of the things they can’t or shouldn’t do. Thanks to great mentors and a college education (as well as a lot of white western privilege), I’ve been able to be part of some pretty incredible opportunities like working in the White House and on two historic presidential campaigns. I want every woman to be able to experience that sense of empowerment and accomplishment, but so many barriers can stand in the way: cultural expectations, discrimination, harassment, lack of access to education or even fear of safety.
One of the things I love about Vacha is that their programs are not just for women and girls, but led by them. Through their involvement with Vacha, women and girls find their own power and their own voice and come to know their deep worth. It’s also so important that Vacha engages boys in its work, not just because they make good allies, but because it helps boys become female-empowering men. This is the kind of real, structural change that can advance women’s opportunities in India for generations to come.
How do you believe your photography can make a difference for them?
I find that women and girls are my most frequent photographic subjects, perhaps because I place so much value on drawing attention to people who may feel overlooked or underrepresented. Every place I have traveled, I have been struck by women’s incredible strength. They aren’t often in the spotlight or a leadership role, but they are such a force of influence in their homes, their communities and the world.
By photographing Vacha, I hope to not only give Vacha's targeted audiences insight into this incredible program, but also help them truly see the women and girls involved. Their day-to-day lives may be very different from those of the audience, but I suspect these women and girls have dreams and habits and likes and dislikes we all can relate to. I want people to be able to see these women and girls and think “she reminds me of someone I'd know” - because I believe that sense of common humanity is the single best way to motivate change.
What message would you like to send to your supporters?
From the time I unwrapped my first SLR camera on my 16th birthday, photography has been such a gift in my life. It has taught me how to see the richness of the world, helped me memorialize meaningful experiences and opened the door to building new relationships. I’ve wanted to honor that gift by giving it back, but never quite knew how. With Photography Without Borders, I finally have an opportunity to do photography with purpose. I'm opting to fund my own expenses for this assignment, but I also know the value of inviting people to walk alongside you in doing good. If you opt to donate on my page, know that your donation won't go to me, but to Vacha.
Visit Liz's website here.