Megan Q. Daniels

Artist Statement

I approach photography as a documentarian; most of my images are taken in real-life situations with an unadulterated approach. Viewers are invited to participate in moments passed; moments they will never partake in because only I was there to witness the scene in those exact circumstances. I take great pleasure knowing that my images invite people to immerse themselves in what I felt at a certain point in time. My audience lives in an instant I captured; an instant that cannot be replicated.

Photography is a critical aspect of the society in which we live. For me personally, I am inspired by the power that photographs hold. An image has the capability of educating a multitude of civilizations using connotations, expressions, power structures, semiotics, and values depending upon the culture, social roles, economic status, and prior experiences of the viewer. We are constantly “looking” at the world we inhabit, attempting to make meaning of the influx of visual stimulation that has permeated our personal space in all its complex detail. Social documentation is crucial because it provides viewers with the option of meaning making in the esoteric paradigm of the cultures in which we exist. Without it, we are left only with the spoken and written word. These two forms of communication alone cannot provide us knowledge of the sociocultural microcosms in which we exist.

Restorative Justice: Rehabilitating South Africa’s Youth

The purpose of this project is twofold: 1) to explore, through still photography, video, and audio interviews with participants, how restorative justice is still practiced today at The School of Hope, a rehabilitation facility in Cape Town, SA, which is dedicated to rehabilitating vulnerable youth, providing them with personalized, individual education and 2) disseminate the photographs to a wider audience in hopes of educating consumers on restorative justice.

The SA government held its people hostage using apartheid as its weapon until the early 1990s when they met coercion from domestic resistance groups and international players; thus leading to its demise. A democratic government followed and dealing with the perpetrators of human rights abuses was one of the pressing concerns in the transition process. As a result, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was established and it had the ability to grant amnesty, to those who had committed atrocities. In doing so, perpetrators had to disclose their wrongdoings. The new approach was known as restorative justice. [1]

Currently, SA’s society relies heavily on the practice of restorative justice as a way to reach their youth and the school provides the foundation necessary to foster these theories.

The School of Hope is a nonprofit organization that fosters a conducive, trusting learning environment allowing vulnerable learners to participate in class, safe from the dangerous streets. The school makes it possible for troubled youth to finish their education in a specialized, nurturing environment. The school is unique in that it accepts youth of all ages and backgrounds without prejudice.

My ten days at the school allowed me to begin photographing this project using cohesive photography, audio, video, and written monologues of the children’s’ life stories. I will grant the school use of my project – across all platforms – in hopes that they will receive donations and grants. This in-depth project will give the school a breadth of fundraising opportunities and may result in donations that can be used to invest back into the school and prevent criminality.

In order to share the concept of restorative justice and the school’s implementation of it with the Western world, I submersed myself in the school’s daily routines, the students’ dreams and personal goals. It is now time to disseminate my work, putting it on display for the public to consume. By putting the work on display, the art meets reality and exists in the world instead of being a pile of prints, notes, and audio tracks. The audience may dismiss it; they may learn from it, they may be emotionally impacted by it.

[1] The history of the TRC was acquired from online articles at the Berkley Center at Georgetown University.

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