WHSC explores the power of visual communication
Images can evoke a multitude of emotions, from anger to joy. A powerful image may leave us speechless but it can also motivate us to act.
Art has been used to give expression to the Workers Health and Safety Centre purpose and vision statement. As a partner in the LifeQuilt
, the Workers Centre is witness to the quilt’s ability to evoke empathy. Statistics may inform us that workers are injured and killed on the job in numbers far too great, but images of loved ones taken before their time or the sorrow etched upon the faces of those left behind tell us far more; they can move us to tears and motivate us to act.
Vince Pietropaolo (pictured here) understands this power too. The Toronto-based social documentary photographer shared his insights and personal philosophy with more than 120 Workers Centre-qualified instructors who gathered in July at an upgrade scholarship session in Toronto. Pietropaolo believes powerful photographs can act as catalysts for social change. “The camera is the witness,” he adds.
Not confining his images to art galleries, Pietropaolo uses them to educate others about pressing social issues. In his slideshow to Workers Centre instructors he featured photos from Canadians at Wor
k, a millennium project documenting members of the Canadian Auto Workers on the job. Pietropaolo dedicated the book to workers injured and killed on the job.
He showed other images capturing the experience of migrant farm workers who come from Mexico and the West Indies to work on Ontario farms. With each, Pietropaolo tells a story, he knows the workers by name and where they’re from. He’s also visited some of them in their home countries and met their families. He has made a connection.
Jamie Patterson, a member of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Local 500 and a WHSC-qualified instructor counts photography among his hobbies and said after Pietropaolo’s presentation, “Vince’s contribution to the goal of communicating the health and safety prevention message is significant because he ‘puts faces to the stories’ and this humanizes the work people do.”
For many instructors at the session it was their first chance to see the LifeQuilt
and learn about its significance. Lana Talbot, a member of Service Employees International Union, Local 519 was struck by the silk-screened images of young faces and wanted to learn more about them. “I consider myself an activist but to be shown that our children are dying on the job too, it’s too much. It strengthens my commitment to prevention.”