To keep me entertained during church when I was young, my parents would give me two small plastic dogs – one black, one white – each with a magnet glued to its feet. When two similar poles of the magnets were put together, the dogs would repel one another. Turned so opposite poles were aligned, the dogs would snap together.
Often my involvements have seemed to represent similar poles. One of the poles is restorative justice. The other is photography. On occasion these two poles seem to have nothing to do with one another. But other times they snap together and then I feel most complete.
My photography is often combined with people’s words using the methodology that Robert Coles has called “attentive listening.” I sometimes think of this combination of photography and interviewing or story-sharing as a form of documentary work. But I am also interested in photography as a mode of contemplation as well as celebration.
Sometimes the two poles mesh in specific justice projects. The “When a Parent is in Prison” project that I am doing with Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz shares the portraits and experiences of children of incarcerated parents. Similarly, the Mural Arts Greenfield Restorative Justice Project allowed me to use photography in a justice-related process.
But the two areas of work are also linked by some common goals and values: both aim to bridge divides, challenge stereotypes, reduce “othering,” to be respectful. They are also joined together by a common methodology: dialogue, storytelling and attentive listening.
Overall, then, this blog is about restorative justice and restorative photography or research. More broadly, it’s about a restorative way of knowing and being.
A heads up, then: this series may be a bit quirky. Though positioned as a restorative justice blog, I also plan to explore some of my photography and documentary interests and the interconnections between these and restorative justice.
My aim is to share some reflections, reading and experiences in these fields of work. I also hope to use this forum to help bridge the gap between academics and practice. While I am currently positioned in an academic venue, the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding is an unusual program with a real-world practice focus. And most of my career has been spent working with practitioners and laypeople. So my intended audience is people who are interested in a “just” way of being together.
We plan to keep adding resources and links to this site so I hope you’ll check in frequently. I welcome your comments as well. Given the volume of email we all receive in today’s world, I won’t promise to respond to all individually but they will all contribute to what I trust will be a respectful dialogue.