with Frederick van Johnson of This Week in Photo

(For more great photography podcasts visit This Week In Photo)

What does it mean to be an artist in politically-turbulent times? For every inquiring creative, the answer to that question looks different. Some artists paint street graffiti provoking dialogue about race and culture. Others use slam poetry to spread messages of peace. Then there are underwater aficionados like me who reconstruct ocean science support through photography campaigns.

Despite a difference in approach and subject, the unifying theme among us is a relentless desire to understand why we are here with the creative superpowers we have and further, to discover where those superpowers intersect with what the world needs.

Whether you're a photographer, a dancer, a painter or a digital artist,

none of us escape wondering: 'Does what I do matter?' 

Making the world a more beautiful place, I believe, is our shared human inheritance and the process of creation itself is transformative - for both the creator and its viewers. Further, the power of our creative minds can seed innovations, imagery, and words, to name only a few, that fundamentally change the way people perceive and interact with the world.

The Blue Marble — Taken by Astronauts aboard Apollo 17 in 1972

For example, let's look at the infamous first photograph of Earth from space taken by the Apollo 17 crew in 1972. A single image, taken in a moment, held the power to galvanize a new level of unity consciousness for the entire planet. This 'Blue Marble' visual made our connectedness an unshakeable truth.

We are all floating through space together on the same little rock; that's the understanding this photograph conveyed to every living person on Earth who saw it. 'The Blue Marble'  is one of the most reproduced images in human history and also, one of the most perspective-shifting in my opinion.

There's no denying that art makes bold statements that can and often do shake existing cultural power structures. Nowadays, such statements that once may only have touched local communities, can now reach millions globally. Every artist has the ability to spread their art and message through the use of ever-evolving online tools. This is why, when I see creatives today, I see so much more than mere connoisseurs of beauty.

If you're an artist reading this, I invite you, for a moment, to take a step back and see what I see: You belong to a network of visionaries that can imagine the world beyond its current state. With your creations, you can and do transcend the boundaries of culture, language, and race.

You are the architect of dreams; what begins only in the mind transmutes through you into reality and alters the perceptions of others. You've mastered your own world and are a force to be reckoned with.

Your art is a powerful means of creating positive change in the world. And trust me, whatever it is that you feel most called to - environmentalism, world hunger, mental health - it needs you.

Now the question is: What are you going to do with your creative superpowers?



Check out the list below for a look at how artists around the world are making a difference: