Recently I gave a number of talks on World Heritage and photography to some groups of seasoned travellers. They were not photo enthusiasts, just people who liked travelling and learning about the world at large.
I illustrated the talks with images from some of the World Heritage sites that I’d personally photographed around the world. One talk was about ten of the most photogenic sites I’d been to; the others about regional groupings of sites including some of those in South East Asia. I began the series with an introduction on the UN Convention on World Heritage and the makeup and working of the UNESCO WH list.
It was revealing to realise how little most of the audience knew about the World Heritage concept and its global reach and scale.
Even though most had travelled a lot and visited numerous countries, they were still unsure about what World Heritage actually meant and what the positive benefits from inscription were. Most didn’t know about new sites being annually inscribed or places coming off (or being put on) the endangered list.
Unfortunately what they did recall was when various sites had got into the news because of conflict damage or environmental and man-made pressures. They’d heard about Syrian cultural artefacts suffering significant war damage and most knew about the issues with poaching and habitat reduction in Africa.
Linking news of these troubled places to the vast majority of positive WH stories was not obvious until we discussed the connection - the UNESCO World Heritage list.
It seemed that generally, only negative stories about sites recognised and inscribed under the WH Convention were reaching the wider public. Are we, the wider World Heritage community missing opportunities to promote the positive side of the story? - Most likely.
We know that bad news travels further than good news so we need to be more imaginative and progressive on how we spread the message about the benefits of the World Heritage initiative.
We at Our Place might be biased, after all we are a photography based company, but we believe interactive, multi HD screen exhibitions featuring great photos of some of the great places on the WH list is one way to engage the wider public with the good news. As I saw from my talks, photographs can be a catalyst for telling positive WH stories.
If viewers are moved by images of these important places then they can also understand their significance to others.
This year we are working with partners in the US and elsewhere to bring some innovative WH image display ideas to fruition. We want to bring Our Place to everyone’s place.
The recognition and celebration of the world’s heritage is a story that needs to be told. We all need to work towards keeping the good news in front of the global public.
CEO; Our Place
PS: We want to thank the photographers who are now submitting their images to us for our archives. We will be featuring some of their great work in our next newsletters.