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Support Ayzoh!

Ayzoh! is a center for documentary and community photography: we work alongside small communities facing tough social, cultural and economic challenges.

What is community photography

Community photography is an approach to photography in which the representation and narrative in images of a place, an event or a personal story is produced collectively and with multiple voices.

Thus, not only the gaze and viewpoint of a single “expert” photographer emerges, but the result of a process in which several people participate, engaged in a common action that may have different goals from time to time: aesthetic, ethical or political, for example.

In Ayzoh!’s community photography projects-regardless of the technical skills of the participants-children, adolescents, and adults from different backgrounds, cultures, and social classes are involved in order to produce a collective reportage in which no one point of view prevails over the others.

Professional photographers and consultants from Ayzoh! offer technical assistance and help activate the participatory process at different stages of the collective work: field reportage, post-production, and image editing. They also ― as well as participating like everyone else in the realization of the photographic shots ― ensure that the different points of view continue to dialogue with each other.

Often, publications – printed, digital, online or video – arise from these works so that a narrative of community life and, thus, a collective biography or auto-biography, remains over time.

Ultimately, community photography is born with community purposes, is carried out in a participatory manner, and speaks of community life to foster awareness, social and cultural development, and – in some cases – the defense of a community from exploitation, violence, and abuses of power.

In the name the mission

Ayzoh – አይዞህ (m) አይዞሽ (f) – (ayzoh/ayzosh) – is a word from Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, a land to which we are particularly attached and where – in the city of Hawassa – we have an operational headquarter.

Depending on the situation, it means, “you’ll see that everything will be all right,” “I hope you didn’t get hurt,” “don’t worry,” “come on!”, “courage,” “I’m with you,” “you’ll make it,” “hang in there!” Ethiopians use it to comfort those who are going through a difficult time or to encourage those facing a challenging test.

We stand by those who are facing difficult trials

Always starting with photographic reportage, Ayzoh! produces quality editorial tools with those who-despite adverse conditions (social, political, environmental) and scarcity of resources-are committed to creating sparks of common humanity through initiatives that are useful for their own communities but also a source of inspiration on a broader level.

We stand alongside and accompany-with a participatory approach-small communities, organizations, groups, and individuals working to generate value, awareness, equity, knowledge, and beauty through the arts, culture, journalism, education, activism, environmental protection, travel, science, technology, and entrepreneurship.

The organization

Ayzoh! is a nonprofit social enterprise, independent and fully controlled by its members. We are headquartered in Rimini and operate locally, nationally and internationally. Technically, Ayzoh! has a multi-disciplinary structure capable of following all kinds of editorial projects from the initial idea to the final product.

The photographers of Ayzoh! ― supported by our team of social researchers and a network of collaborators active in many areas of the world ― are accustomed to working even in extremely difficult conditions and have the credibility to deal with sensitive and complex social issues.

Our designers ― depending on the needs of each specific project ― use the most appropriate techniques and tools (print, web, video, multimedia installations, or live events) to promote community-impact causes and initiatives.

Where we operate

By its very nature Ayzoh! is nomadic and operates globally. We collect stories in all areas that affect the life of a community: work, politics, economics, human relations, art, music, fashion, architecture, education, spiritual and religious practices.

We search for stories within contemporary everyday life, in urban, rural and marine contexts. We document the workshops where the ideas of the future are born, but we also immerse ourselves in the ancient folk traditions where the echo of universal values that transcend the times of history and places on our planet resonate.

Ultimately, we are interested in anything that can release sparks of community spirit or issue an invitation to consider what can be preserved, improved, abandoned, revised or created in order to reclaim the concept of being community in both a territorial and global sense.

Business model

To support our mission, we have adopted a hybrid nonprofit/profit model: this allows us to fund social projects that benefit the most marginalized communities-which are totally free to the beneficiaries-without necessarily depending on public or private donations.

This helps us to defend our independence, keep our administrative costs low, choose our supporters carefully, remain objective, and avoid any conflict of interest that might affect our work or move us away from the focus we have set for ourselves.

Ayzoh! is financed primarily through: 1) the sale of services and products-such as editorial projects and commissioned photo reports, videos and documentaries, trips and workshops, books and collectible prints ― offered in the market like any other small business; 2) the contributions and active participation of an international community of supporters; 3) sponsors and co-marketing operations.

Code of Ethics

1. we work only for projects that help to sow unity and not division, cooperation and not competition, dialogue and not discussion, diversity and not homogenization, innovation and not status quo;

2. every project is important: even when our services are totally free for those who benefit from them, the end result must always be of the best possible quality;

3. we operate only at the explicit invitation of the communities involved and always in close collaboration with their members: we do not believe in projects dropped from above;

4. we always try to keep our distance from a certain narrative style – based on pietism and paternalism – typical of many social or “humanitarian” projects;

5. we refuse to enter into any relationship that could result in a bond of dependence – whether economic or otherwise – with the people who use our services: our support is only temporary and sized on tangible and really achievable goals;

6. we support projects because they are based on a good idea that we are passionate and convinced about, not because people or communities are “destitute.”

7. our works eschew any identity ideology and the dichotomy of “us versus them”: every project signed Ayzoh! should be seen as an act of resistance to evoke, (re)discover and affirm our common humanity.

The origins of Ayzoh!

The idea for Ayzoh! was conceived, in 2008, in Acupé-a Quilombo located on the banks of the Rio Paraguaçu in the state of Bahia-by photographer Claudio Maria Lerario.

There, while working on a documentary about the intangible cultural heritage of the place ― and its importance in generating social inclusion but also in countering crime fueled by drug trafficking ― Claudio became aware of the irreconcilability between the goodness of their ideas and the resources available to communicate or defend them.

In fact, the scarcity of resources made their initiatives-useful for the small local community but also rich in meaning for people of all latitudes-invisible in the face of the threat of a dominant, media-attractive culture with far other resources to propagate its messages.

There was born the idea of turning 20+ years of experience ― in reportage, advertising and the international publishing industry ― into a tool to share with small communities marginalized or made vulnerable by the processes of homogenization taking place everywhere in the world.

The idea came to fruition in 2009, in Ethiopia, largely thanks to the support of writer Angela Altieri McDonald (see video above). For many years Ayzoh! then operated as a collective ― informal and transnational ― composed of media, design and social science professionals.

Recently ― after dozens of projects carried out in various parts of the world for small communities of all kinds ― Ayzoh! assumed its current organizational and legal structure.