What Matters

What Matters

David Elliot Cohen (ed.), Stirling Publishing

David Elliot Cohen entitles his introduction “Photographs that can change the world”.

His vision is ambitious. The world has huge problems that humans can solve. But they are complicated problems that the general population often doesn’t find the time to get their heads around. And they are usually easy to ignore from a far away position of privilege in the first world.

Cohen, though, is a well connected guy. What could happen if he did our homework for us?

In What Matters, he attempts to rule out any excuse readers may have for apathy and ignorance. He identifies key global issues, matches them with the work of the world’s best photographers who take us right into each situation, and invites leading writers and experts to succinctly explain to us why we should do something about them.

Cohen knows that even getting the reader to that point does not guarantee action. So he does something unusual for a photography book and includes at the back a lengthy index of organisations to donate to for each issue.

His approach is simple but watertight and leaves no excuse for a reader to avoid taking responsibility for their role in the world’s problems.

But it’s a tough job. If it was easy to inspire action for many of these causes they would be solved by now.

The issues range from the general (climate change, genocide, water, extreme poverty, global Jihad) to the specific (the degradation of the Huai River basin, Chernobyl, child labour in Bangladesh, Darfur).

What Matters was published in 2008 and last I checked these problems have not gone away. Rather than considering this project a failure, perhaps it’s more likely that there’s still a large contingent of people who are yet to read this book. Buy it for yourself or someone you know and spread the word.

An online version of What Matters is also available free of charge from whatmattersonline.com.

Lyndal Irons


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