Art has the power to influence change. Maggie Rudisill, 23, of Lancaster, is trying to do just that.
So much so that she recently launched a photography project, “Fathers,” in September 2015 in effort to bring awareness to gun violence taking place in her community. Find her photos on Instagram under the username StopGunViolence717.
“About a year and a half ago a friend of mine (who was a father) was murdered in Lancaster, which really hit home,” Rudisill said. “A couple weeks after his death, I would hear stories of other people being shot, killed or injured due to gun violence. My heart was broken ... I really felt like there was something I should be doing to help.”
That’s when Rudisill decided that she would use her degree in photography from Pennsylvania College of Art and Design to give back.
“I want to capture that one snapshot moment where you see a father interacting with their child,” Rudisill said. “Those candid moments are what it’s all about. I wanted to capture that one sweet moment of a child giving their dad a kiss on the cheek, or even playing, worry free, full of happiness.”
When taking photos, Rudisill said she tries to humanize local men in her community to make them relatable and remind people how precious life really is. Participating men and children are photographed at no cost, however Rudisill does encourage her subjects to donate to the Boys and Girls Club.
“I am not affiliated with [the Boys and Girls Club], but have always been such a fan of what they do and stand for,” she said.
Each photo that is taken is used towards the awareness of the project and in return, she provides her subject with a few free prints of fathers with their children.
The project's primary goal is to start a conversation.
“There are a lot of stereotypes out there, but at the end of the day these men are someone’s family—and when someone decides to participate in gun violence, they are taking away someone’s father, son, cousin and friend,” Rudisill said. “I want people to look at these photographs and think, ‘yes, bad things are going on, but we have the power to change that.'”
And since gun violence is a part of national conversations, Rudisill said she would like to expand her project to other cities.
“I have a couple of men I have started to photograph in Reading, York, Coatsville and even have some lined up in Philadelphia and Brooklyn New York,” she said. “These cities are experiencing gun violence right now, along with so many others. I hope to continue to take the project where communities need it.”
Rudisill said she also hopes to speak with local galleries about featuring her work.
“There are a lot of different things depending on whom you are that you can take from these photos," Rudisill said. "But the important thing to remember is that these are not just family photos — they so much more than that.”
For more information on gun violence, visit www.gunviolenceawarenessmonth.org.