Mission Statement - Linda Panetta / Optical Realities

Optical Realities Photography is an organization that uses photojournalism and educational outreach to raise public awareness about world events, cultures, and the environment. We seek to use our first-hand knowledge and experiences in impoverished and war-torn areas of the world to advocate for economic and social justice.

Through photo exhibits, presentations, and our website, we challenge and address conventional " First World " stereotypes at all levels in an attempt to dissolve prejudices and hostile feelings that often stem from misinformation or a lack of knowledge. We encourage participation in a variety of projects, including our "micro projects," which seek to nurture growth in understanding and compassion towards a variety of human rights issues, as well as offer solidarity and economic and social empowerment to communities around the world.

*Proceeds from the sale of photos displayed at exhibits or purchased online help support our companion Philadelphia-based healing arts project,  OR Indie Arts Initiative.

Background: Optical Realities was founded in 2002 by Linda Panetta, who brought a 20-year history of active commitment to the empowerment of women, the promotion of economic justice, and the advocacy of environmental and human rights in war and conflict zones throughout Latin America and the Middle East , as well as in economically challenged regions of the US.

Since its founding Optical Realities has made investigative, documentary and service trips to Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico (Chiapas and Oaxaca), Nicaragua, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Panama, Venezuela and Haiti. Along with the subsequent presentations, publications and exhibits that follow these trips, all attempts are made to send photos back to the visited communities to serve as memorabilia and tools for political and social change.

Photos and reports are used in the U.S. and around the world in both the mainstream and alternative media, for educational outreach in classrooms, and to lobby and advocate for social and economic change.

Artists such as Pete Seeger, Bruce Cockburn, Utah Phillips, Janis Ian, Pat Humphreys & Sandy Opatow, Charlie King and Karen Brandow, and the R&B trio the Chestnut Brothers are just a few who have actively collaborated with us.

A sampling of advocacy groups that we have collaborated with include the Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center (CHOC), Drueding Center (supporting homeless single mothers), the Liberty Center for Survivors of Torture, Youth Emergency Shelter, Bethesda Project/Our Brother’s Place, Pax Christi USA, Global Exchange, Corazon de Quetzal, Mayan International League, Amnesty International, SOA Watch, American Friend Service Committee, Family Members Speak Out, 9-11 Families for A Peaceful Tomorrow, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, the San Carlos Foundation, and the SHARE Foundations, as well as numerous places of worship, universities, high schools and elementary schools.

Optical Realities has also worked collaboratively on issues relating to immigrant and farm-worker rights, the support of survivors of torture and issues relating to civil liberties. To learn more email us at: Linda@OpticalRealities.org

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