“I’m not a traditional artist, I’m a communicator. I use words and photos and, on occasion, video to communicate something that is dear to me. I try to leave that idea in someone’s mind and hope it grows into something wonderful.”
Art, activism, traveling, and helping others are some of the things that are close to Josh Lane’s heart. Lane picked up photography from a young age, when he visited his family in South Africa and started practicing with a point-and-shoot camera. He picked up a larger camera shortly afterwards and started honing his skills as a photographer, using stunning visual images to inspire and inform those around him.
“Communication is an invaluable thing that we as a species kind of take for granted. But it’s also an excuse to go on adventures. It’s a reason to do something other than the mundane or the monotonous.”
During his gap year, a year between high school and college usually spent traveling, Lane volunteered with a network of non-government organizations that supported communities in need throughout Asia. Lane spent his time helping villages in rural Thailand, teaching English in an open shelter in one of India’s most impoverished communities, teaching earth science and studying Buddhism in a Tibetan refugee colony in the Himalayn foothills, working in the pediatric ward of the National Acupuncture Hospital in Hanoi, Vietnam before reporting on some of country’s disenfranchised, and working in other locations throughout the region.
“That was pretty hard-hitting stuff. (In Vietnam) I was working for an NGO as a photographer, and I helped them create a story on a group of stateless and impoverished individuals living in what was essentially a floating slum, called a fisher village.”
Lane was also in Nepal, preparing to volunteer in the country for two months, when it was hit by a devastating earthquake in April of 2015.
“I was in the middle of a three-week hike through the Annapurna Mountain range and we were in a village preparing to go through Thorong La Pass when the earthquake hit. The first impact was two minutes of continuous shaking. The mountains all around you seemed like they were falling off of themselves.”
While waiting for phone service to come back to the area, Lane and the other hikers were able to see the earthquake’s impact on Nepal both in the village, and on the BBC.
“The only thing we saw were images of the horrible destruction that had gone on around the country. Eventually we hitchhiked our way back to Kathmandu and the trip was cut short because the volunteering I was planning to do at their orphanage. It was gone. And the nonprofit told me ‘look, you didn’t sign up for this,’ and I wasn’t medically trained beyond first aid.”
Lane took a flight back to the United States from Nepal to prepare to start college at UNM. But during his experience in Asia he realized the power that sharing people’s experiences could have. For example, his work in Vietnam resulted in government funding for the fisher village, and permission to build a volunteer-run school for the community, giving them hope for a better future.
“This is why I’m such a big advocate for travel. Experience is absolutely the greatest teacher. I wanted to go out and experience the world, and I’ve learned so much in respect to who I am as a person. Caring for other people and trying to help them – when you could really go on living your life without giving a damn – it shows you a lot about kindness, the human spirit, and what really matters.
“The people whose stories I was telling; I was hoping to tell them effectively through my art to generate a positive social change. Their stories are heartbreaking, and powerful, and don’t need to happen. Like statelessness. It doesn’t need to exist. It’s a solvable thing… There are all of these things going on, and I can keep on being a witness to it and trying to share it, or I can hone my skills and get better at communicating and hope to reach a global audience.
“I want to work on things that would obliterate human rights violations. I’m not the scientist that’s going to develop the cure for cancer, or CO2 emissions, or the tons of plastic we have. But I can tell the story that will get people fired up enough to care, hopefully to the point to do something about it.”
Check out some of Lane’s work at Photography by Josh Lane.