Changing the World One Story at Time

“We aren’t changing the world. We just take pictures of people who are.”

Those are the humble words of Robert X. Fogarty, explaining the mission of Dear World. If you haven’t heard of this project, you should get to know it. Robert started it in 2009, in New Orleans. The city was still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Katrina, four years earlier. He asked people to write “love notes” to the city on their bodies. And he took pictures of them.

In the process of meeting people, and learning about them, he discovered something extraordinary. That people—all people, have a story to share. Stories that run deep with emotion and experience. Stories that are intensely personal, yet incredibly universal. Stories that have shaped them as human beings. Stories about tragedy and loss. About regret and sorrow. But also about redemption and achievement. About heroism and triumph. Most of all, he discovered that people wanted tell these stories. Had to tell these stories. And many, were just looking for a platform to tell them. Fogarty gave them the chance.

The result is “Dear World,” an incredible journal of storytelling, where ordinary people share extraordinary experiences. What makes Dear World all the more amazing, is that the stories are told simply by a few words, written on an arm, chest, palms or even a prosthetic leg. The meaning is conveyed purely by a few words and the expressiveness of the person delivering the message. The intimacy of the portraits is overpowering.

We asked Robert X. Fogarty to join us at this year’s Marketing Innovation Summit because he is an inspiration. He took a simple idea, and turned it into something powerful. And in the process, used the basic art of storytelling to connect people across backgrounds, religions and geographies. He helps us understand that the bonds that draw us together are far more powerful than the friction that pushes us apart.

There are many reasons that I think Robert is perfect for the Marketing Innovation Summit. His story is one of innovation and inspiration. About people connecting with people. And about the power of simple, emotion-based storytelling. All of which are important to B2B marketers.  But most of all, I think that that the timing is perfect for Robert’s story. Right now, we are facing some unprecedented challenges across the country, and even the world. Many are feeling disenfranchised. Angry. That the gulf that separates us from the other side is not crossable. It’s in this environment that sometimes we need to think about ourselves—not as marketers or  even Americans but as humans. And it’s people like Robert who are helping accomplish that. Because he’s not just taking pictures, he’s helping change the world.