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These Photographers Chose to Confront Intolerance and Document What Works

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A new exhibition at New York’s Bronx Documentary Center tackles what seems to be more elusive by the day–positive storytelling that displays a kinder side of humanity in the face of intolerance.

Organized by the Magnum Foundation, the show brings together the work of nine of the foundation’s Human Rights Fellows: Santiago Arcos, Poulomi Basu, Xyza Cruz Bacani, Abbas Hajimohammadi, Eman Helal, Yuyang Liu, Manca Juvan, Anastasia Vlasova and Muyi Xiao–who were asked to find stories in their local communities that showed conflicting communities overcoming their differences.

According to the non-profit’s program coordinator Alexis Lambrou, the collective What Works came into fruition as a way to reflect today’s xenophobic attitudes, particularly after the Nov. 2015 Paris attacks. But the concept has been altered from its previous iterations where previously the fellows were simply asked to photograph what was going in their country, good or bad. “It’s our desire and our fellows’ desire to want to introduce more positive storytelling into the world that doesn’t always get as much attention,” Lambrou says. “We feel that it’s equally important to represent positive storytelling as well.”

The fellows attended a 10-day workshop at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in March where they worked with photojournalist Ed Kashi and visual journalist and CUNY professor Bob Sacha on refining their stories and adding multimedia elements. Supported by Fujifilm, who’s also a partner and sponsor of the exhibition, the fellows also received guidance from the Solutions Journalism Network, an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to producing solutions-based journalism. The guidance proved to be particularly helpful for some of the fellows who had never shot anything “positive” in the field. “It was actually my first time shooting a “happy” story,” photographer Santiago Arcos says. “Since I started thinking about taking photography as my career, I always had this idea in mind that a photographer documenting human struggle had to be in a war zone or revolution.”

Arcos spent time with inmates at the San Miguel Prison in Santiago, Chile, who regularly play with the first division of the Palestino Soccer Team. Equally as foreign as capturing something that shows a moment of happiness is the challenge of finding anything like that in their communities. “A lot of our fellows are working in places where a lot isn’t going well,” says Emma Raynes, director of programs at the Magnum Foundation. “Changing the lens to finding the moments where they’re observing positive social interactions, positive engagement among communities, it’s a challenge.”

Photographer Muyi Xiao spent time in Massachusetts with Mona Haydar and Sebastian Robins who started to run a “Talk to a Muslim” booth shortly after the Paris attacks and welcomed people to ask questions about Islam in an effort to combat Islamophobia. Xiao states that although she lacked experience doing positive storytelling, the project made her think about her role as a journalist. “The world is so connected together and we have to face those important issues from a global view instead of regarding them as separate local cases,” Xiao says. “When we put all these stories together, it really brings a much stronger power than reading them from different times in different places. I really hope people feel inspired by the stories and start to act.”

What Works is curated by the Magnum Foundation will run at the Bronx Documentary Center in the Bronx from November 10 through November 20.

Bianca Silva is a writer and contributor to TIME LightBox. Follow her on Twitter.

Town of Tulumulla, where the festival of Kheer Bhawani is taking place. Ganderbal, Srinagar, Kashmir.Poulomi Basu
Bhagvad Gita, the holy text of the Hindus in Urdu version in Badrinath’s home. They read the book in Urdu, which shows a classic assimilation of the two cultures amongst the communities.Poulomi Basu
Abibula is lying on bed and crying for home sick. They've been in Guangdong for about 4 months at that time, March 22, 2016.Yuyang Liu
Kasim and Muhammad on their way to a football match in downtown Meizhou representing R&F Soccer School. March 20, 2016.Yuyang Liu
A woman walks by graffiti that reads '24 April 1915' which is date the Armenian genocide began during the Ottoman empire. Such graffiti is common in Armenian neighborhoods.Abbas Hajimohammadi
Maryam reads religious texts with her family while drinking coffee at their home. The book was given to Maryam as a gift from her church in Tehran.Abbas Hajimohammadi
The first division of the Palestino Soccer Team pays regular visits to the inmates of the Prison San Miguel to share some time and play soccer matches together. This initiative was started by Roberto Avalos, a star player of the team who has spent some time in this same prison as an inmate.Santiago Arcos
Teammates of the first division of Palestino Soccer team hangout together and celebrate.Santiago Arcos
Mona Haydar and Sebastian Robins pose for a photo at their home in Duxbury, Massachusetts before heading to the Cambridge Public Library to set up their "Talk to a Muslim" booth. March 6, 2016.Muyi Xiao
Mona Haydar and Sebastian Robins started to run “Talk To A Muslim” booth in December 2015, in Boston, Massachusetts, as they were shocked by the Terrorism Attack in Paris. They give free donuts, coffee and flowers to people, and welcome them to talk and ask questions about Islam.Muyi Xiao
Mohamad Hussein and his family have been staying in Turkey since 2015. Manca Juvan
You know there were tanks, police, military, ... I don't know what came to the mind of Slovenian government to create such fear, to be so ill informed on the fact who is coming.. - Eva, Slovenia volunteer.Manca Juvan
The Mahammud family and marine officer Lugo rest inside their home in Zamboanga, Philippines. Xyza Cruz Bacani
Lady Anne and Sarna are both students at Classrooms of Hope. Xyza Cruz Bacani
Egyptian Christian children celebrate during an Easter feast in Delga village, al Minya, Egypt on May 1, 2016.Eman Helal
Delga church from the fourth century was burnt in 2013 by the supporters of the former president Mohamed Morsy.
Silwanes Lotfy, the priest of the Anba Ebram church, looks at the destroyed side of the historical church in Delga village, Al Minya, Egypt, Feb. 29, 2016.Eman Helal
Mariam Muslimova (R) and Khadija Adamova are making dinner while their kids are playing in the kitchen. Both Mariam's and Khadija's families left Crimea after the Russian annexation in February 2014 and moved to the village Borynia, Lviv area, Western Ukraine where they live in a dormitory of a local college.Anastasia Vlasova
Curtains with cartoon characters hang in the dormitory room where Crimean Tatar families live. The Islamic tradition forbids portraying of the live creatures, animals that is why the faces of the cartoon animals were cut off.Anastasia Vlasova

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