Bloomfield Hills native David Rochkind has used his interests in photography, and now film, to explore his passion for social issues. He classifies photography and film as tools for communication, because ultimately, he considers himself a storyteller rather than an artist.
He credits Cranbrook Kingwood, where he attended high school, with teaching him “how to tell visual stories, which is something that has stayed with me throughout my life and career.” While at the University of Michigan, he originally thought he wanted to be a social worker, but after joining the school newspaper, The Michigan Daily, as a photographer, he realized he could more easily utilize images to explore the social issues he was interested in.
As a photographer, his motivation “comes from a place of really wanting to inspire and encourage people.” Rochkind believes that by “continuing to go out into the world and tell stories of hope or inspiration in front of a global audience... it will encourage people to create a better world.”
As a journalist and social activist, he has been able to identify what he refers to as a “common thread” in public health and how that touched on larger social issues that he has been interested in, such as education, spurring the use of photography as a visual diary in countries like Mexico, Venezuela, Haiti, South Africa, India, and Moldova. His work has been featured in The New York Times Magazine, Time, Newsweek, Stern, Rolling Stone, and many other publications.
Now, as a filmmaker and founder of Ground Media, a social impact creative studio, he continues to recognize and use his belief that visual images offer an “emotional engagement” that words cannot. Especially moving pictures in film, where music can be used to let the viewers truly understand someone else’s reality. Truly being able to feel empathy for each other because of our “common humanity,” Rochkind said.
“There is so much more that connects us to people than sets us apart. Every place I’ve ever gone to, every place I’ve ever been people all want the same things.”
Rochkind’s latest project is a short documentary film called “Living Art,” which is about a young artist who is struggling with a potentially fatal genetic disability. He has just finished filming and is now creating an education campaign around it to teach people about inclusion. He said this happens to be his favorite project because it allowed him to spend time with one person and their family.
To Rochkind, filmmaking or photographing is more than a career – it is part of his identity. To live without storytelling, without photography, a part of him would be lost.
“What I do does not feel like just a job to me – it’s a lifestyle and a passion of mine. When I think about the time that I spend traveling, thinking, working, and away from family, it really does become a large part of your life. When I think of myself – I am a husband, a father, and a son, but I am also a filmmaker, storyteller, and someone who is curious about the world.”
Photo: Ground Media