It's been 2 years since the unofficial start of Picture Change.
I only planned on staying a few weeks in a tiny fishing village of Padre Ramos Nicaragua, but I ended up staying for 2.5 months. With used, donated digital cameras I taught photography to 17 kids and teenagers in the village. Rosa was from Padre Ramos, and was both my translator and my student. We had photography class and we were all able to see a new perspective of Padre Ramos and of their lives that had not been seen before.
That was two years ago, and since then there have been two more projects: one in a small barrio outside Managaua, Nicaragua and another working with women rescued from brothels in southern India. They have all been very different projects with unique students, needs, and outcomes, but it has been so beautiful to see the self-confidence of the students develop as their photography develops.
The motto of picture change has become, "You are important because you exist and your circumstances don't define you."
Picture change students are from very diverse backgrounds and circumstances. Many of them are solely focused on survival. When they are allowed to be artistic to use their imagination and to see things from a new perspective, an entirely different world is opened, though it may be a world they see every day within their own village or their own family.
At the end of each Picture Change project we always have a local gallery show within the students’ community so the students can be celebrated and have tangible appreciation of their work. We’ve had anywhere from 100-200 people come out and held the galleries in a coffee shop, school, or thatch huts by the ocean with pigs and dogs running through the show. The people in the community point and smile as they see themselves and the students stand by their work with a sense of pride.
And that’s it! That’s what it’s all about! Well, that’s a little of what it’s about. There’s so much more on a deeper level that could be explored, but that’s for another time. “You are important because you exist and your circumstances don’t define you.” You deserve to have hope in something, particularly in yourself, no matter who or where you are.
This February, Picture Change has been given the opportunity to present our students’ work for the first time in the United States. Sacramento State University has asked us to be the featured artists in the Library Gallery on campus. This is a phenomenal opportunity to allow the students to tell their own stories with their photography or, as I teach in class, to “communicate without words” to people who would otherwise not possibly know or care that my students exist. Through their own lives, their work addresses issues such as extreme poverty, lack of education, sex-trafficking, women’s issues, unemployment, and more. Issues that may be taking place in another setting, yet are occurring here in the United States as well.
One day I was looking through some of the student’s photos from Nicaragua and Mangala, one of my girls from India, came and looked over my shoulder. She saw the kids playing with tires in dirt streets, women cooking over open fires, chickens and cows roaming through town, and the way people lived there. I told her it was “Nicaragua, it is very far away from India,” to which she replied, “No, they are the same as us.”
This gallery show is entitled “Transparency” because, before Picture Change, these students have never held a camera before and many of their subject have not been photographed before. Their photos provide a raw and intimate look into the lives and struggles, the joy and commonalities of life in India and Nicaragua.
Funding for this gallery show has been partially provided, but we only need $800 to supply the remaining costs for printing, glass, publicity for the show, and other costs. Picture Change does not yet have our 501(c) (3) non-profit status, so we need your help to cover these costs.
Rosa, a former student, translator, my friend and current world changer, can tell you what Picture Change means to her in this video. You can see her work on the “Padre Ramos, Nicaragua” page on Facebook.
Our students already know about this gallery show and they are so excited. This is a huge opportunity for all of us and we are so grateful. Thank you for listening.
*(Special Thanks to Erin Dalton for composing the music for our promotional video. Check out her work at erindalton.com.)*