Saturday, December 20, 2008

Participatory Photography Project

I traveled to Guatemala in April 2008 to meet with Ajkem'a Loy'a and plan the summer collaboration. I was given the task to document my visit through photography so that I could report back to the students in NY. I felt reluctant about taking on this responsibility since I considered myself a terrible photographer. I was famous among my friends and family for cutting off people's head when taking their picture.

It was during the meetings with Ajkem'a Loy'a, when I looked at these women decide their future through the lens of my camera, that a photographer was born.... I couldn't stop photographing their animated faces talking about the infinite possibilities that this project presented. The camera became a tool for capturing the energy and passion in the air.

When I returned to Guatemala during the summer of 2008, I had the pleasure of facilitating a participatory photography project with Ajkem'a Loy'a. I was eager to share this skill with the women that had inspired me to start taking photographs and find my own voice through photography. I conducted several workshops ranging from how to use a disposable camera to how to capture a feeling in an image. Overall it was an amazing experience to see the women from Ajkem'a Loy'a find their own voices and the means to represent themselves through images. The theme for the project was hopes/dreams and fears/concerns. Here are some of the images that were produced during the workshops.


video

The participatory photography project, Another Look, was conducted in nine different countries, Guatemala being one of them. For more information on Another Look visit: http://www.gpia.info/anotherlook2008 .

Friday, December 5, 2008

A great week in San Lucas Toliman

Today was my last day working with Ajkem'a Loy'a this week. I traveled with a grant from W139 to teach them how to use the internet. A paper-based workshop to explain what the internet and email were, started off the week with a holistic understanding even before sitting in front of the computer.

We then had a couple of days of mixed time, between their workshop space and the local internet cafe in town. It was a fantastic experience. The first reply they received to one of their emails was an amazing, and surprising moment for them. Their finding pictures of our June collaboration on a website was exciting for them, and thrilling for me to watch. And then, seeing them realize that googling could become a design tool, was exactly what I was hoping for.

We'll have to wait and see if they are able to practice (they can check their email for $.30 for 30 min.) as much as they should to not forget everything we worked on this week. I have been emailing for 16 years now, and it was a beautiful experience to not take for granted every little thing I've learned, and even more exciting to revisit those early days of email with a group who had not imagined they could ever actually understand what those young kids are doing in front of the computer for so many hours a day.

Today I was invited to three of their homes. It was extremely humbling and moving to see how they live. The lucky ones live in spaces with enough beds for herself and her two children. Others, a mother of four, shares a bed with two of her children, while the other two sleep in the neighboring bed. They have no floor other than patted down dirt and never have the luxury of walking around without shoes on.

It's always a sad goodbye, but I feel fortunate that I'm able to do this kind of work, and hopeful for a return next year with students who can share these experiences of working in the developing world.

(NOTE: This may have to be my last post in only English. Now that the women of Ajkem'a Loy'a are reading I'm hoping this blog will now go bilingual! Any volunteers out there who will help me translate previous and future entries?)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Introducing Ajkem'a Loy'a's Products

This slideshow documents the current inventory in Ajkem'a Loy'a's store in San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala. Roll over "Notes" for details on materials, size, and prices.