Student Photo Exhibit Focuses On 'Remembering Their Stories'
Published: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 22, 2013 23:09
A lot of us have friends who have left the nest of BC to explore the world, through one travel experience or study abroad program or another. We exchange a few emails with them while they’re gone, look over some pictures when they come home, and then smile politely every time they bring their trips up again. The usual anecdotes involve foreign liquor and places with names we’ve never heard and can’t pronounce. And frankly, after the initial excitement wears off, we don’t care. While our friends enjoyed themselves, there is nothing spectacular or life changing retold or shown to us that holds enough impact to linger with us. We pick up our daily routine and the images and places described slip away.
Still, not every trip is the same. At Remembering Their Stories—a student photo exhibit hosted in the first floor of O’Neill now through Oct. 30—there are descriptions from students I have never met, and pictures of people I have never seen, displayed around the gallery room on an understated corkboard. The images are clean, unmated, and honest. There are no annoying frames or unnecessary jazz added. The photographs speak for themselves. And that’s why this exhibit and these trips matter. While the corresponding BC student captioned each photo they took with what or who the subject was and where the photo was taken, there are no gimmicks or boasting. In fact, besides the brief paragraph-long caption, our fellow students aren’t the ones talking.
The people are. The first picture hung is one of a group of young children crouching together, smiling. Their limbs and dirty clothes are covered in a dust that seems to have buried their entire village. Yet their stories are not made of dirt and ruin. Instead, there is a feeling of hope that transcends from the image to the viewer. Their story is one of the future, of what’s to come. Despite the caption detailing the service work, the children in the picture do not speak of hardship. The BC student does not speak for them. The image does, and so it is the unspoken voice of the people that tells the real story.
This duality between the written and the visual exists in almost every featured photograph in the exhibit. The written components detail great plans for improvement and service opportunities, while the faces show the people are tired. In some cases, the student states simply the age and location of the subject, and still in others, like the first photograph mentioned, the subjects tell stories of hope louder than the daunting facts neatly typed below the images.
Yet, by no means is this exhibit a somber one. There is an overall feeling of gratitude, from the students who participated, and from the people they interacted with. Perhaps the best example can be found in a photo taken by Rachel Glassman, BC ’12 of her trip to Guatemala, or in the photo capturing Ecuadorian children playing in the rain with BC students, taken by Jamie Ciocon, CSOM ’14. Both images tell a story of immersion and acceptance: themes that are recurring throughout the other pictures involved.
Alex Gaynor, A&S ’15, writes in her caption about a nine-year-old girl who shared her life story with the BC students after knowing them for only an hour. Lakeisha St. Joy, A&S ’15, writes the phrase “my new Nicaraguan family” to describe the subjects of her photograph. Despite the linguistic appreciation from our end of the relationship, the reciprocation of thanks from the people the students encountered speaks even more powerfully through the visual.
A true testament is found in the moving photo captured by Mackenzie Donovan, A&S ’15, showing a group of students in Honduras standing with their eyes shut and their hands pressed together in prayer, thanking BC students for helping them construct a new school.
As exhibit visitors walk around the room, the last few images on the final wall leave a punch. Most spellbinding and powerful are the two close-up portraits of four-year-old Dan Martinez, and 94-year-old Eulalia—both taken by BC student, Kyle Seibert A&S ’14, on his trip to El Salvador. My words cannot do these individuals justice, and so it is not my place to speak for them. To learn their stories, you too must meet them. Because of the power of imagery, meeting them does not require more than a visit to O’Neill. And once you have the pleasure to do so, don’t worry—you will never forget their faces. If there’s one thing Remembering Their Stories succeeds in, it’s giving BC students a reason to linger.