Written by: Lydia Weflen
“Today I’m fasting, it’s the afternoon, clouds get grayer, it might rain, sitting on a chair in a co-working space made my legs ache, it is mostly silent, and the only sound comes from the fridge, and the clicking of the mouse, I guess. I look at the time to see how long until I break my fast, I’m starting to feel dizzy; the light on me is too bright, and my hands are cold while I’m typing. There is a cat outside wandering, I think it got bored.
The smell from the wooden desk is still fresh, my back is starting to hurt from sitting for so long, I want to go home and break my fast.
Finally, the time has come, I pack my things into my backpack and go to the bus station, I wait until the bus takes off. I’m too tired to keep my head still so I put my head against the window. Slowly I feel the bus starting to move.” – Lawen Sardar, Photo Start Student, Iraq, 2022
As I sift through the thousands of incredible photos taken and stories written by our students from around the world like the one you just read, I can’t help but state the obvious: Photo Start is so much more than just photography classes. We are uniquely positioned to not only teach but to listen and to learn and amplify the voices of hundreds of students worldwide year after year. Through their photos and stories, I feel like they are taking me to their community, inviting me into their culture, and showing me what life is like in their country.
Through visual literacy and storytelling lessons embedded into our program, Lawen learned how to express himself and his experiences that are unique to his culture.
Reading this while sitting in my living room in the United States, I learned a thing or two about Iraqi culture. Lawen’s story reached someone he will probably never even know about. This simple idea of pushing a button on a camera to capture a moment holds more power than what meets the eye. When students learn that their stories can be told through their photos and then shared with people thousands of miles away, they feel more connected, invested, and empowered to use the skills that Photo Start teaches them.
Photo Start’s curriculum is now being taught in 8 countries across four continents, many with different time zones, languages, and cultures. While this calls for many challenges, I have realized as Photo Start continues to grow that while each community, country, and continent that our programs serve are very different, the impact that Photo Start has doesn’t change. Our programs give students opportunities to rise above their current circumstances by teaching them essential soft and hard skills that will not only help them educationally. In their future careers, it helps them learn how to communicate their lived experiences through photography, storytelling, and sharing their stories with others.
As 2022 is coming to a close, Photo Start aims to raise $10,000 that will help us continue to impact more students around the globe, listen to their stories, to help them understand how to photograph, write, and tell their stories. How to use the skills they learn to cultivate a better future for themselves, their families, and their communities.
Partner with us by donating to Photo Start.
-Your Photo Start Family