We caught up with a handful of Global Eyewitness program graduates ahead of this Friday’s “Extant: Global Eyewitness” exhibit at the Outlook Project Gallery at Turbine Flats. Hear what they have to say about what they learned through the program below, and see the full show July 21 from 5-9 p.m. at 2124 Y Street in Lincoln.
“I learned that people are more alike than different. That they want to tell their story and they want to be involved in that telling. I think we live in a world where there are a lot of things telling us all how different we are – democrat, republican, black, white – but really all the projects I worked on taught me that people are inherently the same. They strive for happiness, struggle through hardships, long for love and acceptance.”
“My experience in the Global Eyewitness program exposed me to how large the world is but more importantly it showed me how small it can be. I never imagined that I would be able to relate to recovering drug users in the Dominican Republic or brick factory workers in Nepal yet after spending extensive amounts of time with someone you find common ground. I realized that despite the greatly different worlds we grew up in we all seek very basic needs such as love, friendship and some sort of purpose. I also realized how fortunate I was to be born and raised in the environment that I was and afforded the opportunities that I have. After witnessing people struggle to fulfill basic needs it was troubling to come home and see friends complaining about what’s on TV or throwing away food cause it taste weird. The whole experience just opens your eyes to how fortunate you are and how compassionate you should be.”
“Over the course of the seven trips I was lucky enough to be a part of through the Global Eyewitness program, I was welcomed into the homes of complete strangers and treated like family. It was a level of generosity and openness that is rare to experience in the United States. I often was in areas of extreme poverty, but that didn’t stop the families I stayed with from offering me everything they had—even though it was a sacrifice for them.
Prior to becoming part of this program I lost my grandma fairly suddenly to stage four brain cancer. I remember vividly the feeling I had at her funeral—I had to be strong for my family—I wasn’t going to cry. I think as a culture we suppress our emotions and more often than not—isolate ourselves in an act of ‘keeping it together.’
After experiencing daily life with families in Kyrgyzstan, India, Brazil and Ethiopia, and seeing how open they were and how dependent they were on their family units, I began to wonder how they handled death. My next trip was to the Dominican Republic. I decided to spend the whole time in one of the cemeteries going to sometimes four or five funerals a day. The emotional experience was overwhelming. Loved ones would weep so hard they passed out. Much like the way they lived, the way they honored, celebrated and grieved their deceased loved ones was so raw—unfiltered.
So while I learned many things from traveling with UNL, I think the biggest thing was everyone grieves differently and just because the United States has a more sanitized approach to death, it doesn’t mean you have to.”
“The Global Eyewitness program offers a student a deeper understanding of both journalism and self. It is a challenging but incredible learning opportunity to research a story, travel to a foreign country and dive into documentary work as an emerging journalist.
During this process, I learned what makes a story worth sharing, and how best to convey the message visually. I learned failure is part of having eventual success, and not to become discouraged when your plans fall through. These are lessons that can only be taught in an extended classroom that involves hands-on experience.
Personally, the program taught me the value in keeping in touch with the people you photograph, the translators, the fixers. I’ve forged deep friendships with individuals I have encountered through Global Eyewitness, and fostering a genuine care for others helps to keep my intentions genuine and focused on sharing stories in a respectful way. Most importantly, I learned through my travels never to underestimate the power of being listened to. People are people no matter where you go, and sometimes all they want is to be heard.”
“Through the Global Eyewitness program, I learned to let a story be what it wants to be. A lot of times, as an outsider telling any kind of story, I plan on the project going a certain way or following a certain pattern. I never had a story end up how I thought it would in my planning and researching phase. But that always seemed to be for the better. As long as I am flexible, I can do more than I thought. As long as I let the issues and the people guide me through what their experiences really are, I can tell a more in-depth, honest reflection of a life. I also learned that people want to share their life, as long as you really want to listen. That means putting the time in. I still apply this to my work today. I also learned what what E. Coli does to a body. You don’t want to hear that story.”
“Everything is about hope. I learned that most people, no matter where they are or what phase of life they are in, want the same basic things out of life: to have their needs met and to understand their purpose in life. The difference is our belief systems and what we put our hope in to understand that purpose. When people have their needs met (whether that’s access to water, food, shelter, education, LOVE) they are more likely to be given hope and a way to break out of their own poverty standards.
I learned how I can incorporate my passion for storytelling and others together to impact the community and encourage others to care about something outside of their own world and want to make the world better.”
“In this program I learned how to be a journalist, through many countries, many stories and many, many mistakes. I learned that it takes a lot more than a camera to be a photographer. I learned that people and issues don’t fit in the boxes we try to make for them. Especially those neat, condensed ones we try to create in journalism. Things are complicated. I learned to be more compassionate and openminded and that the people you are photographing are far more important than the photo itself. I learned that the world is an endlessly fascinating, beautiful and heartbreaking place.”
“The global eyewitness program has taught me that the most invaluable things in life are centered on community, humility, and integrity. Through these projects, I’ve learned how finding common ground between cultural differences can help bring awareness and understanding, and at the forefront of that, needs to be the desire to seek the truth and preserve a sense of humanity.”