Rwandan Orphan’s Project First Photo Exhibition
Rwanda, October 14, 2013 by Jenny Clover
As you may have read here our boys have been getting weekly lessons in photography from American teacher Amber for the last few months. We’ve all be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the work the kids have been producing and are often amazed at the shots they take, which show the Rwandan Orphans Project through their eyes. Last week Amber organised an exhibition at a communal office space in Kigali – called The Office – to show off some of the photos the kids have produced.
We picked 9 names out of a hat, they got dressed up in their best clothes, and we all excitedly set off in a bus from the ROP to town.
The kids’ photos were mounted around the large office space, everything from close-ups of their friends’ faces, to the acrobatics the boys are so good at, to documenting daily life at the ROP. One wall was dedicated to photos the boys had taken of their own bodies, which they’d colored in and written over. Some chose to write about themselves or their bodies, others about their hopes and aspirations. For us to see them writing about their dreams for the future when we’ve seen how hopeless some of them can be at their lowest point was really nice.
The evening was packed from start to finish. Hundreds of people came to see the boys’ photos and ask them questions about their work and their lives. The kids told us that at first they were nervous and didn’t know what to say to all these adults. But gradually, and probably with the help of the multiple sugar-ey drinks people kept buying them, they opened up and were confident enough to go round pointing out their photos and explaining them.
When not busy playing on the table football and ping-pong table and slurping their drinks, the kids were happy mingling, meeting different people and showing off their photos. They told us afterwards that they held a meeting around the football table where they discussed how nervous they were. One of them pointed out that all these people were here for them, and to see their work, and they agreed that they shouldn’t be nervous and should instead enjoy it. It’s great to see our kids developing into mature, proud, open-minded little people before our eyes and it makes us very proud of them.
Read complete story, with additional photos at ROP Stories.
Donate to the Rwandan Orphan’s Project HERE.
Capturing their lives, one snapshot at a time
Posted by Sean on September 16, 2013
Our boys love playing with cameras. Lend them a camera and they will run around the Center taking photos of anything and everything, filling up your memory card in no more than 20 minutes. To them photography was more about playing with a camera than it was about being creative and exploring the world through a lens. That all began to change when Amber Lucero contacted the Rwandan Orphans Project and offered to teach photography workshops to any boys who were interested, regardless of age or experience.
Amber has a background in photography and the visual arts, and is a staff member at San Diego’s Museum of Photographic Arts, or MOPA. She not only brought great enthusiasm for teaching our boys but also a wealth of creativity and a friendliness that led to our usually shy boys to bond with her almost immediately.
Amber’s lessons started by teaching the boys the basics of composition; framing, lighting, and knowing what your subject is before you just start snapping away. Her lessons, while geared towards photography, were designed in a way that taught them shapes, colors, patterns and other basic academic principles without them even realizing it. Those early lessons were meant to lay the groundwork for the exploration of the boys’ creativity that would come later. And although they started off slowly, after a few weeks we began seeing them becoming more strategic with their shots.
Before long, even when Amber was not at the ROP, the boys would have cameras out, prospecting around our Center and its surroundings searching for interesting subjects to photograph and trying to take creative shots of themselves and their friends that were unlike the usual hip hop poses they used to always mimic from music videos they saw on TV.
It’s been several months now since Amber’s first lesson, and it’s been truly remarkable what she has been able to teach our boys, as well as what they’ve been able to do with that knowledge. It’s also been a great way for us staff to see their lives in the Center from their perspectives. Now many of their photos are hanging up in our office. Soon others will be displayed at an exhibition here in Kigali and yet others will actually be displayed in an exhibition at MOPA in San Diego from October 19th to February 2nd. If you’re in the San Diego area during that time please visit MOPA and see their work for yourself!
Read complete story and see many more photos at ROP Stories
Excerpt from Transfigurations by Jana Marcus.
You must have a very strong sense of self to transition. (Tiffany, 42)
If I were able to transition when I was in my teens, like youth can today, I would have been socialized as other young girls are. But would I have been forced to buy into stereotypical behavior, attributes, and social norms that most young women are raised with? Would I be a cookie-cutter conformist with a very narrow idea of what a girl is and what kind of woman she should be? Would I have been raised to be a good girl, find a white knight, and raise a family?
It would have been beneficial to my physical appearance to be on estrogen before so many male features became permanent. It’s much harder to transition later in life, and I have had to rid myself of male baggage and socialization. But when that process was done I had a semi-blank slate to create my own idea of what a woman can be, instead of what society thinks she should be. By constructing the woman I am today, I was able to become my own creation, with healthier ideas and qualities I wanted to embody, such as intelligence, humor, individuality, strength, grace and class, as well as my own sense of style and unique place in the world.
I’m proud to be trans; it’s who I am. The outcome of my struggles is what makes me special, not whether I’ve had surgery to create a vagina. Millions of women have a vagina and it doesn’t make them special. What makes a person special is who they are inside, what they do with their lives, and how they make a difference in the world. That’s the kind of woman I am – always aiming to make a difference.
Excerpt from Transfigurations by Jana Marcus.
I am more than just a woman.
By Danielle (30)
See accompanying photo.
I used to be very scared of being transgendered. I didn’t want to fit into that community, and I lived my life as a woman. Only those very close to me knew otherwise. When Gwen Araujo was murdered I realized that I could no longer pretend to be what I was not. Gwen’s death could have been mine. I was in her situation so many times – deceiving people that I was a natural woman. I was really just deceiving myself. This was difficult for me to come to terms with, but I realized that I’m not a biological woman and I never will be. There is more than just male and female – gender is fluid. I realized that the world was messed up, not me, so I decided to turn my anger into a passion for change. Now I’m dedicated to providing services which were not available when I was young.
There’s an emotional and spiritual evolutionary process that we all must go through to accept ourselves for who we really are. I am a transgendered woman and that’s how I identify. For many years I refused to accept having been male. Now I recognize that I am of two spirits, and I’m trying to get in touch with the man inside of me. This is part of embracing my transgenderism as a whole. I’m no longer trying to be something I’m not. I’m just trying to be who I am, and to love myself.
Here’s what people are saying about Transfigurations by Jana Marcus.
Transfigurations is a bold, gutsy visual feast – not just for the eyes, but for the heart and soul. In her courageous endeavor to explore gender, Jana Marcus takes us along a hypnotic ride that invites us to question everything we think we might know about “man,” “woman” and the typically uncharted water in between. Stunning!
–Greg Archer, San Francisco Examiner and Huffington Post
Jana Marcus’s Transfigurations is revelatory. A series of larger-than-life-size black and white portraits that – perhaps as a function of a wide-open camera lens or the fine quality of printing, but more likely because the eye of the photographer has called forth a deep veracity from the subjects – make available the human essence.
–Mareen Davidson, Art Critic, Santa Cruz Weekly.
This is powerful stuff! Transfigurations is deeply moving. Marcus captures the dignity of people with clarity and honesty, calling forth the hope that many closed minds may be opened and many faint hearts be mended.
–Dennis J. Dunleavy, Ph.D., Department of Communication, Southern Oregon University