Liberia: Youths capture images of their lives at 'Eye See III' workshop
By Michael Bociurkiw
NEW YORK, USA, 24 April 2008 – Each equipped with a camera and a unique perspective, dozens of children in Rwanda and Liberia recently spent a week with internationally renowned photographer and frequent UNICEF contributor Giacomo Pirozzi for a series of training workshops called ‘Eye See III’.
The idea for the UNICEF-supported Eye See workshop series originated in Pakistan after the October 2005 earthquake there, with an initial focus on documenting children’s experiences in displacement camps. The goal of the workshops is to teach children photography and provide them with a fun, compelling tool with which to capture the images of their lives.
Following the Eye See III workshops in Rwanda and Liberia, each participant was equipped with his or her own Sony Cybershot DSC-T20. Most of the children had never held a camera before and only a few had owned a photograph. Mr. Pirozzi used his own photos to share tips on composition, color and lighting.
“I can’t believe the quality of these images – and the quantity,” said Mr. Pirozzi during the third day of the Rwanda workshop.
In Liberia, 12 children were selected to participate in the workshop. Six of the children lived with their parents and attended in school, while the remainder came from temporary juvenile centres as runaways, orphans or victims of violence and trafficking.
The Liberian children said they saw Eye See III as a vehicle for the world to see that life as a child in Liberia can be difficult.
“Maybe if the adults in the world hear the voice of children, then they will be able to understand,” said one participant.
In Rwanda, participants aged 9 to 16 were selected from a local child-friendly school to include a wide range of youths, including orphaned and vulnerable children and those with from disabilites.
The focus was primarily on malaria, which kills an African child every 30 seconds. One group visited a hospital to train their eyes and lenses on malaria prevention. Led by Joseph, 14, they captured emotive images of a child being treated.
The young photographers also documented subjects related to water, poverty, post-conflict issues and the right to play.
“One benefit is that the work they have done will be used to help resources to be mobilized for development in Rwanda,” said UNICEF Rwanda Head of Education Charles Nabongo. “But more than that, these children have developed leadership and communication skills while they, through the chosen themes, have come to understand the challenges their country faces.”
As part of Eye See III, the images were transported to Italy where they were reproduced onto portable exhibition panels for display. Exhibits are to be shown this month and next in Canada, Japan, Liberia, Rwanda as well as other countries. They have been produced in English, French and Japanese.
In Canada, the exhibits will be used to raise money for insecticide-treated bed nets for Liberia and Rwanda as part of the ‘Spread the Net’ campaign.
Eye See III was supported by the Japan Committee for UNICEF, and the Sony Corporation helped supply children with the tools they needed to communicate universal issues through photography.
“I saw that children in Liberia, in Russia, in the Philippines, in Pakistan have to face the same challenges as we do here in Rwanda” said Jean Claude Mutabazi, I5. “There’s poverty and there’s problems that they struggle with too.”
Julia Spry-Leverton in Rwanda and Rebecca Bannor-Addae in Liberia contribued to this story.