A collaboration between KIDS Global Network, the Evanston Township High School Students Without Borders Club and the Evanston Public Library, Exceptional Voices is a workshop taught using PhotoVoice, a technique for storytelling and education through photography. The participants focused on aspects of their lives that connected the topic of immigration, from identity to the actual movement of people and their families.
Five girls from the local high school were given small point-and-shoot cameras. After learning the basics–how to change the settings and some tips on composition–they were set loose to photograph the library in which they worked and the surrounding area. It became immediately clear that they already knew what they were doing when it came to the physical act of photography; what needed to be cultivated were the skills necessary for storytelling through the photos they took.
Armed with the skills and visual literacy necessary for the project, the students moved on to creating concept maps with which they connected the large concept of immigration to smaller, more specific ideas concrete enough to photograph.
Though social justice was the original focus, the project took on a life of their own, more reflecting the positives that come from immigration rather than the negatives that have recently been the norm in the media.
It soon became clear that the students didn’t want to think about DACA being rescinded and the attitudes the current US president holds toward Latinx immigrants, but rather the effects of immigration on a very personal level.
I have severe anxiety. I care what people think, and I act like I don’t. I’m scared to do anything in front of any type of crowd, because I feel that all the eyes are on me. Most people think I’m super hardcore and tough, since that’s what I show on the outside- but really I’m the most emotional person I know. I chose this picture of my closet because I use clothes to express myself. I dress how I feel each day. Today is the first Monday before winter break, so I’m really not feeling productive. I’m wearing pajama pants and a NASA sweatshirt, with my checkered Vans. Wearing what I want is something that I absolutely do not care what others think about, and I love that power of clothes.
When you look at a person, you see their outside appearances and you may not know but you automatically put them in a box. If you saw a white lady jogging, your mind would automatically think typical white suburban skinny lady. I learned that what we see is not always the truth, our own eyes can deceive us. The thing we trust most could betray us without us even knowing. I had the privilege of getting to know this beautiful lady in this image. I even put this lady in a box the moment I saw her. I saw this lady and automatically thought of Mexican old lady who doesn't talk english. She reminded me of grandma Coco from the movie Coco and I just memorized her as that.
There's one person that will change your life forever and for me it was her. When I look at her, I see fearlessness, bravery and stubbornness. She looks peaceful but also firm, the way that in one single expression she can look both of the opposites amazes me. Being an immigrant didn’t stop her from living her life and that was what hit me. I don’t have to let immigration be my whole life. It is something I am going to be proud of, not ashamed. I am from a different country and thats pretty darn cool. Immigration is something beautiful because it creates diversity which is an amazing thing.
When you look at this picture, what do you see? A girl challenging you with her eyes? The light of the room? The funniest person ever? A girl who knows numbers like the back of her perfectly manicured hand? Did you hear her loud chuckle, or feel her hand on yours when she told you how funny you were? Did you see the warmth in her eyes when she comforts you? No, because you are the world, and the world sees a girl wearing a yellow shirt and ripped jeans.
I had my friends shade in all the countries from where their parents, their ancestors or they themselves are from. I chose this as my project because I wanted to show how culturally, ethnically, and socially diverse our school and community is. That’s what makes our school such a great community and environment, people from all over the world feel safe and like they belong at ETHS because of how accepting and inviting all the students and staff are…“The land flourished because it was fed from so many sources- because it was nourished by so many cultures and traditions and peoples” - Lyndon B. Johnson
Give someone the opportunity to live in other places, they will probably have other cultures, other color skins, or a different way to think. But at the end ... we have the same heart that makes you love people, the same veins, and the same energy to live new experiences and create a new story in other countries. Don't apart anybody else just because they are not from the same country as you are, you might want to learn things from them.
I chose this picture as a final photo because the vending machine represents the world, I also took the blurry picture because I wanted to simulate that they are moving to places
and we are the Doritos, Cheetos, Pop Corns, etc. We have to learn how to live in a vending machine because the snacks are next to each other without any problems . There is not just one row of Doritos, or one row of Cheetos, Do you know why? Because we are all the same, we are sharing the same world, sharing the same vending machine. We all cost the same $1. Don't discriminate the immigrants because they are looking for better opportunities in other places, we all have the same right to live wherever we want. I'm an immigrant and I can tell that with that, this vending machine, will be way better if you were just free to live your life or create a new one in other countries.