Language has an undeniable power, evoking memories, emotions, and community. Working with international exchange students on a Literacy Through Photography workshop, we chose to do the alphabet project with them because regardless of the language you speak, you can convey a universal message through imagery and photography. Choosing the topic of “home” for the alphabets provided room for creative exploration between languages and cultures, allowing us to share our personal experiences of what home is like, regardless of what country our home is in.
In this photo, Josie, Paulina and I stand side by side under a rainbow umbrella. The rainbow is meant to signify how the international community is made up of a myriad of colors, all of which are beautiful in their own way. Josie and Paulina are exchange students from Germany, and the intentional placement of bodies in this picture is fascinating. First and foremost, all three of us are Caucasian, though from different backgrounds. They did not feel that it was necessarily important to have a clear racial diversity within the photo; our heritage and countries of origin prove to be enough to tell an international story. They also chose to stand side by side and have me on the right hand side, which speaks to the beauty of simple acceptance. Regardless of my physical placement amongst the two other girls, the picture would have conveyed the same message that multicultural is beautiful. We took this picture from several angles including from the back in order to show the scope of the multicolored umbrella. Ultimately, decided that we ourselves, standing beneath the myriad of colors, embodied the concept of what it means to be international. Happy expressions are seen on all three of our faces, demonstrating the universality of a smile.
The foreign exchange students we worked with embraced the concept of literacy through photography, noting how engaged they felt with the project because it enabled them to be creative, move around and think actively. Josie told me that she wanted to do a similar project in her photography class at school and asked what other types of projects LTP encompassed. The versatility of LTP showed through; our project connected to the students’ lives and our understandings of the world we live in.
The three hours I spent with Josie and Paulina were filled with laughter and creative engagement, speaking to the meaning of this project at least as well as this picture does. The expansive aspect of LTP transcends cultural boundaries to create something unique, creative, and visually appealing. We shared our understandings of home and the language that we grew up with in order to create a message of overarching acceptance. Everyone in the international community has a global home, this world is an accepting place filled with people who can teach you more than you ever thought possible. Sometimes all it takes is looking at smiling faces under a rainbow umbrella to remember.