Issue #1

Some student reactions: “She’s trying to be like those magazine covers.” “She’s insecure.” She doesn’t look like those photos.” “She pretty, just like those photos.” “She’s studying to be a fashion designer.” ”Those books are going to fall on her head. She must really like to study.” And this from a fifth-grader in the back of the room: “Are those photos on the wall all of the same person?”
How many photos do we consume everyday that shape how we look at each other and ourselves? A study at the University of Minnesota estimated that girls 11 to 14 are subjected to some 500 advertisements a day and that by staring at a Photo-shopped image for one to three minutes can negatively affect self-esteem. How difficult is it to measure up to societal definitions of beauty and masculinity?
The high school student in this photo navigates between the image-soaked mass culture that surrounds her and the culture of her family, who immigrated from Egypt. Her father is very religious and prays five times a day. “I think he’s even more religious after we came here,” she says, “because he’s afraid that we will forget about our language, culture and traditions. But it’s hard for us because he wants us to cover our heads and not wear pants. It’s the Muslim tradition. But in America everyone can wear whatever they want. I think that’s good.
“My father wants us to only be with people of our own race, our own culture, but none of my friends are Egyptian. They are American, Chinese, and Asian—from all over the world! I do a lot of activities in school. When I go I don’t want to leave. I don’t even want to come home. I like learning. I’m on the National Honor Society. My GPA is 4.0.  I want to be different and have my own way of life. I like new fashions. I want to be a heart surgeon. I want to be famous.”

These ten photos comprise Issue #1, each with a revealing backstory, that collectively touch upon a broad range of themes. I interviewed all of the people in the photos, except one. The earliest one was taken around 1982, the latest one in fall of 2017—a span of 36 years. Some were from previous projects that didn’t have a backstory, so I tracked down the people in them for an interview. One, from 20 years ago, tracked me down.

Guessing the backstory is not really the point. It is just another viewpoint, with enough detail and ambiguity to evoke more discussion. That being said, some have a big reveal no one would ever guess. The hope is to surprise, challenge, and complicate, evoking more questions. This is a flexible concept that can be shaped by the teacher or presenter. You decide when to reveal the backstory. Present the backstory as I wrote it or interpret in your own words.

Themes in issue #1 include: homelessness, recycling, McDonald’s, corporate commercialism, scrapping, Cambodia, Islam, Black Panthers, the Koran, painting art, Judaism, trans-racial adoption, the process of photographing, photographic composition, magazine beauty, immigration, differing cultural viewpoints within the same family, the language of hair, Eritrean and Ethiopian braiding, evolving cultural identities, blackness, connecting with your birth mom, gardening, Independence Day, Islamophobia, Somali culture, hijab and star-spangled clothing.

Although I created this project with educators in mind, this resource is available for everyone!

 

To Order (Introductory Offer)
Go to the “Contact” page and write in the “Comment” section how many PDFs and/or zines you want. I will reply within a day with an email where you can make the purchase with a credit card or PayPal. As soon as I receive notification of your payment I will email you the photos and backstories in separate PDFs. For the zines please allow one week for delivery.

$30                                      PDF to project in the classroom
(This is an individual fee for a K-12 teacher. To purchase this for a department, school, district, or other entity, contact me to discuss an appropriate fee that fits your budget.)

$50                                     PDF to project in the classroom
(This is an individual fee for a college professor. To purchase this for a department, school, district, or other entity, contact me to discuss an appropriate fee that fits your budget.)

$9 + $5 shipping            Printed zine (mini-magazine, image below)
(Participants can hold and interact with the images at an intimate scale. For 30 or more copies, contact me to discuss an appropriate fee that fits your budget.)

 

Issue #1 Zine (5 1/2 x 81/2 inches)