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South Sudanese youth learn photography to bridge cultures

How does one gain cross-cultural understanding? One photo at a time is the philosophy behind the National Geographic’s “Photo Camp” program, celebrating a decade of teaching students in 67 workshops around the world, where under-served and refugee youth are trying to lift themselves and their communities out of difficult and sometimes life-threatening situations.

The National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., is displaying a cross-section of work as part of the 10-year anniversary of “Photo Camp.” The NewsHour caught up with three young people from civil war-torn South Sudan. They studied with veteran National Geographic photographers in their country, and then were invited to reunite for more instruction in Washington.

Learn a little about these three young photographers and see some of their images below:

Catherine Simon

Catherine Simon is a law student and believes photography will help her “communicate with people in my community and to solve issues,” she told the NewsHour. “Photos are really understood by everyone around the world, like when you have a picture, you don’t have to have a certain language to explain it. The picture speaks for itself. So through the pictures that we take we were able to explore and show the world the daily life in South Sudan, how South Sudanese do our things, and what do we do exactly. Most people might just have information that they get through the news that focuses on a certain angle in the country. But when we take pictures from different angles, we take the daily life, the happy things that happen, the sad things that happen, the stressful (things) that maybe happens, everything, we capture everything. So the pictures kind of balance the news, and balance the information, and the picture of the country itself.”

Photo by Catherine Simon

Photo by Catherine Simon

Photo by Catherine Simon

Photo by Catherine Simon

Duku Savio

Duku Savio is studying at the University of Juba and aspires to be a photojournalist. “Photography actually means a lot because it shows a story…” he told us. “If you saw a photo, you will know that is the situation somewhere, and it needs action. Photography also tells a lot about a community or environment where we are living. When you’re documenting somebody’s life, it’s good for future reference because when we grow, we will know that this is how we have been living. (People) will realize we are trying to work it out, because the country has been in a problem. We need to grow up and we make something for ourselves, so that we can be strong in the future.”

Photo by Duku Savio

Photo by Duku Savio

Photo by Duku Savio

Photo by Duku Savio

Akuot Mayak

Akuot Mayak was born in the small village of Jalle in Dinkaland and is now pursuing a profession as a journalist. His family escaped to Ethiopia during the most recent civil war that started in 2013. When the family was forced to leave Ethiopia, Mayak was sent to the Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya, leaving his parents and siblings behind. He told the NewsHour, “A picture is evidence because you can say a word, but there’s nothing that can show that, there’s no evidence. But, if you take a picture and show it to a person, a person can say, oh, that is how that area, or that location looks like, and what is happening around here. If I take a picture (in Washington) and then I go back, I take the picture back there at home, and then I compare them, and then I project them out to society to look at them and compare them. This one will make them to change their whole lives. If people just live their lives and never see with their eyes what is happening, they cannot know if they are going forward or backward. But if you just travel with your camera all over the world, take pictures from different locations, take them back home, then they can compare and begin to live their life together in harmony.”

Photo by Akuot Mayak

Photo by Akuot Mayak

Photo by Akuot Mayak

Photo by Akuot Mayak

Watch tonight’s broadcast of the PBS NewsHour for more about National Geographic’s “Photo Camp.” You can tune in our Ustream channel at 6 p.m. EST or check your local listings.

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