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UP CLOSE: Frame Your Story

Schachenmayr empowers youth with photography

October 8, 2015
By TOM SALITSKY (tsalitsky@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Lake Placid native Beatrice Schachenmayr has a big idea. She wants to enrich the lives of refugee children by teaching them how to tell their own stories visually.

To do this, the 24-year-old started Frame Your Story, a project "that empowers youth to be active participants in their communities around the world by using cameras in a creative way." She has partnered with ASAM, the Association for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers and Migrants, a Turkish non-governmental organization, and 100cameras, a non-profit social enterprise that empowers marginalized children to create change in their community by teaching them photography. In about a month, she will travel to Istanbul, Turkey, to begin the teaching phase of the project.

How did she embark on such an ambitious project?

Article Photos

Beatrice Schachenmayr shares her knowledge of photography with two children in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2012.
(Photo provided)

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Roots

The Northwood School alumna has been interested in photography most of her life. By her sophomore year at Syracuse University, Schachenmayr chose to major in fine art photography and minor in women's studies. That was when the kernel of the idea that would eventually become Frame Your Story was born.

"The seed was planted in my head when I watched a film as a sophomore at Syracuse called 'Born Into Brothels' by Zana Briski," she said. "I thought that was amazing."

In 2012, Schachenmayr studied abroad in Istanbul, where she worked with ASAM, creating pamphlets and maps to aid refugees trying to navigate the city.

"I really liked the work we were doing," she said.

With ASAM, Schachenmayr helped provide refugees with the basic necessities of life, such as clothing and medicine.

One experience in particular made an impact on her.

"There was one family that this was kind of a turning point in my life," she said. "It just evoked something inside of me.

"There was a mother and a father and one child. The mother and the father were from Baghdad, and they had survived two explosions. ... The mother had lost both of her legs. The father, he was probably 60, appeared to be 80, only had one arm, couldn't walk well, and they had a little girl running around who had a lot of energy, and the mother was also pregnant."

Schachenmayr explained the couple's medical conditions often prevented their daughter from being able to go outside and play.

"We took her outside, and she was so happy throwing a soccer ball around," she said. "That is definitely one of the reasons I want to pursue this project, Frame Your Story, just as a mission to help children and have fun with them.

"It's really about creating an environment where kids can be comfortable with each other and be children and use their imaginations and be vulnerable but be in a safe place with each other."

Schachenmayr returned to Syracuse and graduated in 2013. Soon after, she traveled through Southeast Asia for a year, where she taught English in Thailand for six months. While teaching, she began experimenting with student photography projects.

"I did a camera project with some of my Thai students, but in a class of 50 kids it was just really difficult," she said.

Schachenmayr returned to the United States and spent six months working for Aperture Foundation, a non-profit that publishes photo books and focuses on educational outreach programs.

"I loved working there," she said. "I became really inspired while I was there to confute this project I've had in mind since I was in college."

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Frame Your Story

Based on her experiences in Thailand, Schachenmayr knew she couldn't do it alone. In April, she contacted 100cameras and pitched her idea. They liked what they heard.

"They have a new project, and it's called the Snapshot Project," she said. "I'm sort of their guinea pig. They're providing me with a curriculum, which is what I need help with, to pursue this project with kids. I'm going to test this curriculum out in exchange for their help and their platform and their name."

Schachenmayr created a website called frameyourstory.tumblr.com, and started an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for the project with a goal of $7,850. She said the funds raised by the campaign will cover her flight, transportation, housing, cameras, journals and a printer. As of press time, she had raised $3,215. Schachenmayr said the financial and moral support she has received so far has been remarkable.

"I'm so grateful," she said.

Schachenmayr currently plans to spend three months in Istanbul. She estimates the teaching phase of the project will last eight weeks. She has purchased several point-and-shoot digital cameras, made arrangements for a classroom and a translator and plans to teach 20 to 30 children divided into two age groups twice a week. At the end of the eight weeks, Schachenmayr plans to exhibit her students' work in Istanbul, and she plans to display it online as well.

She said the recent migrant crisis has strengthened her resolve.

"I want to go and help these kids," she said. "I'm going to this place in the world where this huge political uprising is happening. That's quite a place to be. It's not why I decided to go there initially, but it's definitely making me more excited. I am excited and happy and passionate about helping these kids who have very little. ... I think I'm going to learn a lot while I'm there. They're going to teach me so much. "

Photography has left a lasting impression on Schachenmayr, and she hopes her students will feel the same way.

"I've been using this quote a lot (from) Dorothea Lange, 'The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera,'" she said. "It's totally educational. In life, I feel like I've become more observant, better at connecting the dots.

"I hope subconsciously, it will nurture them and touch them."

For more information or to donate to the project, visit indiegogo.com/projects/100cameras-snapshot-project-frame-your-story#/.

 
 

 

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