Photo Stories: African Women and Kids
Affected by AIDS Share their Lives
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Lynn Warshafsky

Lynn Warshafsky is the co–founder of Venice Arts: In Neighborhoods. She is a Fellow at the USC Annenberg School for Communications and a co–founder of the USC Institute for Photographic Empowerment, a joint project of Venice Arts and the USC Annenberg School for Communications and its Center for Communications Leadership and Center for Public Diplomacy. In 2002 she was selected as one of ten arts leaders, county–wide, to participate in the LA County Arts Commission's Arts Leadership Initiative; in 2003, she received a Fellowship from Stanford University's Graduate School of Business and, with additional support from the LA County Arts Commision, participated in Stanford's summer residency Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders: Arts.

Lynn has been instrumental in creating Venice Arts' innovative art mentoring model and in developing its innovative, technology–based art programs. She also created or co–created most of Venice Arts local, national, and international documentary projects of significance. In addition to her work with Venice Arts, Lynn has been a nonprofit organization development consultant since 1990, working with arts, activist, and human service organizations, foundations, schools, and governmental agencies. From 2000–2004, she was also Faculty at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in the Pacific AIDS Education and Training Center and, from 1990 to 2004, she was a consultant and trainer for the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine's Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and its AIDS Mental Health Training Program.

Lynn studied photography as an undergraduate student, as well as at the Los Angeles Women's Building, where she also taught. She received her Master's degree in Clinical Psychology in 1982 and was licensed in the State of California in 1985.


comments from website visitors:

Hey Lynn-- Great meeting Saturday. This site is everything you said it was--really fantastic.
Suzanne Costello

Posted Wednesday, September 19, 2007 10:11AM

The question of perspective, point of view, story, really stimulates me. I wonder looking forward how this point of interaction and sharing will shape new stories for both the children of Mozambique and the mentors from Venice. Cheers
Beth
NYC
Posted Wednesday, August 15, 2007 5:59AM

lynn - i just read what you wrote about the work you are doing now and the description of the collaboration. it is well said and thought out. i agree that multiple perspectives make the whole. the uniqueness of the mentors visions and the childrens visions together are creating an amazing visual story. the kids sound like they really have quite a perspective on their lives. keep up the good work - you are clearly teaching these kids another way of seeing.
roxanne
venice, ca
Posted Tuesday, August 14, 2007 8:10AM

Hi Lynn, I just watched your profoundly moving video on your visit to South Africa. I can't wait to see what you come back with from Mozambique. Bon voyage! Mara (Dante and Zora's mom)
Mara Schoner
Venice...
Posted Monday, July 30, 2007 12:10PM

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Camera triangle
Lynn Warshafsky

Steady hand
Lynn Warshafsky

Photography mentors
Lynn Warshafsky

Shooting back
Lynn Warshafsky

Mentoring
Lynn Warshafsky

Untitled
Lynn Warshafsky

Sofie's window
Lynn Warshafsky

Planning session
Lynn Warshafsky

Lynn Warshafsky

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New threads
Tomas Cumbana

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Hello Wednesday, August 15

Lynn Warshafsky
Venice Arts

Posted 2:09PM on Wednesday, August 15, 2007 Pacific Time

The project is coming to a close and the team has been working in small groups trying to fill in gaps in the photo stories and making sure that every child has had plenty of opportunity to shoot. We are also furiously working on capturing bios and video interviews to further amplify the children's photos.

Today, Irenio and Saquina, their 4-year-old brother Miró, and their neighbor, Jeremias, went to meet the world-renowned Mozambican artist Malangatana at his Maputo home: a deep red, four-story studio and gallery of literally hundreds of paintings, sculptures, and etchings. We were already on the third floor when we heard a booming voice enquire, "Who made me walk up all these stairs to greet you?" An effusive man, Malangatana sat with the kids and talked about his art, as well as about AIDS and its devastating impact on Mozambique. The kids filled their cameras with images of the art and the man and left overjoyed to have been in his presence.

Later that afternoon, Irenio identified four photos as favorites out of nearly 200: Blade and Michael Jackson, which exemplifies his deep friendship with Blade, who he has know since he was a young teen. Forced out of the neighborhood when his house was demolished and his family relocated, Blade still regularly visits Irenio and, since his Irenio's mother died, brings him bread. Family is a portrait of the family that Jeremias has been living with since losing both of his parents. The woman he calls "grandmother" is dressed in black, as she lost her husband one month ago. Irenio said that he wasn't able to come to see Jeremias after his "grandfather" died, so was happy to come and see his family and, through his photo, pay his respects. Irenio laughs when speaking about Experienced Hands, a picture of a man who lives near Reencontro and carves wood. He was interested in shooting his hands because he thought they also looked like sculpture. View from the Back of the House shows the beauty that one can find in a smoky sky, even if it is above a garbage dump where children play. He said that the garbage dump was created after the houses in his neighborhood were leveled because the government neglected to fill in the resulting holes.

Tomorrow we do our last shoot and, on Friday, we host a party to say goodbye. Our work once we return to Los Angeles is already clear: in addition to printing and preparing the exhibit and the book, continue to solicit financial support for traveling the exhibit in Mozambique, the United States, and elsewhere, as well as to support the development of a small photo program at Reencontro for the most talented and dedicated children.


Hello Friday, August 10

Lynn Warshafsky
Venice Arts

Posted 3:11AM on Monday, August 13, 2007 Pacific Time

After having worked for several days in small groups developing deeper, more focused stories, we reunited the entire group on Day 5 to do a work review. As we have had significant post-production to do at the end of each day of shooting -- downloading, editing, web updating, equipment maintenance -- we have simply been left too exhausted, each evening, to also make prints for the kids. Our solution, while imperfect, was to load our Macintosh laptops with an image edit and to have Joanne walk around the group sharing images, while Russell discussed them with the kids, reinforcing basic concepts in photography and visual storytelling. Better to hold pictures in your hand (which they will be able to do at the end of next week). Better yet, to have the time and resources for the kids to participate in the edit. But how extraordinary, nonetheless, to be able to use technology to share work in this way. We were also able to show the kids the website and to read the comments posted by people from around the world about their work. The pride reflected in their faces was indescribable. Thanks to each of you who took the time to look at their photos and share your thoughts.

When we did the work share we talked with the children a bit about the emerging visual story. Do your photos, taken together, tell a story that reads true to you? What is missing? What would you enlarge upon? This stimulated an interesting dialogue, which I am paraphrasing here. One of the teens talked about the fact that these images are not, in any form, a fair representation of teen life in Maputo, as they represent only the lives of children living on their own in the "suburbs" (generally more impovrished areas of the city). She talked about the importance of also showing children in stable families with economic resources, education, and access to opportunities. As a counter–point, one of her peers noted that, while it is true that these photos do not represent the whole, they are a reflection of an important part -- children orphaned because of AIDS -- and that this part is the intention of this particular project. Yet another said that she thought the photos were "60 percent there" but that she wanted to show more joy.

I am really struck by how collaborative a process this work is. It is not honest to say that these are the children's stories, alone, as they work so closely with their mentors, whose job as professional photographers is to help them focus their shooting, point out extraordinary light, or suggest picture opportunities. To those of us who are American, everything we see is new. What is extraordinary to us is absolutely ordinary to the children. Perhaps it is this collaboration that makes the work so powerful: the children with their intimate knowledge of their own lives; the photographers —- whether those of us from the United States or our Mozambican partners —- looking in as outsiders with well-trained eyes, seeing things that the children may not notice, making inquires about what we see that may allow the kids to reflect on their lives in new ways. While some might think that the eyes and involvement of "outsiders" intrude upon the children's stories, I think that it is this very interaction that makes the images and story unique.

Our work this week has left me thinking quite a bit about the importance of perspective in a story and brings to mind the parable about the blind men and the elephant: multiple perspectives make the whole; no one point of view is the truth.


Heading to Mozambique: House is Small

Lynn Warshafsky
Venice Arts

Posted 12:27PM on Sunday, July 29, 2007 Pacific Time

As you read this, I will be on a plane to Mozambique, having attended to the last details related to bringing 20 cameras and a team of 10 media artists to work with 21 kids in Maputo, Mozambique, while keeping half an eye on my 9-year-old daughter, Sofie, preparing for her third trip to the African continent for a Venice Arts' Social Art Initiative project.

We are traveling to Maputo to complete the second phase of The House is Small but the Welcome is Big, which we launched in 2006 in Cape Town, South Africa. The Cape Town project photographers were 15 women -- all moms or moms-to-be -- living with HIV/AIDS. In Maputo, there will be 21 project photographers: 15 kids orphaned by AIDS who, although some as young as 11 or 12, are now raising their younger siblings on their own; and 6 youth activists using other art and media forms to educate their peers on AIDS, malaria, sanitation, and girls' equality.

Between them, they represent the more than 500,000 Mozambican kids who have lost their parents to AIDS and, also, the growing number of Mozambican teens using innovative methods to advocate their concerns and inspire action.

I look forward to seeing the rich and varied photos that they will create. Through their pictures they will, I am certain, significantly enlarge upon many people's notions of what it means to be living as a young person in this particular country at this particular time in history. My own best hope? That the project will contribute, even if in a small way, to effecting change by attaching real faces and stories to abstract numbers and helping some of those who are the most voiceless amongst us make a lasting record of their lives.

This year, our team is expanded. We are not only bringing more photographers but, also, an accomplished documentary filmmaker, Chris Zalla, who will work with one child on a documentary short under the auspices of BYkids. We are also bringing the wonderful Internet whiz (among other talents), Eugene Ahn, who single–handedly designed our interactive website -- www.thehouseissmall.org -- assuring that photos, writing, video and audio are posted online as quickly as possible so that all of you, back home, can watch our project unfold. This is our first venture into the world of the interactive web, and we are very excited about what we'll be able to offer both our project participants and each of you. I encourage you to:


  • Go now to www.thehouseissmall.org and explore the site.
  • Follow the story as it unfolds:

    • Subscribe to our email notification and we'll tell you each time new content is posted.
    • Subscribe to our PODCAST and receive new video and audio when you open iTunes.
    • Track the blogs and images of our mentor–artists, kids, and partners.

  • Click on the "tell a friend" link at the bottom of the page and help us to spread the word.
  • Click on "let's hear it from you" link at the top of the page and share your own impressions about the project, a blog, the photos or other media, with us.

So check out the new site. Visit it regularly. Spread the word. Let us know what you think.

Lynn

P.S. I hope to see you this Fall when we open our first exhibit of the kids’ work in Los Angeles, celebrating the launch of our new Institute for Photographic Empowerment at USC, a joint project of Venice Arts and the Annenberg School for Communications.


 

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What I can say to my family, and my community, is that the most important thing is love, not money. Sometimes they say that they don’t visit us because they have nothing to give us. We need love, not things. Even with money you can still feel alone inside.
Inocencia
Maputo project participant


A social art initiative by