Student photographers document South Africa experience with exhibit

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As senior journalism major Ian Watson prepared to study abroad in South Africa, he realized how little people know about the country in which he would spend his summer.

“Do they have Internet there?” they asked.

“Don’t get eaten by lions,” they warned.

It was the rampant misconceptions about South African daily life that inspired Watson to document the everyday people of Johannesburg with his camera.

He is one of four student photojournalists who have compiled their work from their study abroad experience into an on-campus exhibit entitle “Johannesburg,” which runs Nov. 13 to 20 in the Tyler School of Art’s Triangle Gallery, 2001 North 13th Street. The gallery’s public hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

A special reception is set for Wednesday, Nov. 20, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., during which Watson, junior journalism majors Meaghan Pogue and Kelsey Dubinsky, and Rebekah Flake, a graduate student in photography at Tyler, will discuss their work.

Thirteen students from throughout Temple participated in the South Africa program this summer, which is run out of the School of Media and Communication Study Away Office. Their work was part of the South Africa program’s social media coverage, which won a professional EPPY Award this fall from Editor & Publisher magazine. (See related story.)

Through the lens
Each photographer chose his or her own theme for the projects.

Pogue used South Africa’s Hare Krishna temples as a way to showcase the post-apartheid era.

“Despite its transition to a racial integrated society, South Africa is still plagued by crippling segregation,” she says. “It seemed to me that inhabitants of neighborhoods were still determined by skin tone, and consequently wealth. It was very rare to see people of more than one race in one area. Inside the doors of the Hare Krishna temples however, all this was vastly different.”

Her images reveal people of all walks of life worshiping together.

Pogue says it was a “form of unity that appeared unique in such a compartmentalized, segregated country.”

Dubinsky’s photos document a youth ballet program, as well as the people of Johannesburg suburb of Kliptown, “both focused on showing the ways that people were making the best of their lives even though they were not from the best situations or living environments.”

She says practicing photojournalism in South Africa, “made me feel more comfortable with my subjects in photography, and also just made me more aware of myself, because for once I was the minority. I really feel like it was able to take me out of my comfort zone.”

In turn, the people she photographed welcomed her into their community.

“I fell in love with Africa, and how friendly the people were that I met. They really just wanted to show me what their lives were really like. They were very open to me,” Dubinsky says.

Their work in South Africa impacted the students both personally and professionally.

“I felt like I was in a photographic slump before I went, and it helped to shake me out of it,” Watson says.

A student of both journalism and anthropology, Pogue says she combined her skills from each of her interests.

“I couldn’t even fathom limiting these brand new images and sights to the four corners of a frame. I had to submerge myself to understand the experience before I could reduce the information into a picture,” she says.

The 2013 South Africa Study Away Program was led by faculty directors Karen M. Turner and Linn Washington of the Department of Journalism.