Springfield, Ohio — Mere weeks after Wittenberg's student organization American International Association held its annual fashion event to highlight the poverty situation in Cambodia, a photography exhibit takes this one step further by showing life in Cambodia through the eyes of a child.
"It's a powerful thing to experience someone else's photography," said Kristen Collier, director of Wittenberg's Office of Community Service.
For the first time, Wittenberg University and Eyes Wide Open Worldwide (EWOW) will collaborate to present "Life on the Lake: The Tonle Sap Region, Cambodia." The event, which takes place Friday and Saturday, April 11-12, on the second floor of the Joseph C. Shouvlin Center for Lifelong Learning, 737 N. Fountain Ave., is a unique multimedia exhibit documenting life on the floating villages of Tonle Sap, the largest inland body of water in Southeast Asia, using photos taken by children over a two-week period.
"We work with children who don't normally have the opportunity to do art," said Springfield native Ty Fischer, director of EWOW. "Due to a lack of funding in schools, art programs are the first to get cut."
EWOW is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping underserved youth develop their passion for art and photography through mentoring relationships with professional photographers, quality exhibits and sharing perspectives of youth from around the world. EWOW began its project in 2005, giving nine children from the Springfield area disposable cameras to document their lives over a two-week period. With some professional guidance and encouragement they created a successful compilation of pieces that was juried by a team of educators and professional photographers.
"We put on an exhibit for the children and 250 people showed up," Fischer said. "We sold all the artwork at the exhibit and made $1,200."
The money was used to develop portfolios for the children, each consisting of his 20 best prints. Other proceeds were returned to the foundation to help sustain the program. Since then, EWOW has generated $11,000 from children's artwork.
In 2006, EWOW took its unique project global by taking a first trip to Cambodia. There, 10 children were selected and their work was eventually exhibited at the prestigious Angkor Photography Festival.
EWOW is working with Wittenberg's Student Activities and Community Service Offices to bring this project to campus. The exhibit presents the work created on Fischer's return to Cambodia last year. After EWOW Board President Teresa Demana accompanied Fischer on the 2006 trip, Fischer was joined by volunteer Shannon Reames in the 2007 trip to Tonle Sap, home to three million people in 170 floating villages.
"We heard about an entire community living a sustained life on the lake," Fischer said. "Not too many people in the world get to see something like that."
Nine children from the villages of Sien Reap and Konpong Phhluck captured the images that appear in the exhibit. Their communities are villages consisting of floating grocery stores, restaurants, petrol stations, schools and 7x14-foot homes which can house upwards of 10 people.
"One of the requirements to go to school is to learn how to swim," Fischer said. "If you can't swim, you can't go to school."
Prints and canvas pieces of the children's work will be accompanied by a short film documenting the experience and Cambodian music.
"We wanted to bring the project to a university and Wittenberg seemed like the logical choice," Fischer said. "We're not only presenting to Wittenberg, but we're bringing Springfield and Wittenberg together through art. We have a lot of loyal followers in Springfield."
EWOW accepts donations for prints of the artwork. A 19x26 canvas print can be exchanged for a donation of $200, $150 of which is tax deductible. For the artwork made outside of the United States, EWOW donates all of the proceeds back to the communities that took part in their projects.
"We want to connect children globally through photography," Fischer said. "In the future, we hope to bring the children back as mentors to other children."
Written By: Christi Lue '09