InsideOut: Portraits & Process

postcard front 1“An Inside Out Group Action is one or several group leaders using 5 or more portraits to make a statement for a cause they feel passionate about. These portraits will be printed as posters and wheat pasted in the location of their choice. Group leaders can collect and share the personal stories behind each portrait, spread their message over social networking, attract media attention, and create video content to strengthen their statement . . . INSIDE OUT is about you, the participant. You choose the message. You take the portraits. You paste the images. We help you along the way” (Inside Out Group Action Guidelines: 2).

IMG_1183In order to inform the project narrative, we asked the children from our photography class an open question; to tell us a story about their community. The result was that ‘stereotypical’ themes of violence and poverty emerged. Our goal with InsideOut was to delve deeper into these narratives and help the youth to document and reflect upon these perceptions and the realities that inform them.

P1030295The hope was that the Inside Out Project would create a platform of sharing that highlights both the challenges the youth face, and also the positive ways in which these young people work within and challenge their socioeconomic constraints. Not only are we encouraging the youth to share their lives and identities with the wider community, but we’re also trying to provide them with space to explore their personal socioeconomic locality and the positive and negative implications of growing up in El Porvenir.

Written in 2013: I’ve been taking photos all my life, probably not unlike you, but last week was the first time I finally learned what a portrait can really mean. As part of wrapping up our InsideOut Group Action project, my colleague Patricia and I decided to focus on portraits of SKIP mother’s who participate in SKIP’s Economic Development workshops.

DSC_0043It is hard for me to speak about the families that come to SKIP because I only know and interact with them in the limited capacity that is our office. I can only comment on what I perceive to be the reality of their lives as I see the changing landscape during the taxi rides that take us from the city where we live to the outskirts of Trujillo, and into El Porvenir, the town that we work in.

Photo of her supportive family, taken by Ruth


I only know about what they eat and don’t eat, if fathers and husbands are missing through the whispers and giggles of the children I help with homework once week. Although I’ve been working ‘in’ the community for 6 months now, 6 months, for some people, is still not enough to understand someone else’s life. I wish it was but my role is much more focused on volunteer recruitment, so I see much more of the trials and tribulations (that sounds more dramatic than it should) of the international volunteers that spin in and out of SKIP than I do of the families in El Porvenir.

So to see how the reality of one family’s life in El Porvenir reflected slowly, unrolling in front of the camera lens, almost brought my colleague and I to tears. “Think about the sweetest dream you’ve ever had” Patricia asked the mother. In the thirty seconds as she began to imagine, the mother’s eyes darkened, her smile fell and the silence between us became profound, just the click of the shutter and the gritty sound of sand blowing in the desert wind. We lowered the camera and hugged her. She told us her story.

Why are we taking photos for InsideOut? We want to help our SKIP community show the people in Trujillo; the taxi drivers that won’t take our fare out of fear, the people that ask us ‘Why? Why do you go there?’ that El Porvenir is not a hopeless place. Sure, it is a community with struggles, poverty and violence, but it is also a community of mothers, of children, and of hope. SKIP continues to exist because we have families that want to change their lives for the better, for themselves, and for the future of their children. That to me says something profound.

Here is the final selection taken by volunteers:



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