Bahai News - Commonvisions Unifying People Of Different Races And Cultures Through Photography.

Commonvisions Unifying People Of Different Races And Cultures Through Photography.

It's a snapshot like a lot of others you might see in a Southern family's photo album, of an elderly man wearing a cap and sitting behind the steering wheel of a pickup truck with his great-grandbaby on his lap, both smiling broadly at the camera.

But the picture wasn't taken by one of their white relatives.

The photographer was Mona Abinader, 37, a new family friend born in Lebanon and visiting the United States from her home in Canada. The scene just caught her eye as a touching statement about generations. It's one of the more than 60 images that will appear in the CommonVisions racial diversity and unity show opening Monday at the Moring Arts Center in Asheboro.

"They looked so perfect," Abinader said of her photograph of Grady Auman and his great-grandson Badin Tyler. "They're two generations apart, but they're so close."

Abinader is one of 20 people participating in the second installment of CommonVisions. The program is sponsored by the Randolph Arts Guild and supported by a $13,800 grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation's "Race Will Not Divide Us" initiative.

ommonVisions was a free program that brought together 40 people of diverse backgrounds over the past 10 months. They were divided into two separate groups meeting in consecutive, five-month sessions. The first group of 20 held its show in January.

Participants were given disposable cameras and instructions on how to use them. They were then assigned to shoot pictures of themselves and their surroundings. The assignments were simple: tell us who you are, show us the barriers you see, and photograph people that are different than you. At times, the participants set aside their disposable cameras and took some studio pictures at Randolph Community College.

The pictures were used in discussions about race, ethnicity and culture in Randolph County. Among the photographs that will be on display are ones that show clothes flapping on a line behind an apartment complex, a school bus junkyard, a religious festival, a man with his dying father, a group of people sitting in front of a condemned house reading a newspaper, an Indian woman wearing a sari, children running barefoot through a park and a kiln opening. Each will have a caption by the photographer.

"I think what you see is how diverse Randolph County is," said Chuck Egerton, the Randolph Community College photography instructor directing the project. He's also the leader of the local Support Group for the Healing of Racism, which is sponsored by his Baha'i religion.

Abinader - who taught English as a Second Language at Guy B. Teachey Elementary School last spring - said she joined CommonVisions to feel more at home in Asheboro. "I was feeling quite lonely," she said. "I didn't want to be embarrassed because I was not from here. I was feeling like I was less of a person because I was not Southern."

CommonVisions, Abinader said, has helped her make lasting friendships and has given her memories to take back to Canada Tuesday. "I feel like I've grown a lot," she said. "It's given me a lot of confidence. I'm usually very shy, because I know I have a different accent."

Egerton said he believed the project had achieved its goals.

"The real goal of the project," he said, "was to bring diverse people together and give them away to communicate with each other that was new, and that was through the vehicle of photography. And also to build bridges of friendships. That happened."

CommonVisions grew out of Egerton's work with two similar programs sponsored by the Arts Guild: "Bridging the Gap," a photography-based racial unity project supported by the National Endowment for the Arts; and the Eastside Photography Club, which received two North Carolina Arts Council Grassroots grants.

But Egerton said he had never overseen a project quite like CommonVisions, and he worried it would flop. People, he feared, wouldn't open up to each other and talk about their pictures. But members of both groups grew close. They met in three-hour sessions twice a month, when they also ate and socialized.

"Every discussion was kind of a smaller breakthrough in its own right," said Jason Frizelle, 20, a first-year RCC photojournalism student who participated in the second session with Abinader. "It seemed like we got a little further every time. It seemed like everybody got a little closer, a little more personal every time."

Now Egerton said he wants to apply for another grant for CommonVisions.

"It married together all of the things I love the most," Egerton said, "bringing diverse people together, overcoming the barriers, and working with photography."

Contact Mark Brumley at 625-8452, Ext. 231, or mbrumley@news-record.com


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